Others Using My Upright at Jazz Jam

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bass81800, Apr 9, 2014.

  1. There is a long thread on the bass guitar side about this general topic, but I am curious what your thoughts are on having others use your upright at a jazz jam session. I have the opportunity to be house bassist, and the organizer is saying there is not a lot of room there and pushing for me to make my upright available to others. Saying no, I may lose the opportunity. Yet, in another house band situation I did for awhile, it was BYOB.

    I have gone to some jazz jam sessions in town where the upright player is OK with this. And, have been at other jazz jams where there are six uprights laying around waiting to be played. Curious what your thoughts are on this and how thing goes where you live.
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Pretty much every session I've been to here (I don't go to a lot and haven't been in awhile) everybody uses the bass that's there. Even if you're coming in for another gig and have your instrument, getting it unpacked, stashing the bag, finding a place to stash the house player's instrument while you're up there PLUS anybody else who shows up with one, well, it's a logistical nightmare.
    If the session is a good one, with good musicians showing up and somebody in place to vet the obvious morons, what's your concern?

    Others are going to run into how different your setup is from there's, but here I haven't run into any egregious "I'm going to raise/lower your adjusters" kind of thing.
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Personally, the idea doesn't thrill me. But if you want to do it, I would insist that all the players wash their hands before playing and you might want to get a bass bib to protect the rib area… I would bring some alcohol to wipe down the strings and fingerboard, too. Be prepared to throw 'em off if you don't like the way they are treating your bass. Call me Felix.
  4. wneff

    wneff Supporting Member

    May 27, 2003
    Woburn, MA
    I think the skill level of upright bass players is generally a lot higher than that of electric bass players. I would not let people I don't know play my Lakland on a jam.
    If someone knows even somewhat how to play an upright bass they put a significant effort into it and very likely have a high respect for the instruments.
    Oh....don't give your upright to a rockabilly player. :)
    Remyd likes this.
  5. I'm in the house band of a regular Monday night jazz jam and the protocol is to let others use my bass. Usually, the only bassists that show up to play are guys I know at least a little bit so it's not as stressful as a complete stranger using my bass (except for the one regular who always wears a leather jacket with metal zippers and buttons). I don't really mind sharing my instrument and it gives me a chance to hear how it sounds in the house. My bass is a Shen hybrid so it's not as if it's some crazy expensive, old, delicate thing.
    This Monday night jam has been going on for close to ten years with a few different house bands and as far as I recall, sharing a bass was always the norm.
    It is a little nerve-wracking sometimes but I get to take a break and chill with a scotch and some friends for a few songs. Often, a bassist will sit in just as a really terrible guitar or horn player gets up to play and that makes it all worthwhile. :)
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I dont' go very often to sessions but from what I've seen, nobody ever brings their own bass. And like Ed says, even if you had it on hand, you still wouldn't pull it out.

    If you're not comfortable sharing your bass with others, either use a beater bass or don't be house bassist. Telling people to bring their own DBs to a session sounds ridiculous to me. No way am I going to go through that hassle just to play a few tunes for free.

    Good luck with getting people to wash their hands.
  7. This was my first thought as well. Someone who is an upright player should have a level of respect for your instrument. They are aware of expense of such an instrument. I wouldn't worry about it at a jazz jam but like wneff said, I wouldn't let some Lee Rocker type slap the crap out of it while standing on it! :D
    StringNavigator likes this.
  8. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It's normal and I'm generally okay with it, though there are some sessions that I wouldn't agree to host. If you're okay with the session and the players that come to it and want the seat, I think it's par for the course.

    It is your right to screen people out if they shouldn't be up there and can't be trusted with your bass. I personally worry less about my bass in the hands of another player than I do about laying it down in the corner of a bar or on a crowded stage full of people while someone plays their own.
  9. Thanks, guys, for all the good responses to this. I am going to give it a try, emailed the leader, and I am 'in' as house bass. Will be a great opportunity!

    Just asked the leader to keep the rockabilly players away and will have to say no to any standing on the bass, LOL.
  10. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    Geez. Some of the places here in NYC actually have a house bass for this purpose.
  11. Can understand why. So California is a more friendly to getting an upright from point A to point B.
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Ed Friedland once told me a story about a NYC jam he stopped in at.

    The house bassist was Ratso Harris, so when Ed got up to play he told Ratso "I know you play 5 string, that's no problem" and Ratso replied "You better look at the headstock". Ed did so and noticed six tuning machines.

