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Take Five with Christian de Mesones

Christian de Mesones By

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About Christian de Mesones

Christian "Big New York" de Mesones has been playing bass guitar for decades. At 18, he graduated from the world-famous Bass Institute of Technology (now the Musician's Institute) in Hollywood, California where he studied with such greats as Abraham Laboriel, Pat Martino, and the late Tommy Tedesco.

He performed with bands based in Hawaii, Hollywood, New York City, and Richmond, playing a wide variety of musical styles (hard rock in Oahu in 1981, and heavy metal with Twice Shy, a staple of the New York Metal scene in the mid-eighties).

Moving to Richmond in 1995, he entered the urban music scene, laying tracks for hip-hop artists, and playing R&B, Caribbean, Latin, and smooth jazz with various groups. Opening for artists such as Marion Meadows, Chuck Brown and Roberta Flack, he entertained record breaking crowds.

In 2006 his smooth jazz band Groove Skool played the Capital Jazz Fest and began drawing standing room only crowds in numerous other shows in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their album, Limited Edition, received international airplay.

He has released three popular singles independently. In 2018 Spirit rose to #12 with a bullet on the Smooth Jazz Media Base chart.

Due out in July, his genre busting 2019 album, They Call Me Big New York, fuses the funk, R&B, jazz, rock and Latin elements he embraced in his long and colorful career. Several tracks feature a collaboration with West Coast singer/songwriter Debora Galan.

Instrument(s):

I play 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12-string electric basses.

I have always collected basses. I currently own ten and am working on a new design for another. My instruments are like a family to me. Some were purchased because I admired the design, not intending to play them live, like my Gene Simmons Axe and my Gavelston Double Neck. Others I bought after trying them out in a music store or conference and falling in love with them. I think the variety has improved my skill and aided my creativity.

Three of my basses impact me most right now. I am a Warwick endorsee and own a 4-string dirty blonde thumb bass that I absolutely love to play. It is a limited model—only 200 were made. The body is extra light, making it easy and fun to slap on. My 6-string Alembic Epic is always on stage with me. It's the bass I play for everything other than up-tempo funk tunes. I use it to write the majority of my songs, on most of my recordings, and also when teaching. My 7-string fretless Conklin gives me a different sound. It's great for certain solos and studio work, giving me complete control over the tones, since my fingers are the only thing that cut the vibrations short and create pitch. I can utilize all of the tones and microtones that exist between notes, which permits an infinite amount of originality and compositional possibilities. It helps me consider tags, melodies and harmonies for other instruments to play. The fretless also allows me to play sliding harmonics, which can be quite beautiful when playing a ballad.

My custom 8-string Kramer and 12-string Dean Rhapsody can be heard on two tracks ("The Train" and "Dekalb and Flatbush,") on the Groove Skool Limited Edition album. What sounds like a clavinet is actually those basses with a wah effect from my Zoom B2U pedal.

Teachers and/or influences?

Let's start with well-known and respected bass luthier Ken Smith. Before he went into business building and marketing electric bass guitars, he was a NYC session man and Broadway pit musician. At age 17, I found his name reading the Village Voice and studied with him for a year.

He taught me reading through exercises from the F. Simandel method books.

At age 18, I entered the Bass Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California (now the Musician's Institute). Faculty and visiting artists included legendary musicians such as Tommy Tedesco, Pat Martino and Louis Johnson. Other influences came from Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Bill Dickens, Jeff Berlin, John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, Greg Lake, Gene Simmons and Abraham Laboriel.

Other musicians that I've worked with throughout my career also left a strong impression. Jaared Arosemena, Lori Williams, Keith Slattery, David Bach, and Wayne Patterson are among them. Their skills and professionalism astound me.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I knew I wanted to be a musician after attending my first concert at age 15 in 1975. It was a rock concert—the band was KISS. That show left an indelible mark on me. It was the first time that I actually heard the bass guitar separate from the other instruments. Gene Simmons' tone was distorted and buzz saw-like, which got my attention. After that night, there was no turning back for me.

Your sound and approach to music.

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