ISB Reporter Graham IsaakI had totally the wrong idea about this day. I was expecting it to be the peak, the busiest and noisiest day of ISB. Perhaps that’s why I drowsily avoided entering Eastman for so long in the morning… when I finally came inside at 10:30am, I was dismayed to see that the end had begun! Many of the exhibits I wanted to revisit were already closed, and the number of bassists roving the hallways had thinned out. The college fair had been reduced to empty tables and small piles of brochures.

Saturday, June 8

8am: rouse and write
10:40ish am: Joel Braun’s closing number
12noon: outside Andreas Bennetzen’s new music session
1pm: Young Bassists concert
4pm: David Anderson plays David Anderson, plus harp!
5pm: walk
6pm: supper
8pm: Joel Quarrington
9:15pm: Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, and Derico Watson (I learned his name!)

I popped in to Joel Braun’s recital to hear impeccable tuning and lightning fast slurs in his closing number, and then plucked through David Gage’s bass selection as Ludwig’s prepared my standard breakfast. I was reminded of musicians’ generosity after Andreas Bennetzen’s presentation, as Andreas gave enthralled students a chance to try out his silent bass/pedal setup. When I arrived at Kodak Hall to hear the Young Bassists play, I was amazed and terrified to see a 14-year-old playing the standard Bottesini Concerto No. 2 in a rendition that put my 4th-year university recital to shame. The Young Bassists’s program continued with small and large ensembles, and special awards. I teared up as a young lady from Copenhagen was presented with a brand new bass, courtesy of Kolstein’s, to be shipped to her home! (What are you, ISB? and where have you been all my life?)

I was keen to hear and meet composer-bassist David Anderson, and when I arrived early to his session I had the pleasure of hearing Catherine Anderson warm up her harp. The performance put a salve on my glum afternoon. David’s bluesy tribute to Frank Proto was a stand-out.

The evening concerts were what I was really geared up to see, and the atmosphere was vibrant again as everyone returned to see the evening’s headliners: Joel Quarrington and Victor Wooten. I was excited to finally hear the legend that is Joel. A Canadian bassist with an international reputation, Joel had had a hand in the development of nearly every working bassist I knew, from my parents’s generation to my own. I was surprised when I had to strain to hear Joel’s bass, but as the concert continued, I realized he was intentionally playing at a barely audible level. This got everyone on the edge of their seats, leaning in to listen more closely. Of course, he soon let loose like no other, his bow biting into his 5ths-tuned strings. Joel’s technical playing was impressive, but what really moved me in his performance was a duet with jazz pianist Don Thompson. Joel completely erased any notion of “crossing genres,” his bass singing out in a beautiful arrangement of “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.”

Victor Wooten’s set had just as many surprises. He began with an electric bass, but put it down after creating a simple haunting loop. This became the backdrop for a childlike exploration of bowed double bass. Moments later, he was proving that a double bass is no obstacle to all of his electric technique. His focus on double bass rather than electric for this performance made it a particularly unique Wooten show, and he invited guests Steve Bailey and Derico Watson (my “anonymous drummer…”) to join him. He returned to the electric for a closing solo, entitled “The Lesson,” which really said it all.

Graham Isaak is one of our roving reporters covering the events of ISB 2013.