Jammin’ with Bass Legend Bakithi Kumalo

Bakithi and me at the Kala booth

In January I was fortunate to once again work with Kala at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. This time I managed to get a nice video from my little jam with Bakithi Kumalo on the classic Wayne Shorter tune ”Footprints”!

In 2017 I had my first NAMM experience and met a lot of great musicians including Bakithi Kumalo. He was really wonderful and we had a great time talking and jammin’. It’s a very special feeling meeting bass innovators like Bakithi. It’s even more special to get that chance to make music together!

I have always been amazed by the story of Paul Simon traveling to South Africa to record his super classic Graceland album with local musicians. Among these musicians were Bakithi! He has played with Paul Simon ever since, both on albums and on countless tours around the world.

Back in 2014 I became a Kala Artist and got a Bakithi Kumalo Signature Ubass. I made a little birthday video for Bakithi since the ubass arrived around that time! Check it out here!

I went to the Paul Simon concert in Stockholm 2018 together with my wife. It was the first Paul Simon show for us and we very truly amazed. The music was fantastic, ranging from Chamber Music to musical styles and genres from across the globe. Everything performed with such a wonderful feel. Even the sound was the best I have ever heard in that venue, and I have been to a lot of concerts there. Anchoring it all with super solid bass playing was of course Bakithi!

After the concert we got to hang a bit with the musicians in the bar at Grand Hotel. A fantastic ending to this incredible musical experience!

In January Bakithi and I met again at Winter NAMM. The NAMM experience is hard to describe but the people you meet there is what makes it a great experience although it’s super ‘crazy” with lots of music. (At times the experience is a ”bit” overwhelming with all the simultaneous playing all around you…)

One of the highlights of the 2019 show was hanging and playing with Bakithi at the Kala Brand Music booth. We are both Kala Artists and being in the company of Bakithi, Abe Laboriel, Hutch Hutchinson and Nathan East, among many other fantastic bass players, is mind blowing to say the least!

 

Bakithi and I managed to do a little jam of the classic Wayne Shorter tune ”Footprints”. The great video team from Kala helped capture the performance. Thank you guys! I got the files and edited the video you’re about to see. Besides the violin sound, from a nearby booth, and lots of people talking in the background, the sound is pretty good. It was recorded with the built in mic on one of the DSLR cameras used.

I hope you will enjoy watching this as much as I loved jammin’ with my dear friend and living bass legend Bakithi Kumalo!

Summer Ubass Video from Jämtland, Sweden

From the video recording of Jämtlandssången

Hi,

Time for a new Summer Ubass Video! Making a outdoor Summer video is now almost like a little tradition! 🙂

For the second time it is filmed in Jämtland, Sweden. I really love this region and have spent quite a lot of time there. Last year I did a version of the super classic song Summertime. Check out the blogpost and video here.

This year I decided to really pay homage by doing a version of Jämtlandssången, the official song of the region. It is also the first song I played on my new/old mahogany ubass. I found it in a music shop in Östersund the biggest town of Jämtland. This ubass is an early model without the built in preamp. I have looked for an early fretted mahogany model to compliment my first ubass, the spruce fretless I got in 2010.

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I did a quick arrangement playing mostly melody together with a quite simple bass part. I added some more chord tones in some places to make the harmony come through a bit more. When I got back home to my studio I decided to add a string arrangement to spice it up a little. The strings are recorded with the Strings-instrument-plugin inside of Logic Pro X. Besides the video of me playing the mahogany ubass I added some video footage from 2013 (!) Yes, that’s right I got the original idea of doing a tribute video to Jämtland back in 2013 but I never finished it… That’s why the other footage in the video features my first spruce ubass.

I hope you will enjoy this little video. If your interested in knowing how I arranged this please make a comment below. If there is interest I can make the arrangement available with a little lesson on how it all works! If you want to do this to another songs and melodies please include the titles in the comments too. That way I can include more melodies in future solo ubass arrangement lessons!

