Mar 26, 2014 - Basses Wild with Nathan Eicher





            It's been a little over a month since Nathan Eicher accompanied Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame drummer Washington Rucker in a Jazz Depot concert. But it's clear that the experience, and Rucker himself, continue to impress the young bassist.

            “The guy was amazing – just so much experience,” says Eicher. “I could see, given his experience, where it would have been frustrating to play with someone like me, because I don't have the experience. I haven't seen all the situations, musically, that he's seen. So things I might be doing that are maybe new, that I'm doing for the first time, are things he's probably heard guys do before. Anything I could throw at him, he's heard.

            “But he was just so nice about it, you know? He was like, `Be free. Explore, and express yourself.' He was reassuring, and he seemed to enjoy watching the process unfold with a younger guy. That was inspiring. He was just so far beyond me, and I got the opportunity to play with him and learn from him and I thought, `Man, I want to try to share that experience in the other direction.'”

            To that end, the band Eicher's bringing to the Depot Sunday will not only feature Depot regular Tim Shadley on piano, but a couple of high school musicians: bassist Byron Crenshaw and drummer Jonathan Haywood.        Crenshaw has been playing at the Tuesday evening Depot Jams, while Haywood is the drummer for the Tulsa Jam'bassadors, the award-winning all-city jazz group that's a project of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. A combo made up of Jam'bassadors will also be on the bill Sunday.

            In addition to his experience with Rucker, growing up in a musical family – his mother is the well-known vocalist Janet Rutland, his father the noted multi-instrumentalist Shelby Eicher – also contributed to his yen to work with youthful players.

            “I want to reach out to kids who are young, because when I was young I had that opportunity,” he explains. “I was very fortunate, with my parents being musicians, to be able when I was in high school to go out and play gigs and sit in. And I'm always inspired when I hear these younger kids playing.”

            Sunday, two of those younger kids, along with Shadley and Eicher, will be performing in a quartet that'll look s a bit unusual. Added to the standard rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums will be a second bass, played by Eicher as a lead instrument, using a bow.

            “I drew my inspiration from a bassist named Arni Egilsson,” Eicher says. “He has an album I heard several years ago called Basses Loaded, and it was the same kind of combo. After I heard it, I said, `Man, I want to do that. I want to develop my ability to play this instrument as a lead instrument, so much that I could step in front of a band and do it.'”

            He adds that the groups he's in, including the Tulsa-based string-jazz quartet Mischievous Swing and the trio that works regularly at Oklahoma City's Hefner Grill, give him plenty of chances to experiment with bass solos.

            “The past couple of years, particularly at Hefner Grill, I've had a lot of opportunities to work with a bow and develop that,” he notes. “So, now that I'm finally feeling comfortable with it, I thought, `Hey, I want to try leading a band with this.' The bass might step into that [lead] role occasionally in the other bands I'm in, but in this [concert], it's going to be every song, basically. It'll be sort of like a bass violin.”

            He laughs. “I guess I'm trying to be the Stephane Grappelli of bass.”

             The Bass Summit with the Nathan Eicher Quartet and the Tulsa Jam'bassadors combo is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets can be purchased at the Depot, from, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2014 Spring Concert Series.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.