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Acoustic-Electric Bass Ball

In dealing with the notion of bass sounds and bass amplification in jazz, not being a proficient upright player (nor having a righteous upright on hand as a ready reference point), some months ago I turned my attention toward an emerging new category. Acoustic-electric bass guitars are popping up more and more as an alternative reference point for combo playing, and in the course of checking out some interesting new axes, I found myself exploring some traditional and decidedly modern means of amplifying the sound.

Two new combos I tested include a modern all-tube design from Mesa/ Boogie and a radical little solid-state mini from the folks at Acoustic Image, each of which in its own way represented the yin and yang of modern bass amplification. To assist me in the evaluations I called upon many fine instrumentalists, most significantly bassist/guitarist Jerome Harris, a veteran of the jazz wars with Sonny Rollins, Ran Blake, Julius Hemphill, Amina Claudine Myers and Marty Ehrlich, and a trailblazer in the use of acoustic-electric bass guitars, as he demonstrates on his superb audiophile jazz recording Rendezvous (Stereophile).

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