Bob Bryant: Our Music Scene from a bassist’s eye view

IMG_3516When touring artists find themselves in need of a bass player while performing in Lexington the “go to” musician is Bob Bryant. Bob has held down the bottom for everybody from Alex Acuna, Rosemary Clooney and Al Hurt to Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, J.P. Pennington and Larry Cordell. He’s a regular on the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour and is often found performing as a duo with one of a couple of other local masters, Jay Flippin and Ben Lacy. 

Bob has played in all sorts of venues and in all sorts of situations. He has a unique “bassists’ eye view” of the Lexington scene.

UnderMain asked him to share some observations. Here are Bob’s thoughts:

Hopefully, slipping into the membership of Lexington’s “Old Guard” is a good thing in terms of music affairs. Regardless of where I’ve lived or worked, Lexington has always been considered home for me, and never have I lost focus on this community or it’s musical well being.

When asked to compose a couple of paragraphs on the topic, initially the task appeared a struggle in any attempt to display an honestly positive overall outlook. My concerns were (and are) a conspicuous digression in the manner many venues (among the many exceptions) treat musicians as the new norm.

More discouraging by observation is the often belligerent status of the new generation audience. I am often amazed by the ‘party’ atmosphere amidst spectacular musical performances that would never be tolerated in other nearby cities, and traditionally would not have occurred locally.

Though great news to follow, it’s a shame to lose sight of just how amazing the storied tradition of Lexington’s music scene had been until just a couple of decades past. It was truly something, with ‘great’ bands slamming on every street corner while others participated in the “New Circle shuffle,” traveling from one beltway venue to another.

And this is not to mention a bustling recording scene: red-eyed musicians at 8:00 a.m., recovering from their 5 night  stand, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, participating in pre-production plans for an all-day session, just to depart directly back to the bandstand, and then do it all over again.

Such meetings took place in a control room including a 2 inch tape recording deck, a mixing console big enough to sleep 4, and a room full of outboard gear so hot the AC ran full out in the dead of winter. The cigarette smoke was unbearable. And the coffee was awful no matter which studio you were working. Those days are history.

On the other hand, all is not lost; not by any means. Extraordinarily talented young musicians continue the tradition of uncanny musicianship known to this unlikely expanse. We should all be so proud of them as they thankfully persevere in this relatively new hostile environment (which incidentally includes Pro Tools).

In addition to the youngsters are other categorical heroes, for example, the relative unknowns. Such is the case of University of Kentucky PhD candidate, Jay Crutcher. Jay’s newest upcoming solo album features some of the finest performing/producing I’ve ever heard.

Another new mover and shaker is UK orchestra conductor John Nardolillo, who has taken the organization to inclusion among the nations absolute elite. Most concerts are free to the public; just show up!

And of course to weigh in on behalf of the previously mentioned ’old guard’ there is the formidable Jay Flippin legacy (of which I am a grateful member). The pianist, a true national treasure, not only raised an entire brood of young music students into career-minded professionals, but serves as the standard for all musicians to aspire. The Jay Flippin/Gail Wynters duo is an unimaginable treat of true greatness!

There is plenty for which to feel positive; amazing musicians-young and not so young, in or out of the spotlight. Helpful would be a little less chaos in the listening rooms, a little more support from (some) venue operators, and acknowledgement of a great future as all these artists are eager to share their gift.

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