My Super Karr Double Bass by Upton

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by dickwagor, Dec 17, 2013.


  1. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    I have been meaning to write this for some time as I have been thrilled to play on my new instrument since I picked it up at the ISB comvention this June. My 4/4ths size Upton bass rocks! It can cop any of the styles of music that i need it for ranging from classical to jazz and reggae and beyond. Love it.

    Here is what I blogged about the bass shortly after receiving it:

    Approximately 3 years ago I came to the conclusion that I needed to part with my constant companion of 16 years. Although this did feel somewhat like a divorce, the entity in question was not a guitarist, horn player, significant other, or even a dog. It was in fact, my 1830's Abraham Prescott busetto model double bass, that everyone had come to both recognize in my hands and associate with my playing. To give a bit of background and perspective, I have always had a penchant for great basses that posess a strong fundamental. i studied with Homer Mensch at Manhattan School of Music and had a chance to play on both his Galliano and his Gofriller double basses while studying with him. I bought my Prescott because of the sound, it was huge and deep, but also far more projecting than the other Prescotts I have played over the years. Mensch gave me the seal of approval(not necessarily an easy thing to get) and since I am 6'8" tall , the fact that it was a full-sized bass actually felt great. The one drawback of the instrument was the weight...close to 60 pounds. This is not hyperbole, once at the Laguardia Airport, it tipped the scales at 111 pounds in a Kolstein flight case. Despite the amazing sound of this instrument, at age 37 I was starting to look for something lighter. Long practice sessions with 60 pounds leaning against my sternum were starting to take their toll. I was confident that I had found a maker capable of providing me with an instrument equal to the task of replacing my Prescott. I had played several of this gentleman's instruments and found them very promising, so I put the Prescott up for sale. It actually only took about a month to sell my old friend at a price that was both good for me and fair to the buyer who is a well-respected Nashville session player. I turned around and payed the maker of the new instrument in full and started the waiting game. It took longer than anticipated to receive the new instrument, but in the meantime i was able to play several of his basses that were being built for other players and they were very promising. After a close to 16 month wait, i received the bass in may of 2012 and I was very excited. Unfortunately , the excitement was soon replaced by disappointment. I put over 100 hours on the bass in the first 2 and a half months and the bass would not open up to my satisfaction. I started looking at new instruments. About this time I decided I needed an interim bass that was better than what i had at my disposal while the second bass search started. I was getting ready to go to Door County, Wisconsin to go sailing and camping with a tenor playing friend of mine when I happened across an Upton Hybrid bass made in 2008 being sold by a guy in Appleton , Wisconsin. I negotiated a ridiculously fair price and on my way to go camping, bought it after playing it for 10 minutes. I then proceeded to Door county and the second night I owned it, used the backpack straps on the case to pack the bass 2 miles into a campsite where the collected musicians proceeded to play jazz standards around the campfire. The violinist in the group commented that the new little bass with the plywood back and sides and carved top sounded as good or better than the very expensive instrument I had recently purchased from another maker at roughly 10 times the cost. Ouch? I mean I was happy to have a rugged little instrument that I could haul everywhere and not worry about, but it really kind of stung that the expensive instrument didn't work out and the purchase of the Upton really solidified that in my mind. I sent an email describing this situation to Upton bass as a compliment to their bass building abilities. Gary sent me back the first reply and asked when the bass they built was made. I told Gary 2008 and he replied, "You ought to here our stuff now, that thing is nowhere close to what we are doing now." I also talked to Eric Roy, the other partner in the business. He said I should send the bass i didn't like out and they would sell it for me and build me a new killer bass. I decided to do so and this was really influenced by the number of Prescotts their team had restored. I decided they had the type experience to find the sound I liked and went for it - in the angst-ridden manner only someone who is incredibly gun-shy from a recent instrument commission gone-wrong can go for it. I just picked up the bass 2 weeks ago at the ISB convention and have been smiling ever since. The bass they built me is exquisite. It is a 4/4 version of their popular Karr bass and is very, very, easy to get around. It has an enormous fundamental. It really has a much more profoundly pleasing tone than even my Prescott did and only being 4 plus weeks old at this point is displaying the kind of depth of sound that I really have only experienced with fine Italian and English instruments of the ilk of Homer Mensch's Galliano and Gofriller. These guys took what I told them and developed it into a fine, fine instrument. The things that they guessed at in building the instrument were more what I wanted than I even knew myself. Eric Roy and Gary Upton Birkemshaw not only helped me out of a bind with instruments, but crafted a truly great instrument that is a joy to play each time i pick it up. They have really become great friends.
  2. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
  3. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
  4. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    hope you get a chance to check out the vids. It is a pleasure to play this instrument and I hope you can get a feel for how it helps me make music in the vids as it has really re-invogorated my playing
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  6. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    by the way, this instrument features the detachable neck system which is waaaaaaaaay cool.
  7. mindwell

    mindwell Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Great ensemble arrangement of Mingus, and dang--that Super Karr really sings!
  8. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    thanks man!
  9. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    Great playing and great instrument! It really is awesome to get a larger instrument that speaks so well. It really looks like the paid attention and made the right bass for you.
  10. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Location:
    Arkansas
    Thanks for posting. Great story, great playing (love the arco!), and great bass!
  11. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    thanks so much guys!
  12. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    they really did listen to me and made great decisions on anythingthat i couldn't be consulted on
  13. jake3

    jake3 Guest

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    I enjoyed both clips and hearing about the thought process behind your bass.
  14. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2000
    Location:
    Gloucester County, NJ
    Disclosures:
    Chief Low-Frequency Facilitator, Gollihur Music LLC
    Sounds great! Beautiful tone, both from the bass and the fingers. ;-)
  15. nicechuck

    nicechuck

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2007
    Great playing! All 3 in the group are quite talented! I've also never seen a 4/4 bass look more like a cello lol!
  16. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    in fairness, if you look at the bass, most of the part that makes it a 4/4th is the lower bouts. the beauty of the design is that the shoulders are VERY easy to get around. Plus I am pretty tall, granted.
  17. dickwagor

    dickwagor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Location:
    cedar rapids, ia
    about to get my bass back from Upton this Friday just in time to play the mahler 1 solo on it Saturday with the WCF Symphony. Will post pics with new brass tuner plates and an update to the extension. Will have to see if the Olives i have on the upper 3 strings will hack it and stay in tune enough for the solo or whether evahs have to go back on. Friday may be hectic!
  18. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I did the Mahler 1rst (solo) out here on my Deluxe Karr hybrid and it sounded as good (the instrument, not me!) as you could wish! good luck

    Louis

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