Native son and bass guitar wizard, Steve Bailey, will be back at Coastal Carolina University on Thursday with Bass Extremes, a recurring show pairing fellow bass whiz and five-time Grammy winner Victor Wooten, with any number of jazz and rock greats who might accompany them.
We caught up with Bailey from his second home in Boston, where he is department chair and teaches as a part of the world’s largest bass guitar program at the famed Berklee College of Music. Thursday’s 7:30 show is at CCU’s Wheelwright Auditorium, in Conway, where Bailey continues in his capacity as an Artist-in Residence, despite being a part-time resident.
A born and raised Myrtle Beach native, is the Grand Strand at risk of losing Bailey permanently to the big New England city, one with a lot to offer?
“I don’t know what ‘permanent’ means,” he laughed. “I’m a musician. My family and I love it up here [in Boston] but we still have our home in Myrtle Beach and come back regularly, every couple of weeks. I’m back and forth all the time. In fact with my new deal with Coastal I’ll be back to Myrtle Beach even more than I was over the last couple of years. I’ll do two concerts per year, mentor some students, and help with the development of the curriculum.”
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Bailey, 54, has performed around the world working with jazz and rock greats including such diverse acts as Jethro Tull and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to Willie Nelson, Dizzy Gillespie, and Mel Torme, among dozens of others. His most recent recording was a 2007 solo project recorded at his Myrtle Beach studio, entitled “So Low…Solo.” He caught the teaching bug in his 30s and has spent the last two decades primarily as an instructor, clinician and educator. He’s considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the six-string fretless bass, and is endorsed by several guitar manufacturers that have produced Steve Bailey signature instruments, highly praised and coveted by players and collectors alike.
Long-time Bailey friend and business partner Wooten, is a founding member of Bela Fleck and Flecktones, a Nashville, Tenn.-based jazz/newgrass instrumental fusion group led by banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. Besides the five Grammy wins (and countless nominations) Wooten was named one of the top 30 bassists of all time by Rolling Stone in 2011.
Thursday’s show finishes a small tour with Bailey, Wooten and jazz drummer/clinician, Derico Watson. Matt White, a teacher at CCU, will join the group, along with other guests. A bass guitar clinic for CCU students will also take place Thursday afternoon.
“We’re not really formatted like the Bass Boot Camp this time,” said Bailey, referring to his popular boot camp-styled clinics formerly held in Myrtle Beach. The semi-annual boot camps attracted an international following. “We’re doing this show as one of my Artist-in-Residence shows with the clinic that proceeds it.”
Bailey’s life in Boston stays busy as the program he chairs has hundreds of students, and 25 bass guitar faculty. “I try to get some tennis in occasionally,” he said, “but I’m at the office a lot, and really busy. My family loves the cultural diversity of Boston and all the educational opportunities; it’s really a wonderful place. I feel like I’m having my cake and eating it too.”
With the lure of a world-class city like Boston, with so much to offer a talented individual, such as Bailey, I dared asked once again about a possible future permanent move for him and his family.
“I will never leave Myrtle Beach,” he said. “I was born there, I’ll be buried there. I still have my house, which I call home, my studio, my office, my mom is still there, and it’s warm most of the year. It will always be my home.”