 

Playubass goes Dixieland/Trad Jazz at the Classic Car Racing Track

The winning team! ”Hejåhå med Peter” at the Classic Car Racing Show at Gelleråsen, Karlskoga, Sweden

Out of the blue my dear old friend from my music study days in Jönköping, Sweden called me up and asked me if I wanted to SUB for the SOUSAPHONE player in the Dixieland/trad jazz band ”Hejåhå med Peter”. He called last Thursday and the gig was that weekend!

The regular tuba/sousaphone player wasn’t able to make the show. My friend thought about me because I live quite close to the racing track and he thought it would be cool to try using a ubass instead of the tuba/sousaphone. When I was between 13-19 I played a lot of trumpet but tuba is another ball game and I have only tried it a couple of times.

Talking the sousaphone for a little spin! Wow, it has a powerful sound. I’m addicted and have get one so I to play some more!

They did bring a sousaphone and I got to try it. I will try to borrow a tuba or sousaphone because it’s such a fun instrument to play. Since I have my trumpet technique somewhere in the back of my head, and already know the function of the bass and how to play basslines, it would be a great addition to my bass tool palette! If I can at least borrow one and put in some practice it would be so great to once again play with the band – with me on sousaphone!

The band lined up (minus the trumpet player) at the racing track

But this time it was ubass I added to the mix. The first obstacle was to find a suitable mobile amp setup that would be easy to move around and had a powerful enough sound to blend nicely with the rest of the band. The band has a classic dixieland setup with clarinet, trumpet and trombone as lead instrument, banjo and washboard (cow bells, woodblock and cymbal).

My first thought was to only use my Phil Jones Double Four. That amp can be played powered by an external battery. I don’t have a battery yet so I still needed to connect to a power outlet in order to make it work. The gig was outdoor and although the Double Four has a great sound with a fantastic low end response the volume I can get out of it is a bit to low when used outside. I decided to use a combination of the Double Four and my old ”vintage” Gallien Krueger combo amp, that I bought new back in 1987. That way I could use the preamp and main sound of the Double Four and use the GK as a slave amp to get some more power and volume. As you can see in the video below I had some trouble finding power everywhere. But most time it worked out nicely!

My amp-cart setup. A Phil Jones Bass Double Four and an old GK as a slave amp for more power. Maybe not the prettiest setup around but it worked well and sounded very nice!

I put the amps on a cart and together with my friend we came up with a great way to incorporate a long extension power cord that was easy to use at the different locations where we played throughout the weekend.

So what do you need to focus on to sound somewhat close to a brass instrument while playing the ubass? First of all you need to play quite short and staccato-like notes. Almost the opposite as when you play ”newer” jazz (1940-) where a long legato sound is preferred.

Because of the interactive weaving lines from the melody instruments (clarinet, trumpet and trombone) it’s also best to keep the bass lines super simple. That way you won’t get in the way of the interactive in the moment harmony they produce. The chordal instrument (banjo) should also play simple triads with the appropriate dominant seven chords where applicable.

For me this means playing a staccato root fifth motions with the occasional chord or approach notes here and there to build up for a new section or chorus.

Besides using my ”cart rig” I used a Bose L1 PA that was available at one location. In video below you can hear and see what it all sounded and looked like.

It was pure joy playing with these guys. It’s always very rewarding when you get to play music with musicians that have taken time to get inside a certain genre. Besides playing in ”Hejåhå med Peter” the three lead melody instruments plays together in Gentlemen and gangsters a trad jazz group that regularly performed in Sweden, Europe and Asia.

We played a variation of classic jazz tunes with original or new lyrics and some ”Dixieland-ised” Swedish children songs too. Great fun!

Thanks for letting me swing with you guys!

 

 

About the car race

”Velodromloppet Grand Prix” has been around for quite some time. Here’s a movie from the 1959 competitions. (Swedish speaker)

Welcome to a fantastic race weekend for the whole family with lovely race cars and nostalgic feeling of the old days! Historic racing for pre historic, formula, standard, GT and sports cars. Club & car exhibitions, TT motor cycle show, retro and vintage feeling on the track.

Ubass Adventures: Travelogue from my trip to KALA and NAMM January 2018

Chillin’ with a lovely sunset at Helen Putnam Regional Park, Petaluma, CA USA

Here comes a long overdue travelogue…I know almost a year has flown by…

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In January I traveled to California for the NAMM show in Anaheim to promote the Ubass alongside Kala.
You can read about my experiences from Winter NAMM 2017 here!

