Few musicians can change the way others play their instrument, but Scott LaFaro was one of those special few. LaFaro’s free and floating style was more reminiscent of a saxophonist. His playing, especially with pianist Bill Evans, made people see the bass in a different light. Like too many of our favorite musicians, LaFaro’s life was cut short in 1961, due to a car accident.
LaFaro’s prized 1825 Prescott bass was also in the car with him and was left nearly destroyed. The bass was purchased from LaFaro’s mother by the bassist’s luthier Sam Kolstein, who vowed to restore the instrument. It took several decades, but the bass was brought back to life by Sam’s son Barrie in 1988. The bass has been in the care of the Kolstein family since then, but now the family is gifting the iconic instrument to the International Society of Bassists. The announcement was made on what would have been LaFaro’s 78th birthday.
“The International Society of Bassists gives the Scott LaFaro Prize to the first place winner in its biennial jazz competition thanks to support from Scott’s four sisters and the endowment fund they created for the ISB in memory of their brother,” the ISB wrote in a statement. “Now, with the gift of the Scott LaFaro Bass, the ISB will make the instrument available for performances by ISB members as part of a future Scott LaFaro Archives at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where Scott’s father, a violin virtuoso and band leader, attended in the early days of the conservatory and where Scott went to classes for a year before leaving school for a career that continues to grow in legend and influence.” The statement adds that the Kolsteins will retain the instrument until Ithaca’s archives are ready to receive the instrument.
Here’s an in-depth look at the instrument with luthier Barrie Kolstein, recorded by Palombi in 2011: