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Warning about Romano Solano Bass Luthier

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Low Hertz, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. Low Hertz

    Low Hertz

    Sep 28, 2006
    Davis, CA

    For a number of years Romano Solano was building up a bass luthier business. I liked him
    and supported him. Many of his basses sounded and played with a beautiful Italian tone.
    Others just wouldn't make it, had no pizzicatto on the low E. He also made a lot of strange
    basses, ending up on consignment in various shops, like a 5 string with a 39" string length.

    He loved to build BIG heavy basses, and I started with a 7/8th Panormo of his.
    To help promote him I sold it to a guy in the New World Symphony to get his
    bass out playing with the youngest and best players. I liked that bass, a little
    heavy but a sweet Italian sound and a 40.5" string length.

    (The New World Symphony is heavily endowed, hires only recent conservatory
    grads, and they can only stay with them 2 to 3 years. They are an incredibly
    enthusistic and influential orchestra.) The idea was he would rebuild the
    same Panorma flatback for me while this one was helping him.

    I sold for him, at no profit for myself about a dozen basses, mostly using
    my name as a reference and putting people in contact with him.

    I had bought a couple of basses from him intended to resell getting him
    some quick cash.

    Then I went to see his studio, a 12 hour trip. He said he had two basses for me,
    one was an old restored 7/8 Amati, the other a small, beautiful Ruggari Copy.
    The old bass was great, the quality of the restoration was great, but the bass
    was too big for me. The one that fit me, the little Rugarri had no sound.
    We agreed on a written price for me to buy both of them, I paid for the big bass,
    and he would get the other one right for me. Besides having virtually no
    pizzicatto on the low strings, it had a bad nasal sound on the G string.

    So we had a deal. He showed up to my house with that little bass but
    insisted on $2,000 more than we agreed on, because he had to regraduate
    the top. That to me is fixing up the bass. It still had that nasal sound.
    He also sold 3 instruments at my house, one to one of my students,
    one cello to a luthier friend of a friend that makes harps (A GREAT CELLO),
    and I took an old bass of his for resale, one he picked up from someone
    that upgraded.

    I still wanted the Rugarri, but while thinking over night he sold it.

    I even sold one of his basses to a student of Gary Karr so he could get his
    bass in Gary Karr's hands. In short, I thought of him as a friend
    and many of his basses sounded incredible. I sold thus about 12 basses
    for him, many of them influential sales, like to the biggest
    bass teacher and player in Central Florida.

    Then I was in a car wreck and needed a light weight bass quicly.

    I begged him to make me the Ruggari Model, just this time make
    it right the first time. I was very clear, it was the Ruggari model,
    and like my mantra I told him it must have great pizzicato down
    to the low E.

    He showed up with a 5/8th bass he copied and it had zero
    pizzicatto on the low E. It was well constructed but
    was unsuitable for the big band I played with and was't
    much of anything, though the workmanship was beautiful.

    I told him I wanted the Rugarri, he was angry. He said he would give
    me my deposit back when he sold it. That was years ago and
    he never returned the deposit. Or I offered to keep the deposit and
    make me that Ruggari I asked for.

    Finally, after notifying in mail I would publicize the story of him ripping
    me off for $1000 on the 2X Bass List if he didn't get back to me, I posted
    the story on him cheating me.

    At first I thought, OH NO, no luthier will want to deal with me. Instead
    just the opposite, I got thank you notes from a number of well known
    bass luthiers, offers to make me basses, and a lot of people posted that
    they ordered one bass from him, even had the measurements measured to
    match their existing basses, or he just made something completely different,
    like on friend ordered a flat back with an Eb neck and he delivered a nice
    bass with a D neck. Generally buyers bought their instruments, but a number
    found them unusable to them and lost of money trying to resell their basses.

    He learnt out an old cello to someone, didn't get it back, and I was instrumental
    in contacting the guy and ensuring Romano got the cello back.

    It's now been about 3 years since I posted on the double bass list my story.

    In the meantime Barrie Kolstein found me a smaller sized 100 year old Italian
    bass with a short string length for my small hands, but with a huge sound.
    In the past I would always recommend both Romano and Barrie Kolstein,
    one being the wild artist, the other the most experienced and dealer with
    the best record of integrity. That way the buyer had a choice. I made nothing,
    it was only a hobby. I just expected to be treated well when I got an instrument.

    I have always said that if Romano Solano either repays me, or wants to
    make me a bass I would send a positive end of the story to the world.
    He never had to integrity to follow up. I have given him every
    chance in the world to do what is right. I'd still like one of his basses,
    but with good pizzicatto on the E string. He can make some incredibly
    beautiful sounding basses. He also makes a lot that are good except
    for pizzicatto response on the low string.

