22 May 2010

Neville’s magic

It’s not really magic, of course, but skills and understanding and training and a feel for timber and sounds. I took my bass up to Neville Whitehead a few weeks ago and collected it last night. I was astounded at the change from the first ringing notes. I’d thought the strings were old and dull, but both strings and instrument seemed restored. Virtually a new instrument. Neville did a fairly big job on the bass. It’s a Reghin flat-backed timber instrument: decent but not particularly special. Reghin is a town of about 35,000 in Bulgaria and the home of Vasile Gliga. Gliga produced instruments under his own name, but most output was released to sell under other names. Presumably this is one of those lines. Neville removed the belly and did various internal tasks, then set the bass up (reshaped the fingerboard and built and fitted a new bridge and a few other tasks). Now constructed for the long term.

But what a change! Suddenly there’s a top end that I’d only heard on recordings and clarity throughout the frequencies; a growl when the action’s set low, or a firmness with slightly higher action. And an ease of playing that’s new. I’m experimenting: inevitable with what is essentially a new instrument. Learning about this feel and sound, and also watching it change with humidity and temperature. These things breathe, unlike electric basses. Acoustic is the musical journey that people speak of. BTW, Neville has quite a history as a bassist, not just as a luthier: stories of Tony Bennett, Daly Willson Big Band, Keith Tippett and more. He’d just had a session with Sandy Evans the night before. Well worth a long chat. Thanks to Neville, and I’ll be seeing you again.

  • http://www.nevillewhitehead.com/
  • No comments: