This is a little tribute to one of my musical heroes: Mr Steve Swallow. I have listened to his Music for quite some time and have always admired his unique approach to playing bass. In my version I play fingerstyle although Mr Swallow uses a pick. One of his most famous compositions are Falling Grace. You can find out more about him here!
There are videos on youtube with bass players playing solos performed by Swallow but not many (if any) playing one of his chord-bass parts. This one is transcribed from a John Scofield Trio version of the evergreen ”Someone to watch over me” (George and Ira Gershwin) from the musical ”Oh, Kay!”.
I heard this performance last year and decided to transcribe the part when he comps behind John Scofield during the the melody. I wanted to explore the voicings he used with his 5-sting bass tuned EADGC.
In the video I’m using my Kala California Custom Flame Maple solid body ubass. One of the first made using the ”exotic tops” back in 2012-2013. Please check out the new updated ones!
I decided to add the melody singing the Frank Sinatra version of the lyrics. I got some nice help with a great brushes and cymbals part too.
Magnus Sjöquist, kala solid body ubass (EADGC-tuning) and vocals
Mats Nyström, brushes and cymbals
I’m working on more ebooks in my Learn to play the ubass series and one of these will focus on playing chords on a ubass/bass.
The ubass was recorded through my RMI Basswitch IQ/DI and then re-amped using a Radial X-amp. Se pic below. I used a combination of mics to capture the sound of the Phil Jones Double Four combo amp. Read more about the amp in my review.
D minor 7 chord
Please check out my review of the PJB Double Four!
Mats Nyström, brushes and cymbals
Carla Bley, Daniel Björnmo, Steve Swallow and me Sweden, 2009
Still from video
Re-amping my Phil Jones Bass Double Four
Steve Swallow and Billy Drummond live in Sweden 2009
Let’s take a look at the Phil Jones Double Four combo amp
Background In 1987 I bought a new amp, a Gallien Krueger 200MB. I used this amp for a lot of different gigs sometimes with a extension cab but for most part as a standalone amp. The MB250 was a small combo amp that was a real breakthrough product back in 1987. Small but powerful and well built. I still have this amp! I have changed the speaker once since the surround of the original speaker dried and fell apart. However once you open the enclosure once it’s really hard to get it air-tight again. The construction is built upon a closed box to get the sound. I have used this amp mainly as a backup only for the last 8+ years. When I planned a trip to Brazil in 2015 the need for a new really small and travel friendly amp grew. I started to look around, getting different recommendations from friends and online searches, found the Phil Jones Double Four and decided to try it out.
Description The Double Four is a 70 watt (all digital, pre- and power amp) with two four inch speakers (hence the name). It features a specially developed innovation called RALFR®, a special reflex port that greatly enhances the bass response. Besides basic amp controls there is an AUX-input (for your smartphone or more…) with a level control, headphone and Line out. You can use it in either a vertical or horizontal mode. Read more about the amp here.
Although the amp is all digital it sounds very warm and organic and brings out the core tone of everything I put through it, and it weighs in at only 4 kg! It is loud enough for rehearsals and smaller venues. More info below!
Gig-stories This little amp has been working hard for me. As I mentioned in the background the initial goal of the amp was to bring it with me to Brazil in 2015 when I visited the capital city Brasília to check out different music schools. I met a lot of wonderful and lovely people on the trip.
The amp was really a great companion to me and my Kala acoustic/electric ubass. I used the ubass with the amp on outdoor restaurant gigs, at a small pub and at the different schools me and my colleague visited, played concerts and held workshops at.
Back in Sweden I have used the small and powerful combo for a lot of rehearsals and small gigs. It has been a great way to always have a great sound wherever I go. The people I have played with have always been overwhelmed and surprised about the small amp with a big sound. It has worked well with ubasses, electric basses and upright bass. Although it’s small and “only” 70 watts i has even worked as the only amplification in acoustically big sounding rooms like stone churches together with guitar and vocals.
Live in studio recording with vocals, guitar and accordion.
Miking the rear port and blending it wit the DI signal from the ubass.
Let’s listen to some examples of how the Double Four sounds with ubass in different genres and situations.
Tango (See info above on how this was recorded!)