Petaluma and Kala Brand Music

My trip started with a visit to Petaluma, CA, the home of Kala Brand Music. This was the second time I visited the Kala headquarters and since the first time in the summer of 2015 a lot has happened. The Ubass has evolved and in October 2017 the company moved to a new and bigger facility that includes a great factory where the California series of the solid body UBasses are built alongside the Elite series of the ukulele models.

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My focus for this visit was to make some videos with the Kala video crew and also talk about Winter NAMM that was just around the corner. I brought my two custom solid body ubasses with the prototype E-A-D-G-C string sets. I did some videos with them alongside the new Kala Journeyman ubass and a 5-string California koa solid body ubass with regular B-E-A-D-G tuning.

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Me and my wife really had a wonderful time in lovely Petaluma situated about an hour drive north of San Francisco. The town has a lovely downtown area and a beautiful countryside. We spent some time in the Helen Putnam Regional Park and caught a lovely sunset over the rolling green hills.

Magical sunset at the Helen Putnam Regional Park

I also had the privilege visiting the home of Kala Brand Music president, Mike Upton, and we had a nice little jam in his living room!

Jammin’ at Mike Uptons place

Winter NAMM 2018

We flew down to Anaheim January 24 one day before the four day music trade show would start at the Anaheim Convention Center. From the NAMM.org homepage:

”The 2018 NAMM Show gathered the music, sound and event technology industries for the largest show in NAMM history, welcoming 115,000 registrants, more than 7,000 brands, exciting events and triple the industry education.”
https://www.namm.org/

From NAMM.org: Winter NAMM 2018 Wrap-up

Pre-NAMM-day (January 24)
I went to pick up my name badge and got to see the wonderful Kala booth. It was a lot bigger then last year. Really spacious and beautiful with a genius and practical design!

The big wall of ukuleles at the Kala booth Winter NAMM 2018 (Since I took this photo with the panorama option on my iPhone it looks a bit strange. But it also show you the massive display in its full glory!)

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Day 1 (January 25)
From the get go there was a steady stream of things happening. Musical highlights was standing a few feet away to one of my musical heroes, the fabulous organ player Joey DeFrancesco, when he played some super lovely organ jazz at the Visconti Organ booth. I told him about that lovely concert I heard him perform in Stockholm many years ago. YES!

He came to Stockholm in October.  I saw the show with some friends. Did he have a bass player with him…no…was it still great… YES!!! 

The evening was spent at the Bass Bash a special bass event, a great hang! The year before I brought a Kala Ubass there for the ”raffle”. This night I heard performances by Abe Laboriel (Open Hands) and the John Patitucci Guitar Quartet with the amazing Nate Smith on drums (Side note: In this video I play to loops from thelooploft.com played by Nate Smith!)

Laboriel and Patitucci both received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Yamaha this night!

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Day 2 (January 26)
It was great to once again, if super brief, say hi to one of my mentors, Victor Wooten. I attended one of his camps outside Nashville back in 2011. Anthony Wellington was one of the many great instructors at the camp. Joe Craven was a guest at the camp. A super talented multi instrumentalist. So great to meet him again! Also got to meet Christian Fabian, a great bass player born in Sweden but now lives in NYC.

I also met some great musician friends! Please check out Ariane Cap she’s a great bass player and educator (I met her at that Wooten Camp back in 2011) I also met Sam Montooth a great singer, bass player, teacher based, as well as Ariane, in the LA area.

One of my Ubass ”papas” Bakithi Kumolo is always such a great hang. We had some nice talks and jams at the Kala booth. He performed at the Bass Bach on the second day of NAMM and almost played my solid body ubass! 🙂
I also met some new friends and they were also Bakithi admires!

I got to meet and great Mr Funk, Bootsy Collins! And check out the great Manou Gallo!

Oscar Cartaya a great latin bass player and ubass artist visited the booth and also played at the Bass Bash.

I ran into Ida Nielsen (played bass with Prince) and Morten Ehlers (the founder of Bass Buddha, a bass shop in Denmark.

