How does the musical instrument industry react when the economy goes flat? Ups the ante, apparently. NAMM 2009, which took place Jan. 15-18 at the Anaheim Convention Center in sunny Orange County, showed little physical sign of massive layoffs or busted markets. Post-show reports claimed a three percent decrease in registrants, and foot traffic at the show’s first two days appeared leaner than recent years, but several major manufacturers expanded the size and scope of their booths, and the celebrity factor was off the charts. (Billy Bob Thornton isn’t bad on the drums, by the way.)
As usual, jazz’s presence at the show, despite a killer Vandoren VandoJam and Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Hammond demos, was minimal when compared to that of rock and pop. But there were glimmers of hope: At a Yamaha press conference with Alicia Keys, the R&B goddess claimed to love Bill Evans. Stopping by the P. Mauriat booth to check out the sax maker’s new professional trumpet, I witnessed powerhouse James Carter mop the floor with a few prominent smooth-jazzers (Najee, you should have known better). If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is. And on to the goods…
There was plenty happening at Fender’s area, which was enlarged at this show and featured the always-popular concert stage. On the bass front, Fender debuted the Artist Series Steve Bailey Jazz Bass VI (six-string) in fretted and un-fretted editions. (True fans of the session ace and Bass Extremes co-founder will opt for the fretless version, obviously.) Marcus Miller was on hand at the Fender booth’s SWR nook, funking out on his signature preamp, which was introduced at NAMM’s Summer 2008 show. The Marcus Miller Bass Preamp is a sleek-looking single-channel unit, meticulously designed by the musician-composer-producer, that boasts some interesting features, among them three separate inputs (two in the front, one in the back) and excellent equalization capabilities.