In spite of ridiculous and insidious jokes to the contrary, everyone knows that bass players are the foundation of a music group, allowing interchangeable band members to build fanciful interpretations. But what if the unheard-of happens and the bass player goes it alone, without the thrills and frills of a combo, with no one to support?
“As a solo artist you don’t have to deal with other people,” says acclaimed bassist Trip Wamsley, “unless, as a solo artist, you have a multiple-personality disorder — that’s a different story.”
Aside from the delusions that may be caused by a mental affliction, what other possibilities might lead one to a life of solo bass work?
“The main enjoyment comes from the challenge,” says Wamsley. “I’m going to sit up here, by myself, and play for a crowd — that’s what brings the endorphin rush.”
Welcome to Wamsley World, a place where a phenomenal individual talent is capable of sounding like a bass ensemble, all the while sustaining a melodic, lyrical sound. Endorsed by Alembic basses and other top-notch manufacturers and revered by his peers and audience, Wamsley has earned the respect of those in the know for his tremendous abilities.
Listening to his music produces a feeling of calmness, but by no stretch of the imagination should it be classified as New Age music. This is challenging, way-out-there instrumental music that makes musicians’ fingertips tingle and their eardrums rejoice. Wamsley recently finished a recording that exemplifies his technical talents while inserting melody into instrumental music.
“Every time I release a new record,” he says, “I feel like I just took my kid to school and I wonder what the other kids will think of him.”
After years of juggling making a living with making music, Wamsley waxes philosophical about the famed “art vs. business” tightrope walk.
“Mostly in my career I’ve had the business savvy of a cinder block,” he observes dryly. “It’s OK to be an art martyr, but be smart about your business. ‘Better late than never’ sums it up for me now.”
Asked about his future, Wamsley talks of a similar question presented to him five or six years ago by a “master musician” who wondered what Wamsley expects to hear in his head 10 years down the road.
“I picture myself in a room with dark wood around, a pleasant place,” he says, “while playing music people find a lot of comfort in.”
Trip Wamsley performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Loft, 620 S. First St. (217-744-3333). He says he hopes for “butt-cold” weather.
Contact Tom Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.