Yaron Stavi: Profoundly Bassist

Sammy Stein By

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Yaron Stavi is a bassist who has performed all over the world with many musicians, playing double and electric bass and crossing genres into rock, classical, jazz and World Music. He studied in Berlin and played with orchestras around Europe, North America and Asia, and was principal bassist with the Mahler Youth Orchestra under, among others, Pierre Boulez, Sir Neville Marriner and Mariss Jansons. He has played with violinist Nigel Kennedy and accordion player Richard Galliano, drummer Robert Wyatt and guitarists David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Phil Manzanera. In 2009 he recorded an album with Polish bandleader, composer and guitarist Jarek Smeitana. He is supremely accomplished and in demand, yet remains one of life's gentle people without a trace of self-importance. Playing live, Stavi's stage presence is palpable. People who know Stavi say the same thing—he is a great guy. So, intrigued at how he remains so grounded in spite of his gifts, I decided to get a bit more on this interesting and affable musician.

Stavi was born in Israel in 1975 and it was where he grew up. He remembers, "there was always music in my family home. Both my parents love music and listen to it a lot. During my childhood they listened mainly to classical music. They used to go to classical music concerts and took me with them at quite an early age. My first memories of music are of hearing the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and other classical concerts." It was not only going to concerts which influenced the young Stavi. His older brother is also a musician and Stavi comments, " My older brother was already playing the piano when I was a little boy, so his playing was always there, too. I loved and lived music from as far back as I can remember. I can't remember any time when music was not a main part of my life. I fell in love with sounds and music since I was born and I still love it more than anything else."

I wondered how Stavi had come to pick up a bass and choose it as his instrument. He explained, " As I said before, my parents exposed me to music at a very early age and I am very grateful for that and thank them for it. The first instrument I played was the violin. I was six years old and chose to play it because I had heard a lot of classical music concerts and LPs. I played the violin for two years and stopped because I didn't like it enough and didn't enjoy practicing, so it wasn't the instrument for me. At the same time, when I was about 6 or maybe 8 I started to hear more kinds of music such as pop and rock and I loved it. One of the first things I heard which completely blew my mind away was the Beatles. I became pretty obsessed with their music and I still think that when it comes to songwriting, singing, harmonies, playing and so on it doesn't get any better. I am still a huge Beatles fan and listen to their music often. It is the best music and the more I listen the more I love and enjoy it. I remember as a young child being attracted to the bass playing of Paul McCartney. Another artist I became a fan of at a very young age was Bruce Springsteen. Back in the 1980s, when I was growing up, he was the biggest thing around and I loved his music. I am still a huge fan and take the chance to see him and the E Street Band live in concert when they are in London or anywhere near me. Other bands and artists I loved while growing up in the 1980s were Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, the Police, Sting, Peter Gabriel and more. There were also many great Israeli artists who inspired me to continue making music and take up different instruments. At the age of 10 I started playing the guitar. My first guitar was acoustic with nylon strings, but later I switched to an electric guitar. I got more and more into rock music. I loved the guitar and still love playing it but I was always attracted to the bass. I remember listening to CDs and watching videos of the Beatles or the Police and others and thinking, 'how cool would it be to play the bass like McCartney, Sting and others?' So when I was 15 I asked my Dad to buy me a Fender electric bass. He did and that was a dream come true. Since then I never stopped playing electric bass. With the bass I felt that I had found my instrument and my voice."

Stavi is more often than not found playing jazz and double bass these days. I wondered when he had made the switch. Stavi says, "Around the time I began playing bass, I was first exposed to jazz. I found it interesting, challenging and fascinating. It really felt like a music in which you could express a lot of things in your playing. I got more and more into jazz and realized that if I really want to play jazz, I should play the double bass. At the age of 17, I got my first double bass and started taking lessons. I actually studied classical double bass playing. This brought me back to classical music which was always there somewhere and was the place where I started from. I loved playing classical music on the double bass as well as jazz. With the double bass and the electric bass, I really felt that I found my place in music and that music found its place in me. During that time I listened a lot to jazz and got inspired by people like saxophonist John Coltrane, trumpet player Miles Davis, bass players Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden and Jaco Pastorius as well as other players."

From the point of view of the bass, Stavi says his main influences are Carter, Haden, Ray Brown, Mingus, Pastorius, McCartney, m: Sting = 20901 and Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Brick Fleagle. "There are many more bass players who I love," he says, "but if I need to mention just a few, these would be the ones."

Though primarily influenced by the sound of the bass, Stavi has a diverse taste in music and this is reflected when he discusses what he listens to now. "I listen to quite a lot of kinds and genres of music," he says. "I guess more than anything, I like to listen to songs. Nothing does it to me more than a great song. I listen to rock and pop songs a lot. I go back and listen often to the artists that inspired me and made me play music in the first place—the Beatles; Springsteen; Stevie Wonder; the Police; vocalist, keyboard player and writer Brian Wilson and Pink Floyd. I love listening to some groovy stuff—Prince, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson and lots of Motown artists. I love Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page is my all-time favorite guitarist. I love writer and musician Peter Gabriel, guitarists and composers Jimmy Hendrix and Eric Clapton, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are many more, but I can't mention all of them."
About Yaron Stavi
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