About That Bass

Late March, 2015  I had the occasion to visit Scott Jackson in Alachua, FL. Scotty is an expert with everything violin, viola, cello, bass, and even rarer historical stringed instruments with names I can’t remember. His shop, The Violin Shop, is a fascinating glimpse into his long history of expert restoration service and is matched in soul by his colorful and engaging personality.

I’m lucky enough to own a 1949 Kay upright bass which has been long overdue for a setup. A setup can involve fingerboard planing, bridge adjustment, soundpost and string height adjustment, all with the intention of making it play more to a personal preference and improve the quality of sound coming from the instrument. After speaking with several upright players here in Tallahassee, all roads led to Scotty as the go to guy for this type of work. When I arrived at his shop midmorning, he was ready to go and we hit the ground running. He worked while I hung out in his shop sharing music interests and stories of mutual friends and musicians as well as the technical aspects of what he was doing to my bass. Three hours later I left with not only a beautifully set up bass, but having made a friend and professional associate who I’ll recommend in a heartbeat.

As a photographer, I was instantly intrigued with all that was going on in his shop. I really didn’t want to be the bull in a china shop and was patient until I felt comfortable enough to ask if it was okay to take some photographs.  To my surprise, I learned that he has a fine arts degree from The University of Florida and studied photography with Jerry Uelsmann.  He was agreeable with me shooting photos. I promised I would share whatever I came away with and be as generous with my skills as he was being with his. Following is a collection of photographs taken while there. His shop holds a lifetime of old and new.

Outside by the door there is a sign from the days when his business was named “Jubal’s”.  A second poster hangs inside.  Jubal is the first musician mentioned in The Bible and has acclaim as being the “forefather of all musicians”.  Please note that this is no longer a working number.

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Work has begun. At this point, the fingerboard has been planed and stained and the bass is undergoing restringing.  There’s still more to be done.

233While he’s busying with what he does best, I start my visual prowling.  The obvious thing that hits me right out of the gate is all of the instruments that are hanging on and along the walls of his shop.  Violins in every manner of form are in every nook and cranny. Some are finished and ready for sale, some are awaiting restoration, and many lay fallow, “resting” comfortably for who knows what.  More on that later…

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215Instruments of this quality and age can have some very interesting details.  Here we see the inlay work of the violin pictured above

215b245On the table below the wall of these violins are more instruments.  The cajun squeezebox belongs to his son, but that interest forsaken as his son moved from mastery of one instrument to the next.

238Stage right brings me to this fine example of creative stringery.  I didn’t ask about it but would guess it’s a gift from someone or collected along the way.

248180 degrees from there brings me to this example of fine old school craftsmanship.  Again, I don’t have the backstory, but the wood inlay in this instrument is quite beautiful.

232As I was continuing to look about, there was an area of his shop where I didn’t venture.  Scotty suggested that I might want to take a look there and what I found was something that reminded me of the catacombs of Paris.  This is not in a morbid sense but just in a sense that there is overwhelming sense of the life that was and is now at rest.

225We’re now into the home stretch with the setup.  The soundpost has been removed and is being shaped for repositioning.  Here we get a wider view of his intriguing workspace.

230Final and more precision adjustments were made for my preference with string height.

264After tweaking the string height, Katy is tuned up and ready to play.  She’s Perfect!

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Kay basses from that time period typically had a Kay logo decal on the tailpiece.  Mine had never had one but as I was leaving Scott gave me a tailpiece with a brass Kay insignia from another Kay bass.  The brass insignia fit perfectly into my tailpiece to add a final beautiful touch to this fine instrument.

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Thank you, Scotty, for your fine work!

Update 2017 – It is with sadness that I share that Scott left this earth July 14, 2016.  His work and legacy will continue with specific referral to luthiers and shops in the area.  The latest information can be found by visiting Lisa’s updates on Scott’s original Facebook site.

Facebook:  Scott Jackson Violins  All contact information can be found there.