Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

The Majestic Prescott

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Prescottissimo, Sep 24, 2005.


  1. What are the current thoughts on the majestic Prescott double bass? S I Z E , quality of sound (esp around the D and E on G string mmm), beauty, time they spent in attics, stories about the maker, etc. Do most people prefer them for orchestra, musicals, jazz, bluegrass?

    How I'd love to know... although, if the feedback is bad I might have to change my userid. Nah...
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've only played one that I liked -- and that was Scottie's, which is completely different from any of the others that I've played in all ways. When I heard that orchestra players were going ape over them I was surprised.
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I played Scotties as well and was not that impressed. A few days ago I played a 7/8 Gamba Prescott that was literally falling apart and I WAS impressed by that Bass even in it's current state of distress. As a matter of fact, I made an offer on the Bass which needs 6-8k of restoration work as far as the eye can see. From past experience and my strive for perfection in repairs, I might as well estimate 10k to complete this Bass to my liking and that is just the repair bill!

    I have played alot of old American Basses from Prescotts, J.B.Allen, Dearborn, my Batchelder and Prescott 'school' Basses where the maker is undetermined. Scotties Bass has different FF holes than all other Prescotts. One Bass authority looked at pictures I showed him and he said "that's a Hornsteiner". Now Barrie has replaced and matched the Scroll by his own admission. That would make the previous Prescott Scroll about 120+ years old about the time that Kolstein aquired the Bass given that Prescotts were made 'till about 1845.

    The 7/8 I just played had a Dearborn label but was 100% Prescott Shape, FFs, Top, Varnish, Scroll, Gear plate scars, Etc. Prescott sold the Bass business to the Dearborn Bros. in 1843. This label had all 3 initials of the brothers. This Bass was clearly in stock when the purchase was made and maybe only completed of just sold by them. The Bass has only scratched lines for Purfling with the exception of the Prescott Loop under the button but that runs off the wood as if that Bass was cut down.

    Prescott just like all other makers more than likely did some repairs and had the chance to look at the works of other makers. This is why he copied Klotz and/or Hornsteiner. Was Scotties Bass a Hornsteiner and Prescott made a Scroll or did he make ONLY one Bass with those FF holes? I have seen Geniune Prescotts from 3/4, 7/8 and 4/4 size with the 3/4 and 7/8 in Gamba shape without the busetto corner. He made various models and sizes.

    Sound and usage; They all sound good to real good to me. They work for Jazz and orchestra and may need different set-ups and Strings for either style or may work for Jazz with bowing strings depending on the players sound requirement.

    Prescotts often have a huge spread on the Bottom and blend as well as project. My two English Basses both project but at different frequencies. Orchestra players have to blend within the section but need to hear themselves to play in tune. Prescotts have enough presence to hear and plenty of bottom to blend with.

    From all the Prescotts I have played I would think that current costs for them put them out of the reach for most Jazz and and other pluckers as they run in good condition from 25-35K. Orchestra players can get more out of the Bass and get a good workable Orchestra Bass for much less than it's English and Italian cousins. Tone wise, Prescotts can fit in just about any situation if set-up for 'that' style of playing.
     
  4. So, KSB, my friend, how would you rank the basses of various countries including the Prescott from your personal experience? I'm especially interested in your opinion of English, Italian, French, Prescott, and modern makers.
    You are obviously have seen and played many fine double basses and have some perspective not easily come by.

    To all, any opinions on Tewksberry bassos?
     
  5. Like many other things... I tend to like basses that are slightly balanced between width of upper and lower bouts - ie no bottoms four or five times the width of the upper half if you are knowing what I meaning, eh. And you never know what will come out.
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    We talking Basses here or something/someone else?..lol

    On topic here working back, I have never personally seen a Tewksberry Bass. Scriptures have him working with and/or trained by Prescott. AES has a Bass for sale similar to a Prescott but it's hard to say who actually made it. Cincinartti had a Tewksberry a few years ago that was previously thought to be a Prescott so maybe they could ID the Bass.

    That said, it is hard to make a general statement by country as you get some Duds and Crackers in the same barrel! Not all Italian Basses are great. Not all English Basses are ranked below the Italians. Not many French Basses can hold a candle to the Italians or better English. Many of the American Basses are in distress as they have not been cared for properly.