    The leader started counting off a tune at 240 while Ed was still gawking at the bass.
    jaff likes this.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It wasn't really a jam session, but when Sofia's closed a bunch of folks who had played there over the years stopped by to sit in. It was Mike Kanan, Neal Miner and I can't remember who the drummer was. But everybody played Neal's bass. And when you have players like Ratzo or Ugonna or Pat O'Leary or Sean Smith etc etc stopping by, why wouldn't you let them play on your bass?
  14. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    ouch! I had a go on a borrowed 5 stringer once and found it really challenging, more than I expected.
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I was at Cleopatra's Needle last Friday night and the bassist had no problem with me using her bass, she was glad to get a break.:)
  16. BYOB... if you wanted to show-off at an open mic, would you not BYOB...? after all, you're not hired to play for the dancers... you're simply playing to show off... or cut the "House Bassist" for his gig next week... and if someone were to outshine you, how do you get back up on the stand... his friends and family and everyone else are looking up and thinking... "Why doesn't he go out for another smoke... maybe go out and buy a newspaper..." "Maybe he'll have a heart-attack..." Only you can guard your self-esteem...

    Or you're promised to be the "House Bassist" (such an envious position... one of those bragging honours that barely covers up the actuality that you're being used by some bar owner for his business advantage...) your bragging rights are that as the "House Bassist", you let any bonzo that can make it through the door use/abuse your bass... whether they can play or not... and then find out that next week, some other band has your gig... what are you...? a carpet...? and if you like being relieved of playing, why are you even playing...?

    And just the germs alone... and residue... have you not noticed that people don't wash their hands much, anymore...

    Did you ever hear of a "House Trumpet Player"...? what about the "House Harmonica Player"...? why is the bassist the only musician to receive this great honour...? even drummers don't let members of the audience bang on their kits...

    I can just picture Fred Sanford looking at his son Lamont... "So... you get to be the "House Bass Player"... if you let any drunk that can still walk up to the bandstand slather his meat hooks all over your bass..." "Why, you ain't no house nothing... you ain't nothing but a damn fool!"

    And IF you get your bass back, did they mess with your set-up... or those big, sharp, pointy, metal rockabilly belt buckles... and for the rest of your life, everytime you feel the urge to make music, you will see the imprint of Billy Bob's initials on your upper bout... BB... BB... BB... and those long dirty mechanics nails making dents in your fingerboard... lifetime souvenirs of when you once were the coveted "House Bassist" at Sneekers, or Dilly's or Squirty's... and those two hairs hanging down from your freshly re-strung Italian bow...

    And what happens if they put a ding in it or drop it... or spill booze on it... Even if it's purely an accident... are you going to force the guy to make reparations... $ue him, maybe? talk about making new friends... talk about stress... who needs that...? and how will you then work this gig, anyway, with a busted up bass or one of your strings dragging on the floor...

    what if they play too rough or place unnecessary stress on the neck joint... or they start whacking the crap out of it while "slappin' da bass" because they got that woodpecker urge, and they start treating your bass like a big old bongo... while they're wearing some big old iron football ring... LOL!

    your personal instrument being used by bass guitarists as a "Test Bass"... to prove they can actually play Louie Louie on a "bull fiddle"... why don't you just open a charity...? if this worries you, is it worth sweating the whole night, drinking ENO's, screening people and constantly guard dogging and watching your bass in case something may happen, because you're afraid for your instrument...?

    or... you get pulled into a conversation or phone call - or someone's trying to pick you up... and you turn towards the stand 20 minutes later only to find that your bass is no longer there...!!? now that's whiplash...

    Why would you do such a thing...? is this normal for you...? hypnotized...? or are you being pressured into something for someone else's benefit...? learn to say NO! how much money are you being paid for this...? is it worth bothering with...? reminds me of "Percentage of the Gate"... or "look at it as an audition/practice"... "Free Exposure"... "Jam Night!"... "Open Mic Night!"... or "Bring down 25 family members and friends who feel obligated to go and spend their money at the bar to see their grandson play for free." LOL! Why not call it what it is... "Music for nothing and you play for free"...

    Maybe the bar owner, who doesn't give a crap about you or your $5000 bass, will lend you HIS late model car for the evening... just tell him, "Don't worry, I'll pay for the gas!" See how that goes over...

    Get the word out... it's BYOB! And I don't play for free...
    Last edited: May 15, 2014
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I think your advice will go over great with piano players. :rolleyes:
  18. tinyd


    Mar 11, 2003
    This is an interesting discussion. I haven't been to any jazz jams yet, but one question I have is when you're sharing the bass, what's the etiquette around adjusting the endpin? Is it a complete no-no, or do people adjust it and then put it back how it was? I know that on some smaller stages it can be hard enough to find room to lay the bass down at all so I'm guessing that people don't do it, but I'm pretty tall so there can be 6-8" of difference. Maybe tall bass players in a sharing scenarios should always bring a small box to rest the bass on... :)
  19. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    You can feel free to adjust the endpin and put it back, or the next guy can readjust it.
  20. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Stringnavigator, your post is a bit negative and caustic. I suspect that you have never attended a decent jazz jam. The ones that I have attended have a house rhythm section. Bass, keyboard and drums. And they ARE paid. These guys have to back up the soloist on any tune they call in any key. Not allways an easy task (no charts allowed). The bassist, keyboard and drummer also share their instruments. Making setup changes to anyone elses instrument is a definite no-no.