Pianist, composer and lyricist, Dave Bass, is a great American success story that reads like a riveting bio-pic script. This Cincinnati kid began piano lessons at age seven, and shortly after graduating high school, played in bands that opened for Captain Beefheart and Alice Cooper. He was soon accepted into Boston’s Berklee College of Music, leaving after just a few months to study piano with the legendary Madame Margaret Chaloff. Madame schooled him and other young, immensely talented jazz artists as Keith Jarrett, Leonard Bernstein, Steve Kuhn and Kenny Werner, who understood the importance of developing a signature sound and style. Chaloff taught in the “Russian Technique” – a unique tool for tone production and musical articulation. A typical lesson might not go beyond using a “weightless wrist” to correctly play a single note. While in Boston, he also studied composition with George Russell and Avram David, again formed his own band, worked a variety of commercial gigs, serendipitously landing a great stint as Brenda Lee’s pianist, leaving Boston behind for multiple tours of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.
During the ’70s and early ’80s, now living in the Bay Area, Dave supported his growing family as a full time musician. Immersed in the vibrant San Francisco jazz and Latin music scene, he led his own group playing often with friends Bobby McFerrin, drummer Babatunde Lea, jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan and others at the legendary Keystone Korner and other well known venues on the scene. In 1981, Jackie Ryan invited Dave to play a jazz gig with her in Maui, which led to his becoming Entertainment Director at the Royal Lahaina Hotel.
In the mid-80s, after a random slip and fall on the way to a gig caused a seriously damaging wrist fracture, doctors did not offer a promising prognosis for him to ever play piano again. With his beloved music career no longer an option, and with a wife and young daughter to support, Dave enrolled at the University of California, Irvine, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. He moved on to UCLA School of Law becoming an Editor of the UCLA Law Review and began his legal career in 1992 with a prestigious commercial firm, Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. In 1996 Dave accepted a position as a Deputy Attorney General with the California Office of the Attorney General, where he eventually joined the Civil Rights Enforcement, where he was honored with the 2009 Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
In 2005, after a twenty-year absence from the music scene, and while still a Deputy Attorney General, Dave’s long-forgotten dreams of playing and composing jazz were re-kindled when his own self-discovery coincided with an invitation to play some impromptu solo piano during a private party while the band took a break. This led to Dave being invited to local jam sessions, where he once again fell in love with the deep satisfaction of playing piano, composing, arranging and writing lyrics to tell his stories through music.
In June 2010, he released his first CD, GONE, featuring Mary Stallings and Ernie Watts, showcasing ten Dave Bass original rock-solid compositions ranging from post-bop, sultry ballads, to gospel, straight-ahead, and to Bossa Nova and Tango. In addition to Dave’s ten originals, GONE features an exciting duet with Ernie and him on Astor Piazzolla’s famous “Libertango.” GONE hit #2 on the national JazzWeek Radio Charts after only 3 weeks. In July 2011, Attorney General Kamala Harris wrote to Dave congratulating him on the “extraordinary achievement” of GONE, recognizing “the dedication and hard work that it takes to work as a Deputy Attorney General while simultaneously achieving acclaim as an accomplished musician. This reflects positively on your work ethic and dedication to commitment.”
Bolstered by such great national interest and radio play, Dave was inspired to write new, exhilarating compositions and arrangements for his latest CD, NYC SESSIONS, featuring jazz legends Phil Woods, Karrin Allyson, Harvie S, Ignacio Berroa, Conrad Herwig, and others. NYC SESSIONS may well be the the last studio recording by Phil Woods (RIP). One listen to Phil’s solo on “The Sixties” will show that even at the end of his career, Phil played with more energy and raw intensity than a man half his age.
Dave also brought a new dimension to two of his instrumental compositions from GONE with his original lyrics and vocals by Karrin Allyson on “Lost Valentine,” and Paulette McWilliams on “Since I Found You.” In February 2015, Whaling City Sound released NYC SESSIONS which soon hit #5 on the national JazzWeek Radio charts. NYC SESSIONS received a coveted 4- STAR review from DownBeat where Jon Garelick wrote that NYC SESSIONS covers a “broad range of material for a unified whole. That success is due in part to Bass’ savvy as an arranger and programmer, and also to his top-notch crew, not to mention his own sparkling keyboard work.” Garelick continues: Phil Woods “who appears on six of the album’s 11 tracks . . . sounds big and bold, fully engaged with Bass’ tuneful charts.” Garelick goes on to say that Dave “plays with verve throughout.” DownBeat went on to name “NYC SESSIONS” as one of the “BEST ALBUMS of 2015.”
Other rave reviews came from Jazz Inside, where Eric Harabadian wrote that Bass “writes and plays in a style that is easily identifiable and relatable, yet sophisticated and operates on a very high level. Dave Bass is back doing what he was born to and, in doing so, is keeping the torch burning for elegant songwriting and classic bebop in the process. “
Raul Da Gama offered these insights in Latin Jazz Network: “Not only is Mr. Bass in fine form, he also contributes wonderful charts to the proceedings. And the music in all its diversity and passion appears to have an unstoppable momentum under his leadership. This is a highly entertaining and gripping recording, crisply executed [and] has an energy, drive and polish entirely apt for the compelling admixture of Mr. Bass’ expressive musical language…”
Veteran arts writer Ken Franckling added NYC SESSIONS’ “Baltic Bolero” to his list of 10 Best Songs of 2015.
In January 2015, Dave retired from the Office of the Attorney General to devote himself to music 24/7, and continues to compose and perform.
Dave will be releasing his new album, No Boundaries, on Whaling City Sound in July. Along with Dave, 2-time Grammy winner Ted Nash is producing the album and playing flute, alto flute, clarinet, soprano, alto, and tenor saxes throughout. The album also features 5-time Grammy nominee Karrin Allyson, and 2-time Grammy winner Carlos Henriquez. Jerome Jennings is on drums and on the Afro-Cuban numbers, masters Carlos Caro, Mauricio Herrera, and Miguel Valdez join on bata, conga, bongo and timbales. Stay tuned!!