    His Klotz copies sound great, (It was the Prescott copy) but weighed about
    50 lbs.

    I just wanted what I wanted, his Rugarri bass. I would strongly
    consider one of his newer basses that are reasonably sized for some
    vertically challenged.

    In Summary, he is a dishonest man. He does not fulfill his promises, even
    when you show them his handwriting. He often shows up with something
    completely different than what you order. Many of his unexpected
    basses still sold, many are loved by their owners, while others went through
    bad deals, promising the bass would open up or such, and suffered financially
    trying to sell basses he had pushed on people.

    When he makes his good basses, they are basses of the ages. I admired
    his artistic streak.

    It would be my greatest pleasure to write a happy ending to the story, to
    at least get my money back or a reasonably sized bass. Don't show up
    at my house with a 42" string length. He is an artist, does not do
    what he says and will cheat someone that spent years helping promote
    his business. I thought he was my friend.

    Now I only recommend Barrie Kolstein to people looking for a bass. No one
    was ever sorry they did business with Barrie. He's seen the inside and restored
    more old Italian and other European basses than anyone else in the US.
    The store stands for total integrity. If he does work, or something
    does go wrong with a bass, he fixes it, even if he is losing significant money
    on the deal.

    No, Barrie is not the cheapest, you simply know Barrie Kolstein stands behind
    every instrument.

    Compare a typical bridge. Most shops fit a bridge well enough. They may
    even install metal adjusters. Barrie's bridges are made of well seasoned
    maple bridge with Ligume exotic wood adjusters. Ligume adjusters are
    self lubricating so you can change, even raise the action without reducing
    the tension on the string. And they are solid and won't break through compared
    to a Chinese adjustable bridge.

    The soundpost is so critical to the sound,
    only someone that was trained by a master and fitted 1,000s of soundposts
    will get it perfect so it's shaped exactly to the inside curve of your bass.
    The length should be perfect, just tight enough to stand with strings on but
    should fall without string tension.

    Even beginners buying a plywood bass should buy them from Barrie. Typically,
    a plywood bass needs a good fingerboard dressing, a fitted (adjustable) bridge,
    a perfectly fitted sound post, quality string and all measurements correct.
    When you consider that A fitted adjustable Kolstein Bridge, a new set of
    quality strings, a fingerboard dressing, and everything done right is worth
    at least $500 versus a guitar store putting a cheap bass together.

    And if you have a problem, Barrie will take care of it. He did some work on an
    old bass I had, and later there was a minor problem. He took the bass apart,
    putting thousands of dollars into getting it done right, at no cost. He stands
    behind his work.

    He has several rooms filled with old European fully restored basses. None
    have names or prices on them. You play the one and pick what you love.
    You can spend days trying out instruments and Barry will never rush you or
    push you. Check out his web site www.kolstein.com and look at those basses!

    So I recommend Barrie and post a warning about Romano Solano.

    I am not putting down his luthier skills, many of his basses are fine, some are exceptional,
    but he also builds dogs and he pushes them off on people. And if he'll cheat
    me, someone that tried to help build his reputation and promote him when he needed
    that help, done just for friendship, who else will he cheat.

    You have been warned. Please, feel free to ask Romano to return one of my
    calls or letters. I would love to write a letter of apology, saying Romano came
  2. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    So far I have had a much different experience with Romano.

    Having both spoken to him on the phone and via email, he contacts me back very quickly and punctually. So far throughout the building process he has sent me pictures bi-weekly and gave me detailed descriptions on what and where everything in the instrument is coming from.

    The model I have ordered is the Kloz model, and I was very specific in asking for a large bass with a flatback, and he so far has delivered. I asked for a darker finish, and he gave me the darker finish.

    The best part about this, he didn't ask for any deposit or down payment, and told me that if I don't like the instrument, he won't make me pay for it. He says he will stand by the quality of this instrument completely. He even said that if I feel like the neck is too wide or too thick he would re make an entire neck.

    I am a big guy (6'3" and 250lbs), so the big heavy bass really isn't a problem.

    My suggestion is go and talk to him face to face, I have a funny feeling that this is only one side to the situation. Did you happen to say anything directly offensive or confrontational? Sometimes people say things and in a business they dont feel like it's worth their time to do anything about it. Ive seen it in my fathers business where he used to cook and deliver caterings, and people would change their orders as they got there, and when he couldnt do anything about it right then and there they got pissed and told him off, and he never did a job for them again. It wasn't his fault, maybe in another scenario it was a miscommunication but if you get hyper sensitive over human error, some business people just wont have the time to do it. Did he make you sign a contract, or did you have any verbal agreements? Sometimes we can agree to things without realizing what we agreed to, or there was some miscommunication. As for your bass with the pizz on the E, I dont know about you, but some of the 5/8th's basses ive played have had kind of a poofy E when pizzed, not very focused which I think may have to do with string length/tension/string choice on these specific basses.

    I would like to read a response if any that you have that Romano may have sent you, I feel like I really cant make an educated opinion without seeing both sides.

    I would also again recommend that you going to his shop, sitting him down and discussing it man to man, because it sounds more personal than anything. There may be something that you said or did that ticked him off, or it could have been some kind of human error. I know its a very frustrating thing, but it certainly isnt the end of the world nor is it the worst that could happen. Maybe I missed it but how exactly did he cheat you, by not returning the deposit? it doesnt sound like you paid the full amount, however I dont know the legality on returning the deposit unless he damaged it or it was unplayable.

    Also he may not be returning your attempts to contact him because of this
    It sounds like you threatened him, which I would be pretty pissed about too, but as a PR move not saying anything is smart, its like walking away from a fist fight.

    I stand by Solano, and I feel like his product is fantastic... Im a little cautious to the post... Sticking by him!
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sure, should I say "Mr. Hertz" or does he know you as "Low"?
  4. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    I think that this might just be a venting post, not really public service. Ive been trying to do some research on the reviewers of Solano here on TB, and most people love his instruments and say he's a great guy. The only problem they had was his with his inexpensive student models, which just didn't stand to the same standards of his more expensive instruments. We'll see what happens next... still want to see where this goes...
  5. isolated

    isolated Zenji Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Bronx, NY
    Doesn't he have a brother named Dick?
    GlenParks, MIKMAN, bassmastan and 2 others like this.
  6. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
  7. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    bassmastan likes this.
  8. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Although I find the original post to be confusing and of dubious intent, I think it is as much about a bass (the Ruggieri that OP ordered, or wanted to order, or had but was overcharged for?) as many of the other more general "bass" threads in this category. So I'd just as soon leave it here. Ignore it as you please, and if people really feel strongly I'll move it.

    As an owner of a Solano, I can say he's made at least one pretty nice bass. : )
    But I've also been told by luthiers I respect that his work is very inconsistent, depending (they presume) on how much time he has available to put into the bass and how much he plans to charge for it. Don't know what evidence there is for that.
    drurb likes this.
  9. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    What kind of Solano do you have? :roflmao::roflmao::roflmao::roflmao: Ill post a pic of mine if you post one of yours :roflmao::roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:

    So far he's been building my bass for a while and it still isn't done yet(I am happy to wait), plus im spending 12k on it.

    As a maker I know some people who really love him and really dislike him,but the same people who said they didnt like him, didnt like upton, shen, mayne, or anything that wasnt old and italian. I take it with a grain of salt, and can only judge based on my experience. If Jeff Bradetich and Hal Robinson play his basses and endorse his product I am sure he's doing something right.

    I was trying to figure out whether he got the bass or if he turned it down and Solano kept the deposit. And why if he really had a problem he didnt he bring this to small claims or something... I think there is something we are seriously missing...:D
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    The OP wrote this which I think is self evident.

    "I told him I wanted the Rugarri, he was angry. He said he would give
    me my deposit back when he sold it. That was years ago and
    he never returned the deposit. Or I offered to keep the deposit and
    make me that Ruggari I asked for.

    Finally, after notifying in mail I would publicize the story of him ripping
    me off for $1000 on the 2X Bass List if he didn't get back to me, I posted
    the story on him cheating me."
  11. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    I guess it was just the way it was worded and the way I interpreted it that I didn't quite get the first time... ( through a little research i found out what the 2xbasslist was, I thought he meant 2 basses)
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Well, his whole post is pretty convoluted… LowHertz, laying out the problem without so much extraneous info, particularly adding Kolstein into the mix, would help clarify things. Your appreciation of Barrie Kolstein deserves its own thread, IMO.

    Also, while I tracked down your actual identity from your profile page, I think it is bad form to post this type of "problem with another" anonymously.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2014
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agree. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If you're going to go public with someone else's name, have the common decency to do it fairly. Otherwise, any anonymous username can impugn the reputation of any real person with no consequences.
  14. Low Hertz

    Low Hertz

    Sep 28, 2006
    Davis, CA

    Some comments. I was only interested in warning other people.
    I got private comments, and one person called and said he had a similar experience.

    Also, for the people who attacked me without revealing my identity,
    my contact information, web site are easily available.

    For those who said I should speak to him face to face, well
    I live now in California and he's near the beltway in Mechanicsville.
    I have tried to call and email him 100s of time. I'd be happy
    speaking to him on the phone, or better in email with the record.

    He'll always have fans as many of his basses are basses for the ages.

    But then there's lots of folks who ended up with different basses
    then they ordered.

