Dave Bass

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Dave Bass
OriginCincinnati, Ohio, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, lawyer, Deputy Attorney General
Years active1968–present
LabelsWhaling City Sound

Dave Bass (born June 21, 1950) is an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and lyricist[1] who has released two albums: Gone (2010) and NYC Sessions (2015). Due to a wrist injury in the mid-1980s, Bass left music to become an attorney. In January 2015, he retired from his position as a Deputy Attorney General for the California State Attorney General's office to devote himself to music.


Bass grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and began studying piano at the age of seven. He was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out after a few months to pursue a less formal and more adventurous musical path which included studying composition with George Russell, who had begun teaching his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization at the New England Conservatory of Music and piano with Madame Margaret Chaloff.[2]

In 1974 he started touring internationally with singer Brenda Lee. He performed with Lee until 1975, after which he relocated to San Francisco. While in San Francisco, Bass performed with the young Bobby McFerrin and with vocalist Jackie Ryan, drummer/percussionist Babatunde Lea and others in various Bay Area venues, including the Keystone Korner.[2] Ryan joined Bass’ band "Ad Infinitum," which also featured Babatunde Lea who had a steady Wednesday night gig at a Mission District venue, Bajones, with a large, jazzy salsa ensemble with whom Bass played piano and wrote arrangements. Bass also had a steady solo gig at the Trident in Sausalito.

Ultimately, Bass moved to Maui to work with Ryan, remaining there from 1981 through 1984. During that time, Bass also served as the Entertainment Director for the Royal Lahaina Resort, where he performed with his Latin jazz group, his jazz trio, and as a solo pianist. In 1984, Bass relocated to Southern California, where he planned to continue his career as a pianist and composer, but one night, on his way to the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts where he was about to perform, he slipped on a pool of oil and fractured his wrist in an attempt to break his fall. Bass was told that there was no guarantee that, once his wrist had healed, he would be able to play again.[3]

Legal career[edit]

With a family to support, he chose to enroll in college at the University of California at Irvine, earning his B.A. in Social Ecology and graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1989. He went on to attend the UCLA School of Law, where he was an Editor of the UCLA Law Review, clerked in the Sacramento legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1991, served as Legal Extern to the Honorable David S. Levi, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of California. Bass earned his J.D. in 1992 from the UCLA School of Law. Immediately out of law school, Bass joined the international law firm, Pillsbury Madison & Sutro where Bass practiced general litigation for four years. In 1996, Bass joined the California Office of the Attorney General. At the Attorney General's office, Bass began in the Employment, Administration and Regulation Section, eventually moving to the Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

Return to music[edit]

In December 2008, after a few years playing casually with friends around Sacramento, Bass returned to the studio to record Gone, his first album as a leader. He recorded ten original compositions with saxophonist Ernie Watts, Babatunde on percussion, bassist Gary Brown, and vocalist Mary Stallings. The album reached No. 2 on the JazzWeek national radio play charts.[4] At All About Jazz, Karl Ackermann wrote, "listening to what Dave Bass has done on Gone exemplifies the capabilities of an artist who can combine a big-picture mindset and diverse talents. It's a great platform for the kind of musical and intellectual aptitude that can bridge varied attributes of an abstract process."[5]

Bass returned to the studio in 2012 to record NYC Sessions (Whaling City Sound). The album includes saxophonist Phil Woods, drummer Ignacio Berroa, trombonist Conrad Herwig, and bassist Harvie S, with guest vocalist Karrin Allyson.[6] NYC Sessions reached No. 5 on the JazzWeek national radio play charts.[7] The album received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine in its May 2015 issue with the comment that the album "proves deeply satisfying in part because it does so may things so well [including] Bass' savvy as an arranger and programmer [...] not to mention his own sparking keyboard work."[8] DownBeat named NYC Sessions one of the Best Albums of 2015.[9] Jazz critic Ken Franckling named Bass' "Baltic Bolero" one of the Top Ten Jazz Songs of 2015.[10] Latin-Jazz Network contributor Raul De Gama wrote that "this album is just plain sensational [...] and the music in all its diversity and passion appears to have an unstoppable momentum." Bass' "piano credentials reflect his quiet virtuosity, his deeply emotional expression and flawless dynamics."[11]


  1. ^ "Dave". Davebassmusic.com. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  2. ^ a b Jazz Inside magazine interview. April 2015. pp. 32-35.
  3. ^ "How he got injured". Davebassmusic.com. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  4. ^ "Jazz Week Jazz Album Chart" (PDF). www.jazzweek.com. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  5. ^ Ackerman, Karl (11 August 2010). "David Bass: Gone". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Dave as Deputy General". Wclk.com. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  7. ^ [March 16, 2015] http://www.jazzweek.com/pdf-archive/
  8. ^ DownBeat, May 2015, p. 56.
  9. ^ DownBeat, January 2016, p. 48.
  10. ^ http://kenfrancklingjazznotes.blogspot.com/2015/12/2015s-top-ten-jazz-listings-one-scribes.html
  11. ^ http://latinjazznet.com/so15/02/08/features/album-of-the-week/dave-bass-nyc-sessions/

Further reading[edit]