    I did A-B comparisons between my 1) Batchelder vs Gilkes, 2) Batchelder vs Italian Solo Bass (from my website) and most recently 3) the Gilkes vs Italian Solo after its new Neck Graft with Graphite.

    In 1), the Gilkes 'killed' the Batchelder in tone and volume of sound. In 2), the Batchelder was louder and slightly darker toned but the Italian was sweeter sounding and the tone more refined. In 3) the Italian Bass seemed louder than before especially with the Bow but I didn't have the Batchelder around to compare again to see if it had improved over it. The Bass did feel like the sound was wider and more suited for Orchestra than a year eariler b4 the repairs were made.

    Final conclusion is that all 3 Basses, Italian, English and American can be used for both Jazz and Orchestra or anything else. I had done a Jazz Trio/ lounge gig and 10 pc Jazz group in an outdoor concert with the Italian. I have used the Batchelder for a Country Swing (Patsy Klein) Show for a month, Concert Band/Big Band Jazz, Jazz Trio and Symphony Orchestra and with the Gilkes a Jazz trio/quartet, Chamber Music Concerts, B'way pit revival show(Cabaret) in a local theatre Symphony Pops/Amped Concert and regular Symphony Orchestra section playing.

    All 3 Basses are suitable for any style of playing. Not all 3 would be found in a major Symphony. The Italian Bass is on the small side. The Batchelder sounds louder to the other players than you hear. The Gilkes had been used for many years in the American Symphony with Leopold Stokowski by the previous owner. So my money is on the English here. For Jazz I get as many if not more smiles than with the other two as well. The Batchelder was the Smoothest Pizz, the Gilkes is the fullest tone and the Italian was sweeter. For the Bow, the Gilkes wins hands down.

    One note of interest is that the Gilkes came to America just a decade or so after WWII. The Bass has never been opened up according to one source and all repairs to seams etc, were done from the outside only. The Top does not have any Cracks at all other than some minor edge splits or FF wing splits above the lower openings. This Bass is going in for its 100 year restoration/clean-up as soon as I get my Martini back with its Extension from Arnold. All cracks in the ribs will be evaluated and improved if possible, top corners restored and the Lining to the Back/ribs joint will also be tightened as this was compromised with years of neglect. The Neck will also be re-set slightly to eliminate the pitched Ebony shim under the Fingerboard as well as a new FB. The Bridge stays hopefully and the original Tailpiece as well.

    That said, comparing Schools or Basses is as varied as individual Basses them selves. I have a bid out for a large 7/8 Prescott at the moment. I would love to buy and restore it and see how it ranks for Orchestra, Jazz or whatever usage with the Gilkes, Martini, Dodd or even the Morelli. I think it will hold its own but the quality of the restoration is the Key!
     
  7. Maybe I need to buy that bass from you and change my userid to Gilkesissimo, eh? KSB, you have done so many exacting scientific trials with your basses - very nice of you to share your experience and knowhow. Kudos for keeping the sprit of comradery alive.
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, the one good thing about the Prescotts is the selling Price. Prescotts will sell for maybe half or even less than their English or Italian counterparts. The Gilkes was recently appraised by a London firm in the upper 5s almost 10k higher than when I bought it and was no surprise. It would sell probably slightly lower than the appraised value but still more than twice the price that Prescotts have gone for in the last few years especially after the Gilkes is restored.

    Either way, I would like to have a Prescott. My Batchelder is like a Prescott in many ways. Batchelder is also related to Prescott by marriage. My Batchelder is a small 3/4 size Bass with an Eb Neck. With a D-neck it would almost be a 5/8 size. That being said, compare it equally to a large 7/8 or small 4/4 Prescott with similar qualities. Humongus tone and volume of sound no doubt.

    Prescotts do not have the workmanship or the Varnish of a fine English or Italian Bass. Factors like these as well as international demand sets the price for worldwide trade. Germans 'love' their old Basses and do the Vieneese theirs. We love the Italian and English on this side of the 'pond'. Prescotts and that school of making occassionally make their way into a Symphony. The rest are admired in Jazz groups or left original (3-string) as the 4/4 models are just too big for most to play.....
     
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Have you played Linc Milliman's? I didn't get to play it, just hear it. And it sounded great; deep with a very present sound. Kinda Brit. It's had a great restoration too.
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't know Linc. There's another guy in town that has a post-Prescott New Englander -- could be a Tewksberry? Can't think of who it is right now. It'll come back to me in a few, I guess.
     
