I never fancied myself a bass player, but I’ve had an economy-priced Peavey bass guitar in my possession for nearly 20 years.
I’d used it for home recording projects mainly, until earlier this year when I became the bass player-by-default in a garage band we started in my neighborhood.
I never found bass playing particularly difficult because mostly I just played bass on songs that I wrote – so I was making it up as I went along.
But it has been a learning experience trying to replicate at least somewhat accurate basslines during our garage band practices, and inevitably my bandmates and I select songs where the bass parts are deceptively hard.
I think I’ve gotten better – and being able to use YouTube where bass instruction for nearly any song you can think of exists out there – some instruction, better than others, it certainly beats the hell out of the old days of trying to listen to a song over and over and figure out what was going on – or watch a video on MTV (remember music videos on MTV?) to see if you could catch a glimpse of what notes the players are playing.
Despite the strides I’ve made, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never be Steve Bailey of Victor Wooten.
These two guys have held down the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in the annual Bass Player of the Year awards several times over. And Bailey, a Myrtle Beach native, and Wooten, best known as a founding member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, formed a group called Bass Extremes, that features, you guessed it – two bass players. Two of the world’s best bass players.
So when it was announced Bass Extremes would be perform at Coastal Carolina University’s Wheelwright Auditorium, I circled it on the calendar.
The time arrived last Thursday (Oct. 16), and I secured a press pass and headed out to Wheelwright with notepad in hand.
Bailey, who now heads up the bass department at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, has also recently re-upped as an artist-in-residence at CCU, a position he’s held previously.
I’ve seen Bass Extremes before and attended many of Bailey’s events, including his Bass at the Beach boot camp and the International Solo Bass Competition, also held at Wheelright, so I sort of knew what to expect – God bless, him, I knew it was going to involve Bailey talking quite a bit to the audience, and it did.
But before Bass Extremes hit the stage, CCU’s small jazz ensemble (picture below) warmed up the crowd with a short set of jazz standards and jazzy takes on some Portishead, and believe it or not, Beyonce. These students - Zach Douglas, Liz Kelley, McKinley Davildiss and Wad McMillan, did CCU"s music department proud and showed off some serious musical chops and stage presence.
Then it was time for the main course.
The lights dimmed and Bailey and Wooten entered from opposite sides of the stage, and without a word begain their counterplay - Bailey on his signature six string fretless, and Wooten on what looked like a more conventional 4-string - while drummer Derico Watson slipped in and started laying down a matching groove. They took the audience on a mind-bending rendition of original track "Tropical Storm" from Bass Extreme's 2001 record, "Just Add Water."
It was enjoyable - and a challenge - to watch Bailey and Wooten to see who was doing what and where the sounds were emanating from, because they change-over effortlessly, with one taking on a more traditional bass role of laying down the rhythm, while the other plays melodic lines over the top. Yes, I said melodic - when it comes to Bass Extremes, these guys are playing multiple parts of songs on their basses, playing what would ordinarily be reserved for lead guitar, keyboards, horns - any number of instruments.
At one point, Wooten and Watson exited the stage and Bailey performed some of his solo material - and threw in a Beatles medley, including "Here Comes the Sun," where he played the bass, rhythm, George Harrison's finger picking lines, and the melody - wow. I also heard snippets of "Come Together" and a furious take on "Elanor Rigby."
After Wooten and Watson joined back in, Bailey welcomed Matt White, who directs the CCU Jazz After Hours Big Band and teaches trumpet, recording technology, and jazz/commercial music-related courses at CCU according to his bio, to sit in with the trio on trumpet, in what Bailey described as a "world premier." I have to say, I liked the added texture that White's horn provided, making the material veer more into a traditional fusion vein, and White nailed his parts.
Bailey and Wooten were obviously pleased with White's contributions.
They also pulled one of Bailey's former students at CCU on stage - Tevin Turner, the recording studio manager at CCU. He came on stage and rapped briefly, and led the crowd in a chant, "C.I.N.O - Coastal Is No. 1," as Bailey, White, Watson and Wooten laid down the backbeat.
All in all it was an enjoyable evening, and although it was a good crowd, there really should have been more people there to support this incredibly talented hometown musical hero - but that's the way it goes on the Grand Strand.
Bass Extremes - Steve Bailey, Derico Watson and Victor Wooten - laying down the low-end theory at Wheelwright Auditorium on Oct. 16.
Well, I have to wrap this up as serious work on this week's print edition of Surge looms, and you'll want to tune in because we're taking a look at a new local horror/scary movie festival that's making its debut on Halloween - plus we share readers' favorite slasher flicks of all time.
But before I go, here's a notable early-week event you don't want to miss.
Part meat market and part meet market, one of the biggest local social/culinary events of the year returns 4-10 p.m. Tuesday as the Myrtle Beach Convention Center hosts the 31st annual Taste of the Town featuring tapas-style sample dishes from more than 50 local restaurants vying for your taste buds’ seal of approval, live music and a kids’ zone. Advance admission is $5, it’s $6 at the door. Food tickets are $1 each. For more info, go to www.totmb.com.