I met Christopher Bolte at the Frankfurt Musikmesse back in 2014 and now we finaly meet again. He’s a fellow Gruvgear artist.

Greg Olwell, the editor of Ukulele Magazine, came by the booth. He writes for the Ukulele Magazine and made a great ukulele bass roundup a couple of years ago.

It’s so great to hear talented ukulele players jam. Corey Fujimoto and Andreas David are super musical on their ukuleles! Andreas managed the German ukulele site Gute Ukulele!

Meeting more new friends, Amie Cool, trying out a new pedal by Ruppert Musical Instruments and seeing Jeff Berlin in a nearby booth concludes the Day 2 travelogue.

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Day 3 (January 27)
Some highlights this day was seeing good friends Ariane and Wolf. We had a nice little lunch away from the crazy show floor.

I got to meet Kala Ubass Artist Nik West. She had her signature ubass on display at the booth.

The duo Go West demoed at the booth. So did Corey, Andreas and myself.

I don’t have any pictures but have to mention the wonderful Jule amps the Jule Potter makes!

I would finally be able to meet Richard Mari Cocco Jr, (president) and Eric Cocco (vice president) for the great string maker LaBella

I got to meet great friend and ubass player Greg Gohde too! While walking outside after a long day we heard som crazy energic funky music performed by Kyotaro and Rikuo, a Japanese rhythm section duo. We closed out the day with some great food at the Disney Resort.

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Day 4

So it’s time for the final show day!
Bakithi came by the booth again so did bass player/actor Sekou Bunch. He did some great jams. I will probably share some of that later! Divinity Roxx, former musical director with Beyoncé, came by too.

The great Ukulenny demoed at the booth. My new friend Simon Poulton tried the Kala Journeyman. The Japanese bass player from Kyotaro & Rikuo from Day 3 visited the booth too.

I went to see Christopher Bolte demo at the gruvgear booth and got to met good friend Jay Baldemor. Gruvgear make a really nice and sturdy gigbag for ubass!

I also went to the Elrick booth to try out some lovely basses built by Rob Elrick

It was so great to work alongside my great Kala Family once again! See you soon!

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The Acoustic-electric Ubass Walls

Links
Good walkthrough of the updated Ubass line for 2018 by Ryan Haugh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skjsPHn5ig0

The new Jorneyman ubass is one of three new ubasses in a new entry level line. These models are offered in fretted versions and will hopefully be available in fretless versions too later on. I played all three of these and they are a great addition to the existent line of ubasses.
https://kalabrand.com/blogs/u-bass-news/namm-2018-new-u-bass-preview

 

This concludes my travelogue around this wonderful Ubass Adventure!

/Magnus

New music by Marlowe feat. Solid Body Ubass playing!

My friend Marlowe is a Kala Ukulele Artist that I met in California earlier this year. We decided to do a collab and I recorded overdubs to one of the songs of her brand new album ”Moments”. The song is called Battle Royale and it sure was fun adding ubasses to the track. I decided to play my Kala California custom fretless solid body tuned EADGC. 

Now check out the video below and then go to marlowe-official.com and find out more about Marlowe!

Ubass overdub session video of ”Battle Royale” from the album ”Moments” by Marlowe
Marlowe [ http://www.marlowe-official.com/aboutmarlowe/ ]

New video: Bach on Ubass(es)

A screen shot from the video. Kala California Solid Body with prototype Kala Metal Round Wound strings and Kala California acoustic/electric fretless with Pahoehoe strings

 

Time for some classical music!

Playing classical music is very rewarding and it’s fun to do it on instruments that wasn’t even invented when the music was written.

This first video (I hope there will be more) features ”Inventio no. 4” (Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775) written by J. S. Bach. These short pieces was originally written as musical exercises for Bach students. Since I’m a forever student of music they suit me too! 🙂 I use these from time to time with my bass students. It’s lovely to play melodic baroque music on the bass/ubass.

