Most of the time I get called for straight-laced classical fare, usually consisting of endless half notes and whole notes. My chief concerns in these cases usually end up being things like making sure I don’t cough or drop my bow as I go completely mentally vacant with boredom.
What the hey?!?
I was playing bass for one one these aforementioned whole-note sessions, flipping each chart over as we wrapped it up and thinking about my various dinner options.
I flipped the next chart in the stack, and my heart took a sudden leap into my throat. The music I was about to sight-read for this session was absolutely covered in black, with sixteenth notes buzzing up and down the staff, intricate hemiolas and rest patterns, and tons of tricky accidentals all over the page.
How could I have missed this one when I was flipping through my music at the beginning of the session? And what on Earth was a nutso chart like this doing in my stack of easy-as-pie first position whole note tunes?
With no time to think (the engineer was ready and waiting for our small string group to start behind the glass), I picked up my bow, knowing that I was about to embark on one heck of a sight-reading adventure.
Click, click, click…
We were off and running, and I was bobbing and dipping like a maniac, navigating these off-the-wall sixteenth note passages as best I could. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that all of my upper-string colleagues were watching me with bemused grins. Their parts were half-note and whole note chords, just like all the others, and I soon realized that this track (for Christmas album, of all things!) was arranged as one bizarre bass solo.
Fortunately, I’m a pretty good sight-reader, and I started to gain confidence as I realized that there would be no respite for me through the entire track. I jammed out as well as I possibly could given the circumstances, and was feeling pretty darned proud of myself as the other string players played the final chords of the arrangement.
As silence filled the studio, I shook out my arms and waited to see what the engineer wanted to punch in. After all, I did a good job, didn’t I? Maybe just few bars here or there to clean up?
My confidence wavered.
Finally, the studio speakers came on:
“Um… Jason. Can I see that bass part?”
I snaked my way through the cables and mic stands, meeting him at the door.
“Jason,” he said, “that’s the electric bass part.”
Apparently, the bass guitar part had been misfiled in my folder. The string tracks were just sonic padding on this record, and the electric people would be in a few days later to lay down the groovier stuff.
Blushing profusely (though it wasn’t really my fault, was it?) as my actual part was handed to me, I took my seat again, and we took it from the top, with my actual part being even simpler than the other tracks. I only played a few pizzicati and a couple of whole notes, in fact.
So much for my rockin’ Christmas solo upright bowed solo jam track!