Bass Players To Know: David Piltch
In the past several years, there has been a renaissance in the world of roots music—artists are reviving the classic approach to country and folk, mixing it with traditional rhythm and blues, and integrating the soulful and mysterious vibe of New Orleans. The term “Americana” has spread across radio formats and late night shows, highlighting the releases that don’t necessarily conform to the labels of pop and rock. These records tend to get back to basics, regularly featuring the upright bass rather than the electric. The instrumentalists must be articulate, refined, and well versed in the styles that have morphed into this newly defined genre. David Piltch happens to be exactly that style of player. As our latest Bass Player To Know, his name shows up on countless album credits from k.d. lang and Paula Cole to Bonnie Raitt and Robben Ford.
So Who Is David Piltch?
Born in Toronto, Canada in 1960, Piltch began playing music at an early age thanks to his father, Bernie Piltch, a well-known studio musician and accomplished woodwind player. David performed in Toronto jazz clubs as a teenager, backing up various artists and cutting his teeth as a sideman. He joined Blood, Sweat, and Tears for a tour in 1979, followed by short stints with other artists in the pop music world. His recording career took off in the late 1980s, as he began working with Canadian artists including k.d. lang and Holly Cole. After years of recording and touring the US and Canada, Piltch eventually moved to California and was subsequently embraced by the session world. This led to recording with a diverse range of artists including Loudon Wainwright II, John Legend, Anne Wilson, Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, and Randy Newman. He continues to work as a highly sought-after bassist.
Let’s Talk Style
As a mature, thoughtful, and groove-oriented player, Piltch has been able to adapt his background in jazz to the sensibilities of popular songwriting. He expertly fulfills the role of the instrument by playing simple, beautiful parts that compliment the vibe and production of the song. While he often lays back in the pocket, he cleverly sneaks in fills to remind the listener that something special is brewing beneath the surface. He exemplifies sophisticated voice leading, a solid rhythmic foundation, and a keen understanding of the impact of register choice on the upright. Influenced by traditional New Orleans grooves, he effortlessly fits into second-line feels, blues, and Dixieland inspired songs; this makes him an ideal rhythm section player in the world of modern roots music.
Where Can I Hear Him?
“Trick Bag” (Robben Ford: Bringing It Back Home)
Set up by a supremely groovy “box” blues pattern, Piltch is the anchor of this tune. His upright tone mixes the definition of great intonation with the raspy and slightly aggressive sound of digging into the bass. He breaks away from the standard groove during the choruses of the song, taking a looser and improvisational approach to the changes by highlighting the major third and walking with chromatic movement. The groove doesn’t get much better than this.
“Constant Craving” (k.d.lang: Ingenue)
Pilch provides the perfect backdrop for this song with his root-fifth approach, hinting at a bossa nova feel to compliment the abundance of percussion. He plays elegant whole notes to create a feeling of openness during the vocal breaks and manages to effortlessly glide from chord to chord.
“Bright Mississippi” (Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi)
Recording with a New Orleans legend such as Allen Toussaint means that a) you must be a pretty remarkable player and listener, b) you have the swampiest of grooves, and c) you have playful musical instincts while interacting with the other musicians. Piltch not only exemplifies these three characteristics, but he stretches out with a solo in the middle of the tune, playing with rhythm, register, and a Latin-inspired feel.
Ryan Madora is a professional bass player, author, and educator living in Nashville, TN. In addition to touring and session work, she teaches private lessons and masterclasses to students of all levels. Visit her website to learn more!