String bassist / perpetual motion machine Steve Pikal is a marvelous force of nature. Ask any musician who has been privileged to play alongside him. His time is splendid, his inventiveness astonishing, his energy a delight. He has perfect pitch — you can’t lose him! — and he finds the right notes. He takes his playing tremendously seriously, but his work is joyous, and his ego almost invisible. When I suggested to him that I do a bass-instruction video about him, he laughed and said he was self-taught so he didn’t know what he would have to offer.
Music elevates him, and the only time I’ve ever seen him without a smile is when he’s been studying a new chart with intentness. I quote, “Swingin’ the Bass with all you great cats as often as I can is my mission. Gotta love it!!”
What follows, slightly less than three minutes, is one of those occasions where I thank my lucky stars that I have a video camera and microphone, it was ready to go, and I was carrying it.
All through the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, free musical programs were sprinkling the air with notes — some a few blocks away at Gazebo Park, but most under the red-and-white tent pitched a block away from the Hotel Bothwell. I had gone back to the hotel to get my camera and fresh batteries to record an evening’s concert performance, and was on my way to the theatre . . . when delightful strains of Swing filled the air. It was Steve, apparently joining pianist Dalton Ridenhour for a number. It sounded so good: jazz pheronomes, that I began to record the second half of their improvisation on MY BLUE HEAVEN, which owed a good deal to Walter Page and perhaps Johnny Guarnieri — but most of all to Pikal and Ridenhour. It makes me happy every time I revisit it:
I hope that the Fates offer another chance — when I am early and ready — to see, hear, and record Steve and Dalton again. There will be a plenitude of Pikal-powered joy on this site (the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet and the Rock Island Roustabouts) and there are several new CDs that feature him, most notably GROOVUS (with Brian Holland and Danny Coots).
What a wonder he is, and how fortunate we are to have him.
May your happiness increase!