Interview - Dave Young

Dave Young

Multiple award-winning bassist and composer Dave Young is, without a doubt, one of Canada’s most valuable musical exports. The list of artists with whom Dave has shared the stage is a virtual “Who’s Who” of international jazz...including the late Oscar Peterson (with whom Dave had a thirty-five year musical relationship), and additional iconic artists Lenny Breau, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Joe Williams, Oliver Jones, Kenny Burrell, Cedar Walton, Nat Adderly, Peter Appleyard, Gary Burton, Barney Kessell and James Moody.

In recent years, Dave Young has released a number of excellent CDs as leader:  the JUNO winning Fables and Dreams with co-leader Phil Dwyer(Justin Time) and the JUNO Nominated recordings, Mainly Mingus (Justin Time), and on Modica Music, 2009’s Mean What You Say, 2011’s Aspects of Oscar and 2012’s The Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet – Volume 1.

In addition to performing and recording Dave is also a dedicated jazz educator, and member of the Faculty of Music at Humber College and The University of Toronto.  Dave Young was recently named as a member to The Order of Canada – our country’s highest and most prestigious civilian honour.   

What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?

The first task is to master the instrument you have chosen to play. This begins with a commitment to practice and learn the language of music as related to the bass. Self-study is a start but an experienced teacher is essential eventually. Don't be limited in the music you play.Jazz and improvisation is very attractive but playing in orchestra (classical/Broadway show/new music) is also very challenging and leads to new musical levels. Develop sight-reading ability. This allows you to play in many musical styles and is important in developing your overall technical ability. Attitude - Be interested in other peoples musical projects and perform with your colleagues as much as possible.These are the people who you will probably play with for most of your musical career.

What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?

1. Bill Evans Trio live @ the Village Vanguard w S LaFaro, P Motion
2.Victor Feldman trio "Arrival of Victor Feldman" w S LaFaro and L Bunker
3.Charles Mingus "Blues & Roots" atlantic rec w med size band "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting"

Can you share some practice ideas? What should aspiring bassists focus on? What worked/works for you? I realize this is a very broad question that varies with individuals' needs, but I'm looking for some general ideas, and in particular what worked for you.

Early years - have a set routine to practice basics - scales,intervals,arpeggios. Also studies and repertoire. This could be 3-4 hrs/day. This should include arco playing. A classical teacher is almost a necessity if you want to progress in this area. I studied with Tom Monohan (princ bass,Tor Symphony) for several years -often 2 lessons per week.This prepared me for an orchestral career.
Jazz was largely a self-taught process. Much listening and transcribing of bassists and groups. In my early experience I was heavily influenced by "Blues players" - ie urban blues Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson Jimmy Reed etc I performed with a number of US blues artists who would pass through Winnipeg in the early 60's Playing the bass in the Jazz tradition is about establishing a "groove" and time feel with the drummer. This is what the soloist plays on top of.

Do you have any advice for overcoming difficulties or obstacles?

Musical obstacles can be overcome. Slow methodical,regular practice will achieve this. Ex Playing a fast tempo. - walking bass line on chord changes. Start slowly and create a different line each time you go throughout the changes.Don't repeat the same line! Strive for an even, full sound(pizz) on each note. Right Hand technique (attack, 2 or 3 finger tech,consistency) is very important. Playing along with recordings to get the "feel" of the best players.

Do you have any advice for players just beginning their careers? What worked for you?

As I said before, don't limit yourself musically. Play in many different musical settings. Each style will contribute to your overall development.You need to know basic repertoire of the different musical genres. Ex -don't take an R&B funk gig and not know some of the well known songs. A lot of this music is by "ear playing." I played a gig and short tour with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee (Blues artists) when I was quite young (18 or so) To prepare I had to learn some of their music before the gig. There was no rehearsal!

Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?

String Bass - I have consistently used Thomastik Spirocore (red ends) orchestra tuning strings. I have experimented with many different brands but always come back to this brand.
Pickups on the string bass have varied over the years. Currently use Wilson or David Gage Realist pickup. Also the DPA clip mic for bass for going into the sound system.
Electric Bass - currently use Marcus Miller "Fat Beams" but also RotoSound brand.
Amps - GK (Galien Kruger) MB 112 and before that MB 150. Also AER Compact 60 bass amp (great!)

What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?

I have several groups that I'm involved with.
1. Young/Promane Octet which features 5 horns and rhythm section playing a variety
of mainstream music arr largely by Terry Promane and myself.
2. Dave Young Quintet's  playing the music of (a) Horace Silver (b) Charles Mingus (c) Freddie Hubbard
3.Trio with Robi Botos/Terry Clarke  music of O. Peterson
4.Sextet with Michael Dunston  - music of Donny Hathaway (elec bass and write all the arr)

Check my Facebook page for gigs coming up. Also website for historical background. Social media mgmt. is Celine Peterson Social Legacy -