Thanks to ISB member Clifton Swanson for letting us know more about Albert Jakstadt!

When the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in upstate New York held auditions for principal bass in 2010, there were 10 semi-finalists.  Three of them were playing basses made by Albert Jakstadt.  Of the 6 finalists, two were playing Jakstadt basses.  Some asked “who is Albert Jakstadt”?  Others were well aware of Mr. Jakstadt, America’s most prolific bass luthier; one who has had a significant influence on younger makers.

It is said that more auditions have been won while playing a Jakstadt bass than any other living maker.  Musicians have been known to borrow a Jakstadt in order to win an audition.  So it seems appropriate to recognize one of America’s most significant luthiers for those who have not encountered his instruments.

Jackstadt and bassA visit to the Jakstadt home and shop in the summer of 2012 was not like what I had expected.  Located in a very upscale suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, I thought that I must have the wrong address.  Perfectly groomed on the outside, the inside of the home was immaculate; almost a showcase with a grand piano in the living room and bass Number 100 standing in the corner.  A few examples of Jakstadt’s background as a furniture maker can be found including a beautiful small table with absolutely perfect inlay; the hand of a master.  Greeted warmly by Mr. Jakstadt and his devoted wife, Marie, one was immediately aware of a modest, almost too humble man, who later confided that he was very nervous about my visit because I might be disappointed.

Many fiddle shops are found in obscure buildings and dark recesses.  They seem to reflect the ages, as if to emulate the fine old instruments that pass through.  They are often a jumble of incomplete instruments, racks of old tools, miscellaneous parts and general clutter.

Jakstadt’s shop is on the lower floor of his house; virtually a basement but with a portion above ground level.  But there is no clutter here.  It is a modern shop, with state-of-the-art equipment plus traditional and hand-made tools that he has evolved over the years.   In the center of the room is a new bass lying on a special table designed by him, waiting for the top and back to be fitted.  Tools are hung in meticulous array on one wall.  The entire space is spotless and dustless.  An adjacent room reveals more wood waiting to be made into instruments.

Albert Jakstadt was born in Lithuania on January 22, 1928, making him 85 years old in 2013.  His early years were marked by uncertainty as he was caught up in the Second World War.  As the Russians moved into Lithuania, he escaped to Eastern Germany at the age of 13 with essentially no belongings.   Originally trained as a surveyor, here he was apprenticed to a….  Read on

This is part of an article from our magazine  Bass World – Vol 37 #1 – 2013.  To read the entire article, you need to be a member:

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