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Thursday, June 10, 2010 01:40 am

Big Bottoms? They got ’em

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Listen up you high-enders. The time has come for the low frequency players to rise up and proclaim the often-overlooked work of the bassist as a necessary and worthwhile part of music instrument combos. Springfield hosted Guitartown, then Drumfest and now rolling in at the bottom of the barrel comes BassBerg.

Conceived by longtime Springfield bass player Bill McKenzie as a tribute to and acknowledgment of the least recognized, but nearly essential, member of a band, this gathering of the four-stringers (and sometimes five, six, seven and eight stringers) gives the root note thumper a day to shine.

“BassBerg was an idea I had after attending Mark Estill’s Guitar Town,” said McKenzie. “I really thought it would be fun and unique to have a bunch of bass players get together to celebrate the glories of the bass guitar.”

From the acoustic double bass of the orchestra that doubles as the doghouse bass of bluegrass groups to the classic electric Fenders of rock, specialized five-or-more stringed modern fusion basses or three-quarter scale, four-string electrics for smaller hands, the bass is boss when keeping things together to make it all work for other musicians to shine. The bass is a complimentary instrument and that forces the bassist to be a friendly sort, to get along and most importantly, to play well with others.

“There’ll be a house band and not just solo bass players,” said McKenzie. “People would leave after the second song if we did that. But with fellow musicians accompanying, we’ll feature the bass instrument as the focal point, since, after all, it’s the foundation of any band.”

On a very sad note, the Springfield music community lost two extremely talented and respected bass players within the last year. Jerry Turley in March of 2010 and John Peterson in December of 2009 both passed on unexpectedly leaving irreparable gaping holes in our bass-playing world and in the hearts of all who were touched by the souls of those gifted musicians. Friends and fellow players of Peterson plan to host a memorial concert for him later in the summer, while McKenzie intends BassBerg to be a tribute to Turley.

“Lorrie Cutright Eden called when she heard I was serious about having a bass event and suggested dedicating it to Jerry,” said McKenzie. “I thought that was a great idea and the vision for the first event was born. Many of Jerry’s friends and family will be by to share their memories of one of our fine bass players now gone.”

Some of the bassists scheduled include Jeff Cunningham, Eric Tinsley, Chris Warren, Brian Cutright, Ed Eden, Chas Blythe, Geoff Ryan, McKenzie and myself. Even saxophonist Frank Trompeter volunteered to pick up the bass for the first time in years. If all goes well, McKenzie intends to make BassBerg an annual event.

Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for — bass player jokes.

1) Did you hear about the couple that had stopped speaking to each other? One night they went to see a band play. When the bass player took a solo they started talking again.

2) Once a fellow began taking bass lessons. The first week he learned the “I” root note, the second week the “IV” root note and the third week the “V” root note to complete the much-used “I-IV-V” chord progression. The teacher didn’t see the student again for months. “Why did you stop coming to lessons?” he asked the truant pupil. “Gigs, man, gigs!” replied the busy bassist.

3) Know how to get a bass player to turn down? Put sheet music in front of him.

4) How many bass players does it take to screw in a light bulb? Doesn’t matter the keyboardist can do it with his left hand.

5) Daddy, when I grow up I’m going to be a bass player. Sorry son, you can’t do both.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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