    And, with me, I bought basses from him and sold basses for him
    without commission. I never imagined he'd not follow through.

    To the folks writing about they can return it in a year, good luck
    getting your money back.

    Bob C.
  15. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011

    Hi Low, nice to see you're back!

    Just a couple of questions, if you wouldn't mind answering them.

    1. Do you have any quotes from email exchanges so we can see whats going on?
    2. If you were trying to call, I know a few weeks ago he was in Costa Rica, and before that was in Italy, did you try this week?
    3. So you can't return you bass within the year? Where did you get that from? When I asked him he said it wouldn't be a problem

    So far I am biased, I am a fan of Solano, and he's been treating me very well. So I apologies for that.

    He is a very friendly guy, and really cares about bassists, he really does make a great bass too. I am proud to support him!
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  16. I've heard far too many negative stories about this guy to take his work seriously. There are many great makers out there, so why would you choose to buy from a known scammer?

    My name is Paul Cannon, and I approve this message.
    wathaet likes this.
  17. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    With all due respect to Bob's story, I have to agree we don't know all sides of the story, so I'm not getting involved with that.

    I would like to pipe in and say that I've had my Solano Klotz for 11 years now and have been thrilled. I think many of the people who put down his work fail to take an account what you get for the money.

    No, my experience hasn't been perfect. I had an accident that revealed that the original neck work done by Rumano was not quality. After being reset the joint has a pretty big gap showing how far off it was.

    Am I upset? No, I ddin't have any problem I noticed and it was able to be fixed when an accident exposed the problem.

    Bottom line, who the hell else is making a bass like his Klotz in this price range?!? Yes, he hurries and may make some errors or choices someone charging literally double would not. However, his wood is quality, he uses quality parts (Despiau Bridge, Ulsa endpin, etc). And the sound.....no one has ever been unimpressed by mine at least. Lots of sound clips of mine out there if anyone wants to judge for themselves.

    So, even if I had been the one paying for the repair (as I would have if it had not been a covered accident when it was knocked off a cart on Beale Street), the cost of the repair plus what I paid for the bass......no way in hell would I take that amount for this bass because I couldn't easily find a comparable sounding or playing bass for that money.

    Had I $37k I would have bought the Hatchez bass I heard in ABQ years ago.
    bassmastan likes this.
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Interesting. These are not tradeoffs that I would be willing to accept as part of paying less. I suspect many others would not either.
    MIKMAN and JoeyNaeger like this.
  19. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    And why is that? Keep in mind, we are talking a 10k difference in price. I'm saying once my neck problem was fixed.....and mind you it was one I didn't notice for 10 years.......I could take my original purchase price + the money for that repair and I have not played a bass in this price range that comes close to touching mine. Someone could walk up today and offer me the cash and I would easily turn it down because I haven't played anything in the last 10 years in the 12-14k range I like as well as this cannon.
    Eric Hochberg and bassmastan like this.
  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    The answer is easy. We are discussing a bass in the $12-14k range. Now, one should not expect that a bass in that price range will match one in the $37k range that you cited. The question becomes what compromises and/or tradeoffs are reasonable and appropriate given the savings. The following represents my opinion. First, I consider $12-14k to be a substantial amount. We are certainly not discussing entry-level prices. I would expect solid workmanship-- not pristine and ultra-fancy, but solid workmanship that is essentially free of substantial "errors" (your word) that would or could meaningfully affect the integrity and/or longevity of the instrument. Compared to the $37k bass, I would think it reasonable that the expertise involved with and time spent carving the top of a $12-14k bass would be less. I would expect and accept that the wood used on the $12-14k bass would not be quite as desirable as that I would expect on a $37k bass.

    The above is not what you described. What you described as being one of the tradeoffs for lower price is that the maker "hurries" and makes errors. In your case, the neck-joint was not fashioned properly. You found this to be acceptable because the bass sounds so good to you. We each make our own choices. If someone came to me a priori and said that I could buy a brand-new $12-14k bass that sounds great but that may have substantial build-issues, my response would be "Thanks, but no thanks." I actually would accept a somewhat lesser sound in order to have an instrument that was built by a maker who had the pride not to hurry and not to make errors so that I could count on an essentially trouble-free instrument-- to the extent that any carved DB can be trouble-free.

    In truth, I find your compromise to be completely unnecessary. I think that one can, in fact, spend $12-14k and get a DB made by individuals who do not hurry and who do not make substantial errors and whose instruments will perform and sound every bit as good (or better) than the Solanos. Yes, that's a matter of opinion and it's based on what I have seen and heard. Even if you reject that possibility, substantial build problems, hurrying, and errors are not tradeoffs I would accept. As I said before, I think many others would agree.

    To each his own.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
    MIKMAN likes this.

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