  11. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    This sounds a little too dismissive to me. I've never done a survey, but just from anecdotal reports I've heard, there are a number of Prescotts in major U.S. Symphonies.

    I carry no brief for or against Prescott basses, but when they are set up right, they seem to be outstanding orchestra basses.
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I agree on that but those who have them often keep them for life as an Italian or English equivalent costs way more. Only the better handmade German basses from the 18-19th century can compare to a Prescott in good repair as that's what they were designed after. Still, in the Orchestra Italian is 1st followed by English from what I have seen. The better French Basses fall in the middle somewhere.
     
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You're prolly thinking of Jason Sypher, he was selling a Tewkescott.

    I ran into Linc and his bass at Gage's; Mike was tweaking something and when I came in he said "Come over here, you gotta hear this". Sounded PFG.
     
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  15. Well, my friends, sadly, I must admit that even though I have even named myself after the majestic Prescott that I do not believe many of those basses are in professional orchestras especially the better the orchestra... and, unfortunately, I have heard that the Prescotts that somehow slip in often are not enjoyed by the colleagues with some exceptions, possibly.

    I refuse to ignore the truths on numbers and facts no matter how much I respect the maker. Opinions are much more easily ignored, eh?

    This will never change my mind about the glory of what is the Prescott no matter how many people say it sucks for being too muddy, ugly, grainy-sounding, amorphous, bad barfing sound, waste of space, etc. I'll love it and play it as I wish, because they are only jealous of it's majesty. I could fit two of theirs inside my one bass.
     
  16. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    NYC
    Prescotissimo, can you post an image of your Prescott?
     
  17. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Get your pics to John to be posted here; http://www.thetalkbasses.com/
     
  18. slowbow

    slowbow

    Sep 26, 2005
    I haven't seen for myself but heard rumors of some great Prescotts like Dave Anderson's and some guy with a Midwest gig who sold it years ago and I don't know where it ended up. And I know many English and Italian basses are not all they are cracked up to be. But I must respectfully voice that my experience has been there are many Prescotts that do not belong in the orch world. The 'huge spreading bottom' evaporates in the first FF tutti and all that is left is the "Prescott sizzle" of the bow/rosin on the string as the Prescott operator futilely struggles to coax out some clarity.

    The attitude of some Prescott owners has blown me away-like their bass is on or above the level of a $$$ pedigree axe. "Yeah I guess your Kennedy is OK but MY PRESCOTT..............." Or "That Ceruti doesn't have the low end of MY PRESCOTT............." I have never pretended that my German bass is on the level of a better one. IF you've got junk, it's junk; just admit it. If you own a Prescott, its a Prescott; no better (or worse).

    Perhaps these instruments were best as gut 3stringers or as a student/amatuer orch bass. IMHO not modern orch playing.
     
  19. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    Please tell us why you are suddenly bashing Prescotts. Please fill out your profile, tell us where you play, what you play, how long you have been playing, where you are located and your age. Then we will have an idea where these unnecessary comments are coming from.

    My Gilkes cuts thru the mid Range of the Basses and my Martini shakes the Floor. I once asked the conductor which he prefers and he liked the Martini. He would rather feel the Bass than hear it. All the Prescotts I have played (not Scotties, if it is a Prescott?) have a great low end. With orchestra strings it can make most orchestras. If the Orchestra is loaded with great Italian and English Basses, then make sure the Prescott is blending in. Not all will but many can and do.
     
  20. My friend, SlowBow, I must respectfully agree to disagree with you on the Prescott. I did sincerely want honest-to-g*d feedback and am so happy you felt able to give that. If you are unwilling to write more about the Prescott but have more to say, please feel free to send me a private email. I sure hope that everyone is comfortable with expression of honest opinions here especially considering the aforementioned maker is dead.

    Oh, wouldn't I love to post a photo of my Prescott online or anywhere, but my wife has confiscated my digital camera as a very harsh punishment for taking certain other photos on which I won't not elaborate on in this forum. She even took one a friend loaned me bc she thought I bought it. Now my friend is out their digital camera. She i slike a hawk when it comes to them cameras. I even tried not using the flash and she STILL found it. Woe is me, eh?