Back when I was but a mere band nerdling roughly 65 million years ago now, I absolutely hated bass clarinet parts. Music intended for middle school and beginning high school wind ensembles is not, in the strictest sense, often challenging for the kid who plays the bass line. In my freshman year of high school, I had just about reached my limit and was ready to quit. I was in the 3rd band (in order to climb Everest, one must start at the bottom), and we were playing music that not only wasn’t challenging, it was in my eyes a steaming pile of crap. Finally, after one rehearsal, I went up to the director and told him that I’d had it with the stupid bass clarinet and the stupid bass parts that went with it, and that I was ready to walk. Because we were the 3rd band, we were missing a few of the less popular instruments, and as it turns out one of the pieces had a bassoon solo, but no bassoonist in which to play said solo. I don’t know what his original intention was for that solo, but my director was nice enough to transpose the part to bass clarinet and give it to me. I was absolutely ecstatic. Finally, I was going to have my moment in the sun. After years of whole notes and half notes, I was going to take the next step and bust out with a brilliant solo, the likes of which had never been heard in the hallowed cafeteria where we played most of our concerts that year.
Tangent: My high school now has an extremely nice performance hall where they have their concerts now. I would say the band kids are spoiled, but that would be an insult to the football players who play their home games in a multi-million dollar stadium complete with artificial turf and a jumbotron. God bless Texas.
Finally, the concert day arrived. I was elated. I was pumped. I was ready to throw down and blow the audience away. We started to play. The moment drew nearer. Finally, my moment in the sun arrived. The brilliance that flowed from my horn that night was so beautiful that the mothers in the audience spontaneously broke into tears, and the fathers looked upon me, wishing for just one moment in time, that their own sons and daughters could achieve the musical nirvana that I had just put forth. In reality, I don’t even remember how that solo went. I can’t even remember what piece of music it was. I played it just fine, but after we were done, I realized that I didn’t need to be a soloist. I didn’t even need to play melodic parts.
That was the night that I fell in love with the bass line.
No matter what genre of music you listen to, the bass line is the foundation and backbone upon which greatness is built. Without a good bass line, burglars do not creep silently through a museum late at night to steal the Pink Panther . Without a good bass line, Stevie Ray Vaughan would only have a bad feeling, instead of a real, real bad feeling that his baby don’t love him no mo. Without a good bass line, the Empire would have been crushed by the Rebellion at its very inception. A good bass line is, without any embellishment whatsoever, the difference between a lukewarm bath with a rubber ducky, and hot tubbing with this year’s entire Victoria Secret catalog roster. A good bass line is very, very important indeed.
Bass players are generally not the frontmen of music groups. The only bass players I can think of off the top of my head are Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, and my friend Tim who incidentally will be rocking The Parish this Saturday, June 30 at 10:00 PM. Bass players are not the cherry on the sundae. Instead, bass players are that layer of fudge at the bottom of the sundae that remains once you’ve eaten all the ice cream and tastes so damn good that you’d literally cut your pinkie off for just a taste. I can’t remember now where I was going with this.
In closing, my name is Andy Grove, and I’m proud to have been playing the bass line for the past 23 with all the wonderful ensembles I’ve had the pleasure of performing with. We are not the Guitar Heroes who are flooded backstage with autograph requests from scantily clad women. We are not the soloists who fingers fly so rapidly that you’d swear that performance enhancing drugs are involved. Our instrument cases are large, and our hotel rooms are small. But that’s ok. Because while others may get the fortune and the glory, we are content in the knowledge that we are, without a doubt, the biggest badasses on the planet. And with that, I am off to Dairy Queen to get a peanut buster parfait. Mr. Waters, please play me off.