Call it the string bass, the bass viol, the double bass, the doghouse: it’s essential to jazz ensembles. Milt Hinton reminded us that “bass” meant “base,” or “foundation,” and which of us would say the Judge was incorrect? Experienced listeners know that no matter how glossy the front line is, how expert the drummer, if the bassist doesn’t feel right, the band might as well go home. And sometimes should. But the man or woman behind the beautifully polished near-human figure doesn’t always get the attention so richly deserved, and, yes, people talk through bass solos. What a pity.
New York is full of splendid string bassists, but the fellow I’d like to salute here makes his living, often, in New Orleans. I’ve seen him in Chautauqua, New York, and San Diego, and hope for more such intersections.
His name is Kerry Lewis — and the first paragraph of his website biography, which you can read by clicking on the link, is worth the trip.
I could describe Kerry’s strong yet subtle, deeply intuitive playing, but it is more fun for you to discover his mastery for yourselves. To this end, here is a video from Jazz at Chautauqua, when it was situated there — this performance took place at one of the fabled Thursday-night sessions, September 20, 2012.
The quartet here is full of engagingly distracting musicians. It would be easy to concentrate wholly on Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, vaudeville; Dan Block, clarinet; Andy Schumm, cornet. But I would ask the attentive people in the JAZZ LIVES audience (and they are there, bless them!) to study Mr. Lewis — in ensemble, in solo . . . playful, absolutely right without being rigid, holding the whole ensemble on his shoulders. Although he might deny it, I think of him as the Swing Atlas, hoisting everyone up a little higher, although not demanding attention in any narcissistic way.
So now you know. And when the talk turns to admired musicians, “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition,” you can say with the half-smile of the wisely initiated, “Yes, ________ is fine. But have you heard Kerry Lewis play the string bass?” Amaze your friends; delight your neighbors; be a hero(ine) to the children and not only yours. And it pleases me to say that Kerry will be playing at the 2016 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, which begins on September 15. Soon!
May your happiness increase!