A couple of Saturdays ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bassists of all time, Rick Shaw. Rick has worked with all kinds of recording artists and is also the bassist for Johnny Mathis and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, my favorite jazz band.
As a novice bass player, it’s difficult to express what a thrill it was to meet and chat with a Master musician, not to mention one of my idols. Rick is a genius on the acoustic upright) bass. He’s not too shabby on the electric either. If the instrument has fat strings on it , he can probably play it. His forte is jazz, but I swear the guy can do it all. He’s also a much in demand music Professor and session player in Southern California.
I first discovered Rick’s bass playing and Gordon Goodwin’s music through the SmartMusic program, a really cool interactive music instruction software program used by a lot of High School and College music departments. Gordon writes some killer stuff and his band is absolutely phenomenal.The brass, lead guitar and rhythm sections in particular are just outstanding. The more of their music I heard, the more I liked it. Anyway, I was so impressed I wrote to Rick telling him how much I loved the band and especially his bass playing. I also included a video of myself playing one of their compositions. I didn’t really expect a reply, but sure enough he wrote back. Not only did he critique my playing, but he also sent me some walking bass line sheet music to practice with. Very cool of him to do that.
Anyway, a couple months went by and I heard that the Phat Band was scheduled to play at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which is fairly close to where I live, so just for fun I wrote to Rick again telling him that I had planned on attending the show and jokingly asked him if I could get a backstage pass. He wrote back saying that he didn’t have control over those kinda of things, but said that he had relatives who lived in a city close to me and that if I was going to be around on Saturday morning that maybe he could swing by and we could do a little bass playing. I thought to myself, yeah right! I should be so lucky that one of my favorite musicians is going to magically appear at my home and play bass with me.
Thinking that he was just trying to be nice ( after all, he knew about my lung issues, right?), I politely said, “sure” I’ll be home and pretty much dismissed the thought. Well, Saturday morning had come and gone, and no Rick. Im thinking, “well at least it was a nice gesture on his part”. So, I’m about to call it a day, when at 3′o clock guess who calls me? Yup, it’s Rick! He actually apologized for running late, because he had stayed awake most of the night to watch all the other acts after the followed the Phat bands performance at the jazz festival the night before. So 2 hours go by and sure enough he pulls up in his truck and says..”How’s it going Steve”! I was truly beside myself ( I hope I didn’t come across too much like a gushy fan).
After meeting me in the town center, we headed over to a local eatery and proceeded to talk about nothing except bass for 2 hours. I even got to pick his brain about certain playing techniques I had always wondered about. Upon leaving the restaurant we headed to our individual cars and did some show and tell with each others guitars right there in the parking lot. How cool is that! You should see his custom MTD. Oh wait, here’s a picture.
My friends, Rick is a master bassist who’s been playing for more than 40 years, it’s in his blood and obviously a life long passion. But I think what impressed me more was is super laid back attitude. He’s probably one of the nicest guys Ive ever met. Not pretentious or holier than thou because of his profession or celebrity status. Just a polite, intelligent easy going friendly guy, who went out of his way to meet a fellow bass player, student and fan. His way of giving back I guess. I’m so freaking lucky to have met him. I’m planning to get together with Rick early next year for some one on one lessons. Can’t wait to learn from the Master. Thank You Rick!!
If you’re curious about the videos I sent to Rick (Yo Tannenbuam, Hit the Ground Running and High Maintenance ) or about my bass playing progress, check out my new Bass Playing page . Right now I don’t have plans to play in a band or with other musicians, but that could change :-]