The basses were loaded again Friday night at Schoenberg Hall, UCLA, when the International Society of Bassists Convention presented another in its weeklong series of concerts.
Charlie Haden, announced as the headliner, failed to show, yet he was hardly missed, given the presence of four successive groups led by bass players whose talent at times bordered on the mind-boggling.
Andy Simpkins, long respected for his work with George Shearing and Sarah Vaughan, has it all: the technique, the conception, the intonation the phrasing. On this occasion, perhaps because of its nature, he seemed even more than usually inspired. Splendidly backed by Frank Collett on piano and John Nolan on drums, he wove his way through a blues, a ballad, a bop standard and a jazz waltz with chops-defying celerity.
Larry Steen, presented next as winner of the convention's competition, is a Berklee School of Music graduate whose ability to play a Charlie Parker line in lightning unison with the piano was an indication of his stature as a giant of the not-too-distant future.