Friday, February 17, 2006

Land o' Lakes

So, now that I've gone a year and a half without posting, let's talk about bass.

Most of the basses I play are made by Lakland Basses in Chicago. The concept behind Lakland's designs is to take a classic design (Fender Precision, Jazz, MusicMan, Guild Starfire) and update it to modern standards of playability, reliability, and flexibility.

Back in 1997, my wedding present from my wife was a Ken Smith BSR5J 5-string fretted bass. It had fantastic tone and playability, but for some reason it would just NOT sit well in a mix - it always got lost, and I could never hear myself on stage. Great upper register, but the low end just wasn't there. Sounded great by itself, but you couldn't hear it with a band. (Another friend of mine has one too, and I couldn't hear him either.) Never exactly figured out why - some function of an all-maple body and odd midrange voicing. It seemed to do better with a super-active preamp after it (like a Sadowsky or SansAmp).

After too many gigs where I couldn't hear myself, I set out on the quest for new tone - specifically for a bass that would punch through the mix and be undeniable. I looked at a MusicMan Stingray, but the string spacing was too narrow for my taste. (I later grew a distaste for the inflexibility of the tone, although they've improved.)

Around that time, Bass Player Magazine ran a legendary 5-string "shootout" where they reviewed 40+ models in different price ranges. One of their favorites was the Lakland 55-94, a fairly new bass on the market. It had a revolutionary (at that time) combination of a Jazz-style neck pickup and a MusicMan-style bridge pickup, all with Bartolini electronics. Moreover, the string spacing was wider than MusicMan's. I had played one at Bass Northwest earlier that year and was fairly impressed. However, they didn't carry them as a line, so I went to the Internet - and found a used one for sale (for $1600) on Harmony Central. Bought it sight-unseen, ear-unheard, hand-unplayed. It was a beautiful deep burgundy with a maple fingerboard.

That bass has gone with me on 85% of my gigs since 1998. (That's 8 years now...) I took it with me to the Bass Collective in NYC, and Patitucci used it for demos during our classes. I've loaned it out and used it on a number of recording sessions - it just sits right in the mix, not too strong or too soft. Live, it punches a hole right through the low end...when I listen to live recordings, it reminds me most of Flea's tone with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Since then, I've owned a 5-string fretless 55-94, a Bob Glaub Precision, a Skyline Hollowbody, a Skyline Jerry Scheff signature, and should be receiving my 5-string Joe Osborn fretless Jazz here in the next month. I still have my '77 Fender Jazz, and I had to go elsewhere for a 12-string bass, but other than that my stock is Lakland-exclusive, and likely will stay that way for a long time. The workmanship is exquisite, the customer service is legendary (Dan Lakin still answers the phone), and reliability has been second to none. There are a number of other similar builders (Sadowsky, Mike Lull, Fodera's NYC series) but I am more than satisfied with Lakland's place in my bass arsenal. I have been a proud endorser since 2000, and have successfully recommended them to a good number of friends who are now equally happy owners.


Post a Comment

<< Home