Concerto for Double Bass was written for Jim Beidel and was performed by the Seattle Pro Music Chamber Orchestra with Jim as soloist in Seattle in the Spring of 1978. It was also taken up by my friend and former colleague John Casey who, during the late 1970’s was Associate Principal Bass with the Phoenix Symphony. John actually performed the first movement for school concerts in Phoenix before Jim premiered it in Seattle, and has performed it a number of times in the years since.
This work was my first attempt at creating a serious work from transcribed keyboard improvisations. The improvisations were done in studio in 1977, are some of my first real serious efforts at free improvisation, and are unabashedly influenced by the work of Keith Jarrett. The work has always been special to me because it is so tirelessly happy and optimistic. I am a professional double bass, and the work is not real easy to play, but it does lie very well. I have never performed the work on the bass, though I have played the piano accompaniment a number of times.
The first movement, Traveling Tune, is the large movement of the three and has been done several times by itself. It’s driving rhythms are introduced right away and lead to a major tutti section near the beginning. There are two “perpetual motion” sections in the first movement, the first by the bass with pizzicato strings and the second by the first violins accompanied by a pizzicato solo bass. There are two short rest stops along the way, and the coda, which evolves out of the second one, is based on a folk-song-like melody and builds to grand ending.
The second movement, Ballad, is a love song of sorts. The first chord serves as the beginning of most of the movements phrases; it is more of a fixation than a set of variations. Lyric playing on the bass predominates.
The last movement, Dance Tune, is very playful and happy. The bass has a number of virtuosic passages and some tricky ones too. The bassist gets to show off the whole instrument and not just the upper register. The playfulness gives way to some serious passage work as it builds and drives to the end.
The work is written for a double bass with Solo Tuning, a scordatura which is a major second above normal tuning (F#, B, E, A) and uses lighter gauge and brighter strings.