Since Part 1 is played on my Kala California Solid Body, with the prototype strings (EADGC), I was able to play it one octave higher then on a ubass tuned (B)EADG. The contrast to Part 2, played on my Kala California acoustic/electric ubass with the original Pahoehoe strings, is nice I think. This piece was originally composed to be played on the piano (Part 1: right hand and Part 2: left hand). Playing both parts on one ubass would require some kind of tapping technique and could probably be done but would be very hard. I think it’s nice to use different instruments with sounds that, I think, compliments each other, and it’s easier too! 🙂

Playing in the high register of the Solid Body Ubass is very hard since the frets are pretty close from fret 15 and up. I decided to make ”one pass – no edits” takes of each part. It’s of course even nicer to play this as a ”real” duo since it will be easier to get more interactivity that way! 🙂
This piece can be done at different tempos and I opted for a medium tempo. It’s not slow but definitely not fast.

I hope you will like it and be inspirerad to play some classical music on your ubass!

In May I recorded some Bach-inspired improvised music. Here’s one of the videos recorded on my iPad (built in kamera and mic) I will try to make more videos like this but with a better video and audio quality!

 

New video! My version of a true classic – Summertime by George Gershwin

A short background to my version
The classic song is, as you probably know, from the opera Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin. It was first performed in Boston in 1935 before it moved to Broadway, New York.

I was lucky to be a part of a short summary staging of the opera when I attended a music school in Sweden back in 1992. I had the role of Sportin’ Life and sang the song “There’s a boat that’s leavin’ soon for New York” and ”It ain’t necessarily so”. Sportin’ life was the drug dealer, and possessive lover of Bess the main character. Porgy the other main character wanted to rescue Bess from him…

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Twenty-six years later… I guess it’s about time to do another song from the classic opera
”Summertime”, by far, the most classic and recognizable song from Porgy and Bess. It has been performed by countless of musicians across the globe since 1935 and onwards.

My version is quite short. I present the melody twice, first instrumental with the melody played on my Kala California acoustic-electric fretless Ubass. Then sung and harmonized the second time around. All vocals by yours truly. 🙂

I decided to incorporate my fretting hand tapping plus plucking hand percussive technique that I have used from time to time since 2014.
It all started when playing in the country duo M&M’s Honky Tonk with the great friend and lovely guitar player, Marcus Måttgård. I wanted to add some percussive parts to mimic a drummer and experimented using the body of the Ubass as a percussive acoustic drum.

Recently I started to use a acoustic pickup by Ehrlund microphones to enhance these percussive sounds. Before playing with this technique only really worked in the studio, where I could use a separate mic to pick up the percussive sounds, or in a small intimate live setting where the audience is near the performance.
The pickup is blended with the built in piezo and this makes it possible to play bigger venues and the percussive parts can be heard alongside the tapped bass part. More about this in a later blog post!

Besides the core parts of bass line/percussion played and recorded live on a small dock by the lake Storsjön in Jämtland, Sweden I added vocals and, for the first time in any of my videos, ukulele parts!

I hope you will enjoy my version of the Gershwin classic!

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New video! Eva Stenström Limited ”Allt under himmelens fäste”

Eva Stenström | Magnus Sjöquist | Daniel Björnmo

This song is a traditional folk tune from Gotland, Sweden. Eva and I started playing it as a duo on our trip to Brazil back in 2015. We wanted to bring some examples of traditional Swedish folk music on our trip. To make it work in a ubass and vocals setting I played the bass part through a delay pedal. I thought the extra rhythmic motion we got using this technique really helped us capture and deliver the haunting melody in a great way. I use a combination of arpeggios, chords and regular bass lines in my bass part.

In the trio version Daniel Björnmo adds an extra layer of color with his world class guitar playing. The added grit with close cluster like harmony through distortion pedals makes the song even more ethereal and haunting, I think. The ubass have some added modulation and octave up effects blended together with the delay.

This is a live in studio recording but we also added some percussion parts. I played some suspended cymbal swells.

You can also hear what we call ”the submersed gong”. This is a gong gong that we recorded as it is put under water after it is played. This bends the sound in a very nice way. I first heard this on records and live with one of my musician heroes, Indian percussionist, Trilok Gurtu.

We really hope you will enjoy our version of this Swedish’s folk song!

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For the best listening experience please listen to this song with good headphones or speakers that can reproduce a wide frequency spectrum!