Meet Nelson Montana, a musician who plays eleven instruments in total. But thankfully, he claims the bass as his primary one. While he started out on other instruments, he said he fell in love with the bass, “the feel, the sound, and the majesty of it.” We dig that.
Nelson also has some great thoughts on music, bass, composition and more. Check out his story in this week’s No Treble reader in the spotlight.
For years I played bass full time, performing live and in the studio in the highly competitive New York music scene, working with many world class musicians. Although I love performing, I felt I needed a break from being a “sideman” and today, I’m rediscovering my roots and am concentrating on getting back to being an artist.
Though bass is my main axe, I play 11 instruments, and now with the availability of home recording equipment, I can do everything from playing all the instruments on my original music to classic covers to orchestrating full symphonies, as well as some solo bass work – all of which I’ve done and have posted on YouTube… over 200 videos in total. In fact, I’ve been featured in an online article: “The Top 10 You Tube Channels for Bass Players.” My goal is to continue growing and exploring as a musician and as a producer and engineer, helping others realize their own artistic vision.
New York City
Over 20 years now!
Bands & Gigs:
Currently I’m mostly producing and engineering, but I still do freelance gigs in the New York area. To work in New York, you need a very eclectic set of skills. You have to know tons of songs, have good ears to pick up on what you may not know, and you have to be able to groove, swing, rock and read. (Though I’m not the greatest sight reader, I’m at least functional and depend on my ears, my knowledge of theory and my instincts to get by).
- American Standard Jazz Bass
- Music Man Sting Ray
- 1987 ’62 Reissue Fender Precision
- Ibanez SR500
- Ibanez Soundgear 5 string
- Rickenbacker 4003
- Squier Jazz Deluxe
- A “Franken-fretless” (Fretless bass made from parts — MIM J Body, Dimarzio pups, custom built polyurethaned jazz neck).
- Mark Bass head
- Acoustic Image
- Bergantino 1 12″ cab
- Hartke 1 12″ cab
- Fender Strat
- Les Paul Jr
- Gretch Drum Set
- Midi Keyboard
- Set of Harmonicas
Why I play the bass:
I began as a drummer and learned to play some piano in order to compose. Then came guitar and bass (bought them both on the same day) and I fell in love with the bass – the feel, the sound, and the majesty of it. I started out not learning bass parts, but playing melodies by ear, and that shaped my future style. Once I started understanding voice leading and how the bass directs it, my understanding of composition and arranging took on a deeper dimension. I believe every musician should have knowledge of the role of the bass. It makes you a better overall musician.
My bass superpower/claim to fame:
I pride myself on being both an artist and a good craftsman. That requires being able to play in many styles and do it authentically. At the same time, I believe it’s up the musician to put their personal stamp on the music and offer something unique to the listener. I have chops – enough to play some fancy/fast stuff, but I’m not a shredder, nor do I care to be. One critic referred to my style as “melodic, yet with a strong rhythmic sensibility.” I’ll take that.
Two of my biggest influences are polar opposites of each other: James Jamerson and Chris Squire. Jamerson is all about the funk and the bottom with a deep thuddy sound, and Squire’s genius is his soaring lines and contrapuntal figures played with a bright sound. Naturally, Sir Paul influenced us all. Gary Thain is another guy — a lesser bassist who did some great stuff. Glen Cornick too. But of course, every great player leaves an impact. I love Steve Harris, Louis Johnson, Scott La Faro, Bernard Edwards, John Paul Jones, Milt Hinton, Anthony Jackson, Bootsy Collins, Greg Lake, Tommy Shannon… too many!!!