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Unveiling the Chronicles of My NYBW RS5: Insights by Sean Geist

Hi folks! Sean Geist here, so honored to have been asked to write about my experiences with my New York Bass Works Reference Series 5. Like so many other bass players, I am completely enamored with my NYBW instruments. And perhaps like many of you, I was a fan before I was a New York Bass Works owner.

Growing up on Long Island; my introduction to New York Bass Works’ basses was via some local bassists, including the great Chuck Alder, who had been a member of the late 60s / early 70s Long Island legends, The Illusion. I saw him perform later in time, when he delved deeper into jazz fusion, around 1998. I experienced his playing locally at some book stores and coffee shops, and was instantly hooked. The tone on the fretless “Deep Jazz” 6-string was one I was “somewhat” familiar with; it is a modern take on the “Jaco Pastorius tone” and timbre, complete with vintage appointments but added modernism in the form of added low B and high C strings. I knew this was an instrument that I would eventually have to own and play for myself. There was no other way to go about it; I exercised some very rare patience, and waited it out, until the time was right. I even followed David Segal around to local guitar shows and events, including Bass Day 1997 and 1998 in Manhattan!  I followed these great basses (and their phenomenal luthier) like a groupie, and loitered in David’s booth like a lost puppy. I played the Deep Jazz (6-string models) and the 5-string fretted models, which was known as the “Studio” model, which David was displaying in his booth at the time.

In 2003, I acquired a Deep Jazz 6-string fretless, and it has been one of my two favorite instruments since. (I’ll get to the other favorite in just a moment!) And as this story is focused on my Reference 5, I won’t go too far into the details of my Deep Jazz acquisition. I will say that my wife, Corinne, is an amazing woman and she surprised me for Father’s Day 2003! Yep, it was, and is, like that. I am happy to say I’ve made great use of the Deep Jazz since, and it’s been a great love and source of passion, that instrument. I will continue to play and create with the Deep Jazz, and it will be with me until my end of days.

So, as for that “other favorite” bass! For some time, David Segal, NYBW Proprietor, founder and luthier – had a white 5-string fretted bass in his arsenal. (As previously mentioned, this was the Studio model of instruments.) He had it at all of those aforementioned guitar shows and events, and also kept it at his home studio for some time. It was an instrument that I understood would not be for sale, and was part of his stable of phenomenal instruments at his home (of his own creation or otherwise). Well, that all changed when Gary Foote of Smokey Robinson’s Band, and also with Blood, Sweat and Tears, decided that was an instrument he had to have. I understand the passion and longing for that instrument! He has since made it his “Excalibur,” having played it live all around the world with the aforementioned global acts. I am yet to see a picture or video that doesn’t feature Gary with the Studio 5. Similar to when I played a Deep Jazz 6, I knew my next pursuit would have to be this special 5-string fretted bass; or, at the very least, some facsimile of it. It would be the perfect foil to my Deep Jazz; the yin to the Deep Jazz’s yang. When it went to Gary, I knew I had to have – eventually – a similar bass built for me to similar specs.

When I was ready to move on a NYBW 5-string fretted bass build, David Segal gave me some further “mixed” news: The Studio model I was so enamored with was being discontinued. First, I lose an instrument to the one and only Gary Foote? And now, the model itself is being discontinued? Oh, the horror. But as many commercials and infomercials on terrestrial television (is that a phrase yet?) say: “But wait, there’s more!” David assured me a new 5-string model was being developed, and would incorporate all the lessons gleaned over the years from his ~2 decades of bass design and building to that point. And the “Reference” name, as I understand it, is based on his referring back to the many vintage instruments he’s had his hands on over the years, particularly vintage Fenders. These very much include those in his personal, rather diverse collection.  I am glad to report that David’s extensive experience with vintage instruments and decades of gigging and building/designing instruments are all collectively captured in every Reference bass he builds!

David explained that his new line of basses, which were 5-string at the time, but have since branched out to 4-string and 6-string – would fully satisfy everything I had hoped for in a 5-string long-scale instrument, similar to the bass that went to Gary Foote. I was able to pick the color bass I wanted (Lake Placid Blue), the electronics I wished for, 34.5” scale, Mother-of-Pearl block fret markers, tortoise-shell pickguard, the included Hipshot hardware, matching headstock, bone nut and other appointments. On paper, this would be my dream bass. But of course, as Tom Petty Once said, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” And indeed it was.

Several months later, I would receive my Reference 5 bass. When I unpacked it, and opened the case in which it was shipped -- it was like beams of light leaving the case, a surreal experience that I often think about and try to relive. What a truly awesome experience. As it turns out, I was one of the first two bassists to acquire the Reference model, the other being my friend, Josh “Swing” Lozada.

This is such a distinct honor, to be one of the first to ever acquire a line of instruments that has now been in the hands of so many great bassists, spanning stages all over the world, including arenas and the ubiquitous late-night television shows. While they are certainly being played by artists on the “gilded stages”; they are also played by working bassists like myself, performing to patrons of clubs, music halls and sports bars, and everything in-between. I am so very honored to be among this exclusive club of players, and will never pick up my Reference 5 without thinking about the history of this bass.

This history encompasses David’s roots as a stage and studio musician and aspiring luthier, to his now accomplished skills as a luthier and proprietor of a globally recognizable bass building brand. And the fact that I had one of these basses before all these guys and gals I see on stage, Television, Youtube, at bass-related gatherings, and other places where music is consumed…is just overwhelming sometimes. I do try to live up to what this instrument stands for, every time I plug it in; from my rehearsals, to my performances, studio time, working on transcriptions, and just playing for “fun” at home! Imagine that? I will never forget or take for granted the roots of this instrument, and where it comes from.

And perhaps the best part (or “tied” for the best part, along with the incredible instruments!)  - is the personal touch you’ll experience with NYBW. Working with David and Carla Segal, as well as David Beasley, will be some of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever encounter in the world of bass. We’re already a niche area, us bassists! And all the gear manufacturers to boot; it’s a small, eclectic group that we’re all part of. But even comparatively speaking, the NYBW touch is hard to beat. I hope you all get the opportunity to experience it sometime.

Here’s to hoping you can become part of the New York Bass Works Reference history! Give the “Davids” (Segal and Beasley) a shout, and make it happen.

All the best in 2024!


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