John Murchison

I am a bassist living in Brooklyn, NY. I play a wide variety of musics - plenty of jazz, a variety of musical theater productions, classical music, backing pop singers and some country gigs here and there. In recent years I have come to concentrate more on "world musics." I play a lot of Arabic music, and perform regularly with groups which feature music from North and West Africa. 

My father played a lot of finger-picking acoustic guitar - blues, bluegrass, Grateful Dead, etc. - so I was always around music from a young age. I played piano and violin - taking private lessons and playing in the school orchestras. When I got to high school I decided to drop all that and follow a seemingly "cooler" path by playing bass guitar in a rock band with my older brother.

When I got to college, I took lessons on the double bass, and my next few years of bass study were motivated by a desire to play jazz. My concentration at Vassar College was in philosophy, but I took music theory classes and had the great pleasure of studying bass there with Lou Pappas. It was really only by the end of college that I started to consider the prospect of playing music full time.

Since then, I've done a lot of work on my own, with occasional private lessons with players in New York. At first, I would take lessons here and there with master jazz players. Then, in 2013, I took a trip to Morocco and had the opportunity to study some traditional musics there with local masters. Now, the private lessons I seek out usually involve studying Arabic Maqam, percussion and a few other instruments like the Arabic nai and the Moroccan gimbri. 


Favorite composers: Through my studies in Arabic music, the great Mohammad Abdel Wahab has become one of my favorites, unsurprisingly. In jazz, my favorites include Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, and Sun Ra. In the classical world, I gravitate toward smaller chamber music and composers like Shostakovich and Stravinsky. I think I'm drawn to unmistakably distinctive voices.  

When I started out, I played electric bass and had some interest in learning the double bass, but I hadn't really done anything to pursue that interest. One day around the end of high school, I was chatting with a friend about what our lives in the distant future might entail, and delivered some line like "You know what? Before I die, I think I'd like to learn the double bass." He replied, "Well that's stupid.  You should learn it as soon as you can. That way you have the rest of your life to spend playing it."  The next day, I signed up for lessons.  

I have always loved the pizz sound on gut  - this probably comes from the amount of time I spent transcribing old Paul Chambers and Israel Crosby lines. Ever since I heard about gut strings I wanted to try them. Then one day I asked a very experienced player his opinions on gut strings, and his reply was something along the lines of "I've always wanted to try them, but never have." Similar to my story with first picking up the double bass, I figured I had to try them immediately so that even if I didn't like them, I would know what I was missing as soon as possible. I did some research, picked up a set of Gamuts, and haven't looked back!  

I liked the strings so much that I got in touch with Gamut, and found that I liked the organization as well, which makes it that much easier to happily play their strings all day. I get a lot of compliments on the sound, especially playing traditional acoustic music. Right now I play with a Lyon G, Pistoy D, and pair them with Velvet Anima A and E. 

In the foreseeable future, I'm looking forward to continuing my studies of Arabic music and taking advantage of the expansive variety of music scenes in New York. I have several exciting recording projects coming up in the next couple months, some short tours lined up in April, and a show that I have been lucky to be a part of is going to Broadway later this year - so check out my website to stay up to date!


Learn more about John and his music by visiting his website.

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