Acoustic Hiphop (Recorded with a single mic Zoom recorder)
Bossa Nova in Brazil
Recorded through the PJB Double Four
Recorded a a rehearsal with a Zoom H6
This Summer I also made a ”iso-amp-box” for ”silent recording” with the Double Four.
I made this box for recording dates where I need to get a miked amp sound in the same room with other musicians. Very little sound is heard outside the box and not much sound will get into the box. It can be used for the actual recording or to get a great and organic headphone sound when tracking.
I will do a dedicated blog post about how that works (and sounds) later!
If you’re looking for a small and ultra portable amp with a warm and natural sound you should definitely add the Phil Jones Double Four to you check-out-list. Playing my Kala Ubass with the PJB DoubleFour is a match made in heaven – a wonderful and small footprint with a big warm sound – a great combination for sure!
In a series of four short blog posts I will write about the different lessons in my first Lesson Pack: ”Learn to play the Ubass – basic techniques” (One lesson at the time every Sunday for four weeks!)
Lesson 1 – How to hold the Ubass
The first lesson gives you suggestions about different ways to hold the Ubass.
Since the body and over all length is so much shorter than a regular electric or acoustic bass guitar you really need to find a way to accommodate this.
In the lesson I go through different ways I hold the ubass. I have found out a couple of alternatives that can be nice to switch between or at least use as a starting point when you develop your own ”holding style”. I will let you know what has worked best for me and why.
Even though you have been playing regular bass for a long time I think this lesson will help you to get a good ”grip” on your ubass playing regarding how you can hold it to get the most out of your ubass music making!
Stay tuned: Next Sunday [September 3rd] it’s time for ”Lesson 2 – basic plucking/picking hand technique”
– – –
My parents bought my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu, Hawaii while visiting the islands back in 2010. I had not been able to try one beforehand. It only took me a few moments to get acquainted with the short scale length and rubbery strings. After that I got more and more in love with the feel and sound of the ubass. Hope you have or will get the same feeling for these amazing instruments! Read more about my first encounter here!
Long overdue here’s finally a short travel log about my trip to the 2017 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA
I have been to a couple of music trade shows in Europe as a visitor but this was my first trip to the Winter NAMM show in Los Angeles. It was also the first time working closely with Kala. My main focus was to release and letting people know about my first Ebook/ePub in my Learn to play the Ubass series.
I started working on the ebook back in 2013 and it has slowly taken its form. The basic idea and the text was ready after about a year but working on how to present it, all the movies and the graphics and navigation took quite a while to finalize. You can read more about the Ebook/ePub and where to find it here.
After a +10 hour flight from Stockholm ARN I landed at LAX and took a bus to Anaheim where I met staff from Kala. I settled in and started to plan the next coming days.
I arrived on Monday, January 17 with the show starting on Thursday that week. I helped out a bit loading in some stuff and setting up the booth. The booth was fantastic with a really well throughout design that got a lot of compliments from many visitors and booth neighbors.
Load in and set up of the Kala Booth
Once the show started I met a lot of great people, both visitors, other companies and press. Besides talking to some online magazines myself I was also fortunate to get help to set up some meetings and interviews both from Kala and other friends in the music business. It was, for example, crazy to see Nathan East being interviewed in the exact same spot a day before I got an interview from the same online community! 🙂
You can find the news coverage and interviews here.
The Ubass got a lot of attention at this Winter NAMM show. 8 years after the first Kala Ubass was released its still a ”show stopper”! Many musicians, including lots of bass players of course, came by and was floored by the small footprint bass with the huge sound. It’s so great to see the happy smiles on the faces of the first time players
The California solid body Ubasses was revamped with slightly bigger and rounder bodies as one of the main differences. Check them out here.
I also got to try out the prototype Paddle Bass by Kala. A great one string bass for a quick and refreshing way into the wourld of bass playing! Link to Bass Musician Magazine article.
All in all my first NAMM show was a very nice experience. And although it’s quite exhausting being on the show floor with the intense sound and constant stream of people I hope to return and continue my ”IRL” networking across the pond as soon as possible!
A big thank you to all the staff at Kala and the wonderful Kala and Ubass artist I got to hang and work with!!!
– – –
I read a Kala Ubass review in Bass player magazine back in 2010. At the same time my parents happened to be on vacation and they helped me to buy my first ubass at a music store in Honolulu while visiting the islands of Hawaii. l had not been able to try one beforehand but it only took me a few minutes getting acquainted with the short scale length and rubbery strings. After that I have gotten more and more in love with the feel and sound of the ubass. Hope you have or will get the same feeling for these amazing instruments! Read more about my first encounter here!
Ariane Cap, Michael League and me after Bash Bass 2017 during NAMM 2017
Discussing music with Mr League
The pictures above are from my trip to the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA back in January. I will do a featured blog post about the show but haven’t had the time to do that yet but it will come! So why are these pictures in this post about a ubass sighting? Well, Mr Michael League was one of several featured bass players at this years Bass Bash. He played with one of his bands FORQ. They played a great set and it was great to once again hear Michael play. I was at a show in Stockholm back in 2015 when he was there with his most famous band Snarky Puppy. I have featured Snarky Puppy before in a Ubass Sightings blog post.
This post will feature yet another of Michaels bands, Bokanté! This band has a really nice lineup with three guitar players, three percussion players, a pedal steel player and a lead vocalist…and a (u)bass player of course!
The word bokanté means “exchange” in Creole, the language of vocalist Malika Tirolien’s youth growing up on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Now living in Montreal, she stands among 8 musicians from 4 continents, each one accomplished in their own right and well versed in music far beyond that of their point of origin. Two-time Grammy award-winning guitarists Michael League, Chris McQueen, and Bob Lanzetti (all from Snarky Puppy), percussion legend Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon, Sting), pedal and lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys, Karl Denson), and unplaceable percussionists André Ferrari (Väsen) and Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma) come together to create a diverse ensemble rich in groove, melody, and soul.
In the song ”O La” you can hear and see that the low end is handled with a fretted acoustic/electric ubass with some help from the baritone guitar Michael is playing. He usually plays bass in his bands but in Bokanté he plays both bass/ubass and baritone guitar on the studio album ”Strange Circles” that will be released in June 2017. [Pre-order available here] On the live shows he will play the baritone guitar exclusively. He recently said in an interview for Scotts Bass Lessons that he wanted to have the chance to play with some of his favorite bass players. On the upcoming tours the bass chair will be filled by different bass players. See and read more here.
Please have a listen…and a look. I hope they will come to Sweden someday soon so I get to hear them live!
PS. One of the percussionists (André Ferrari) is from Sweden. He’s also featured in the video I referred to in the beginning of this post!
PS2 Please check out Ariane Cap (she’s in the picture at the top of the post) and the great book she has written about music theory with a bass player focus!
Some quotes about Bokanté:
“One of the more versatile groups on the planet right now”
“A barnstorming, groove-centric instrumental act with a rabid fan base… if the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably just a matter of time”
-The New York Times
“Big, rich and funky.”
“Stands out with a furious commitment to defying musical categories.”
“Sounds like one spotless collection of intricate musics performed by just one very skilled, albeit extended, band.”
“Thinking person’s feel-good music.”
“A big, happy band of skilled musicians whose tunes are both complex and easy to dance to.”
I’m finally done with phase 1 of my ”Build your own ubass” series. In this series I will build a Kala Solid Body Ubass. All the parts are from the Kala web shop!
In the first phase 1 worked with the finish of the body. As you might have seen on my instagram or facebook page I wanted to get close to the finish of my Bakithi Kumalo signature solid body 4-string fretless. I’m quite happy with the result and learned a lot in the process!
All associated blog posts regarding this project will be accessible on the DIY page!
I will go into the details about the first phase, but first, let’s check what you need to build your own ubass.
Step 1 – Buy the parts
You need to decide what model you want to build. There are four options:
5-string fretless (the one I’m putting together!)
When I got the parts to my UBass there was a kit option with all the parts included. This is not available anymore so you need to add all the parts yourself at the Kala Web Shop.
Step 2 – Decide on the body finish
I choose to mimic the look of my Bakithi Kumalo signature ubass and went for a so called ”tar” finish. I will not go into detail of the different products I used since these will differ from country to country. It is of course possible to do whatever you want with the body finish!
Please send me pictures of YOUR custom UBass finish so we can show them to the world! 🙂
Step 3 – Put the ubass together
I have compiled a guide from the instructions you could find on the previous version of the kalabrand.com web page.