I’m sorry to say that I’ve never been able to play a musical instrument, but deep down I know I should really have been a bass player. It’s all about temperament; it’s the Eeyore-ish, resentful glumness about them, based on the fact that, excepting the case of those who operate in the realms of funk and reggae, only about 10% of the audience will be able to identify the noise they’re making, above those ghastly egomaniacs, the guitarists and drummers and saxophonists. One way that bassists do assert their individuality, though, is through the medium of deliciously preposterous names. Don’t believe me? All the following are American jazz bass players; bar one, who’s a fictional character in a book by Thomas Pynchon.
Grachan Moncur II
Hank Van Sickle
Virtue Hampton Whitted
The fact that you almost certainly can’t spot the ringer suggests to me that the majority of bassists are in fact minor characters from the works of Pynchon (or Kurt Vonnegut, or possibly Philip K Dick) who have temporarily invaded what mere mortals (and trombonists) foolishly know as ‘the real world’.