The Basses International Story
Arriving in Los Angeles on his pilgrimage from Landsberg, Germany, Wolfgang Melz began gigging with pianist Richard Thompson and drummer Bobby Morin at the Encino Smoke House. Attending the event, Bill was introduced to Wolfgang and enjoyed a magical music night impressed with Wolfgang’s unique electric bass swinging concept.
Wolfgang and Bill decided to get together on some upright bass principles and after a couple of sessions it was decided that Wolfgang should join Bill’s East Indian sitar band The Cosmic Brotherhood.
Having just completed the “Journey to the East” album for Bob Thiele on ABC-Impulse, the project reformed into a concert touring orchestra during the Ravi Shankar East India cultural renaissance.
After the Cosmic Brotherhood experience and transmutation, Wolfgang began to compose many new songs which we began jamming at the “tin building,” David Wheat’s studio and drum shop, after hours with Jim Keltner, Kevin Walsh, and Jim Szilagyi after the evening gigs and recording sessions were completed.
Bill and Wolf were members of the Los Angeles Bass Club and were invited to perform at their monthly meeting-concert at Donte’s Jazz club. This required organizing a concert set of the new two bass concept. This successful concert led to organizing the “Wild Rose Ramblers,” featuring the two basses with Lynn Blessing on vibes and Mel Telford on drums, lecturing and performing at UCLA, USC, LAVC, CSLB, and in the Los Angeles Elementary School Docent Alliance program.
The following years consisted of tours and concerts with other bands and projects for both Bill and Wolf until 1988 when Bill was re-mixing 8 songs by composer Ted Grouya. The executive producer of that project was Bill Austin, owner of the Starkey hearing aids company. In conversation, Bill’s “stereo basses” project was mentioned and Austin said, ”I would like to fund that project.” And that is how Basses International came into being.
Wolfgang hails from Landsberg, Germany, and comes from a musical family. In 1946 he left Landsberg and moved to an island near Denmark before re-settling in Weisbaden, Germany. It was here that he taught himself to play banjo and began playing with U.S. Air Force band members in the local Jazz scene. He met many jazz musicians and played with the great Sydney Bechet. In August of 1959 he moved to New York City for six months before migrating to Bakersfield, California where he enrolled as a humanities major. He taught himself electric bass working gigs with local musicians and jazz students.
Wolfgang then met Bud Poindexter, touring with his group for the next two years and ending up in Los Angeles where he worked for Anita O’Day, Ann Richards, and the Richard Thompson Trio. He then joined Bill Plummer’s “Cosmic Brotherhood” for two years recording for ABC-Impulse under Bob Thiele, Herb Alpert’s A&M Records, John Klemmer on Chess Records, and Lynn Blessing on Epic Records. He gigged with Ken and Beverly, Tommy Peltier’s Jazz Corps, and the Gary Barone big band before touring and recording with the Association for Warner 7.
As the demand for his unique electric bass style increased he performed and recorded with Jimmy Witherspoon, Art Pepper, and Jesse Ed Davis. He recorded with The Doors, Hedge & Donna, and Paul Horn before joining the Gabor Szabo Quintet with drummer Jim Keltner, where he was featured at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
A prolific songwriter, Wolfgang’s featured on Gabor Szabo’s last three albums Sombrero Sam, High Contrast, and Rambler. His compositions were performed with Basses International at the La Quinta Jazz Festival, the Idyllwild Jazz Festival, and the Mammoth Mountain Summer Music Festival.
Six of his songs are featured on the “Basses International” CD release “Road to the Sky” on ZIVO Records.
What is there left to say about Jim Keltner, except that maybe you didn’t know that he also played on the Basses International cd? His illustrious career includes recording with three of the former Beatles (Lennon, Harrison and Starr), Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, The Traveling Wilburys, JJ Cale, Carly Simon and many others, touring with Neil Young, CSNY, Simon & Garfunkel and T-Bone Burnett, and holding down drum duties at Madison Square Garden for such notable concert events as The Concert for Bangladesh and the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration for Bob Dylan.
After learning to play the clarinet and drums, Glen began playing tenor sax and flute at 18. He studied theory at college and began playing full time in night clubs. He began touring with Andre Crouch in 1976, and in 1980 moved to Sweden where he married his wife Lena. While in Sweden from 1980 to 1985 Glen freelanced for TV, radio, recording, and theater orchestras performing with jazz and fusion groups. Late in 1985 he moved the family to California.
His touring and playing affiliations include Abraham Laboriel, Andrae Crouch, Bill Walrus, Ernie Watts, Pelle Danielsson, Bobo Stenson, Pelle Michelborg, Benny Bailey, Sahib Shihab, Idrus Soleman, Basses International, and Bill Plummer.
Born June 18, 1937 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jim moved to California in 1943. Jim’s father was a professional saxophone player and got Jim involved with Jazz. His professional career spans over forty years performing with Clifford Jordan, Art Pepper, Teddy Edwards, Shelley Manne, Gabor Szabo, Tootie Heath, Tom Scott, and Basses International. He appeared on the Tonight show and was musical director for the CBS Talk Back Show with Lohman & Barkley.
His recording associations include Sergio Mendes, David Diggs, Queen Bey, Donald Dean, Isla Eckinger, Billy Higgins, Henry Franklin, Jack Ranelli, and the great violinist Claude Williams.
Kevin is from New York City but moved to Washington, D.C., early in life, where he studied piano and organ and began playing and touring with local R & B bands. His travels led him to Southern California where he enrolled as a Music Major at Cabrillo College and began the study of Guitar under David Wheat and Jimmy Wyble.
He formed the band Ivan Neville and the Room with New Orleans song writing legend Ivan Neville and toured with Keith Richards, Robert Cray, Little Feat, and Eddie Money. Kevin then recorded and toured with Leo Nocentelli in his band Nocentelli before joining the group Empathy with Wolfgang Melz. With Nick Daniels and Harold Allen, the group N.O. Heritage was formed, performing with Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thorton, Bonnie Raitt, Robby Krieger, Aaron Neville, Earl King, Zigaboo Modeliste, Jesse Ed Davis, Jim Keltner and James Gadsen.
Kevin recorded with Bill Plummer on his CD “The D Train”. He currently is producing The Walsh Brothers’ new CD which includes family members Kelly and Brian Walsh.
For more info on Bill, please see his onsite Biography.