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Bassist, educator, composer, and bandleader Ron Kadish has been a staple of the phenomenal music scene in and around Bloomington, Indiana since 1993 when he dropped out of graduate school to pursue a freelance career.
In the ensuing years, his musical journey has taken him down many ...
Hitting a High Note: Bassist Ron Kadish Breaks Out with his Debut as Bandleader on Tales from Under
Bassists are the underdogs of the jazz and classical worlds, vital but too often doomed to the background. Bloomington, Indiana-based bassist and composer Ron Kadish doesn’t mind; he loves his instrument and its challenges. But after years of mulling over ideas, guided by his late mentor David Baker’s influence, he’s taking his instrument front and center.
Moving fluidly from avant explorations to down-and-dirty vamps, Tales from Under spans a century of jazz possibilities, touching on other styles from boogaloo to Middle Eastern classical along the way. Many tracks unfolded as interplays of opposites, the soaring upper range of vocalist Janice Jaffe coupled with Kadish’s bow plunging deep into the double bass’s lower registers.
“I wanted to let the extremes come together,” reflects Kadish. “I wanted a snapshot to capture all the different pieces and directions I’ve explored over the years, without jolting the listener.” The result is varied and deft, an album that radiates the thoughtful glee that sparked it.
Kadish has worked for years as an orchestral player and as a touring musician in a variety of bands, from world to rock and jazz. In a rare spare moment, he makes himself sit down and focus on writing, using techniques he picked up from jazz great and committed educator David Baker.
There’s one difference from most jazz composers: Kadish starts from under, with the bass. “I write a lot of my melodies on the bass. Most of the time when I’m working on a melody, I’ll sit down with the bass and the bow and work it out,” Kadish explains. “It’s practical for me. I can edit myself without thinking. Piano distracts me with the mechanics of the process. With the bass, I just play it.”
Some of the works on Tales from Under have been percolating for an extended period, and some have been seriously workshopped over the years, including at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, where Baker urged Kadish to bring what later became “A Rose for Viola.” Kadish plays his work fairly regularly, and at a local composer circle, he refined them.
Life kept him out of the studio, until one day, he decided to dive in and record his growing body of tunes. He knew exactly who to call. “I wanted to work exclusively with Bloomington musicians,” Kadish notes. “It’s not widely known, but there is a wide variety of talent in this town, and a sizable portion of that talent is truly excellent. I wanted this to be a collaborative project, where everyone has a musical say, where I know everyone. I had to trust them.”
Jaffe and Kadish, for example, had spent years improvising together and knew how to bring the best out of each other musically. Jaffe penned the lyrics for “A Rose,” and the two let wild ideas rip on the album’s intriguing interludes, as well as on “Original Numbers.” Kadish also tapped some unexpected instrumentalists from the local scene. Indianapolis-based oud player Victor Santoro and Bloomington’s nai guy, Joe Donnelly, add elegance and timbral variety to “Edge of Calm.”
The friendly openness of Bloomington mixes with cosmopolitan flair and a willingness to challenge throughout Tales from Under, but that’s second nature for Kadish, who’s lived and worked internationally, as well as having performed everything from South Asian rock to Beethoven symphonies professionally. “I listen to anyone who makes a bass sound good,” he laughs. “It can be jazz, or ambient tracks by Bill Laswell. It can be Flea. Anyone.” It all resonates in the lows and highs Kadish employs in his exploratory but welcoming work.