Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Airline Travel with Your Bass

I recently made an airline trip with my bass in my new Tuff-Lite bass trunk. Overall, the trip was pretty easy (surprisingly). Everyone was nice and my bass was well-cared for by the baggage and airline folks. I've included a few tips from my experiences. Hopefully this blog post will help future travelers with similar endeavors.

Just to give some details, I went from YYC to SFO via SLC and back. I flew Delta. As far as i can tell, the only airlines that are reasonable as far as traveling with a bass are Delta and Northwest. They are in the process of a merger, which I'm not sure is good or bad. We'll see.

I packed my bass in my Tuff-Lite case from the String Emporium. As I expected, I got a lot of odd looks at the airport, particularly from the Delta staff who at first seemed a little unsure as to what to do with the trunk.

Prior to making the trip, I got confirmation from Delta that the bass in its case would make the trip. To do this, I spent roughly 45 minutes on the phone making my reservation and getting all the details ironed out. They asked for the measurements of my case and its weight (84" x 34" x 22" and about 100lbs fully loaded). Although this is in excess of Delta's rules (120 linear inches and 100 lb max), the reservation clerk found out the size of the cargo door on the plane (43" X 22") and told me that "if it fits, we'll take it." The person I dealt with on the phone documented our conversation, including all the measurements, and our conversation was able to be reviewed at the various airports by the Delta staff.

Even with this assurance, I was pretty paranoid. At the airport, the Delta staff avoided me, looking past me and asking people after me in line to come up. Finally I asserted myself and asked to be served. They finally checked the bag although they were baffled by how the case would be handled once I cleared customs. The extra time it took to get the trunk cleared and in the hands of the baggage folks was about 40 minutes. Add this as additional time you'll need at the airport.

The folks at US customs (which I cleared in Calgary) asked about the value of my instrument. Once I told them, they asked for a "green card" for the instrument. Apparently, when you're traveling with an expensive instrument, you can obtain a green card for that instrument from your home airport's custom authority. This card indicates that the instrument originated in Canada. In this way, when you return there are no questions regarding where the instrument came from. The Canadian customs people (and those in the US too) are apparently on the lookout for purchases made in the US on which duties and taxes may be owed. The green card avoids these hassles upon return. (Given that I don't have a green card for my bass, I'll deal with this potentiality in a week's time.)

Naturally, when traveling with a bass trunk there is a lot of curiosity on the part of fellow travelers and airport staff. Be nice to all of them. Realize that you're in some sense at their mercy. Given that the bass trunk is over-sized, they can always decide not to take it. Its worth the extra time to talk with them, entertain their inquiries, and open the case again and again (for customs and security checks) with a smile on your face.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ray Drummond's Core 50

I just came back from the Stanford Jazz Workshop. At the sessions, bassist Ray Drummond gave out a list of the core 50 songs every bassist (and other instrumentalists) should know. Here it is for those interested.
1. I can’t get started
2. Body and soul
3. Take the A train
4. Sophisticated lady
5. Chelsea bridge
6. Prelude to a kiss
7. I got rhythm
8. Cherokee
9. Cheryl
10. Now is the time
11. Giant steps
12. Invitation
13. Blue monk
14. Well you needn’t
15. Willow weep for me
16. How high the moon
17. Whispering
18. All the things you are
19. What is this thing called love
20. I’ll remember April
21. In a mellow tone
22. It don’t mean a thing
23. All God’s children got rhythm
24. Scrapple from the Apple
25. Round midnight
26. Sweet Georgia Brown
27. There will never be another you
28. Afternoon in Paris
29. Have you met Miss Jones
30. Caravan
31. Was for not
32. I remember Clifford
33. Gone with the wind
34. Like someone in love
35. Con Alma
36. A night in Tunisia
37. Bebop
38. Yesterdays
39. Polka dots and moonbeams
40. Stella by starlight
41. Love for sale
42. Mr. PC
43. There is no greater love
44. Softly as a morning sunrise
45. Summertime
46. Dolphin dance
47. Lose in the closet
48. Lover Man
49. But not for me
50. Lover come back to me

I think there are a lot of interesting inclusions and omissions from this list. Part of Ray's point here (I believe) is to establish a list of songs which have important forms and changes.