Scott LaFaro’s bass donated to International Society of Bassists
“Extraordinary and extremely generous gift” from Barrie Kolstein announced at ISB convention
By Jon Liebman
June 8, 2015
The instrument once belonging to legendary bassist Scott LaFaro is now in the hands of the International Society of Bassists. The magnanimous gift was made by luthier Barrie Kolstein, president of Kolstein Music in Baldwin, NY. Barrie’s father, Sam Kolstein, purchased the bass from LaFaro’s mother after LaFaro died tragically in an auto accident in 1961.
FBPO’s Jon Liebman with Scott LaFaro’s sisters, Linda (L) and Helene, at the 2015 ISB convention
The donation was announced Saturday night in a presentation by Nicholas Walker, Associate Professor of Music at the Ithaca College School of Music, at the annual convention of the International Society of Bassists in Fort Collins, CO. Standing alongside Walker were LaFaro’s sisters, Linda LaFaro and Helene LaFaro-Fernandez.
The LaFaro and Kolstein families have enjoyed a close relationship for nearly 60 years. The bond began when legendary bassist George Duvivier introduced Scott to Sam Kolstein, suggesting he work on LaFaro’s then newly-acquired instrument at Kolstein’s shop in Long Island. Upon acquiring the bass, the elder Kolstein promised the LaFaro family that the badly damaged bass would ultimately be restored to playing condition. In the end, it was Barrie who undertook the arduous task of restoring the bass, which was presented at the 1988 International Society of Bassists convention in Los Angeles.
Barrie, now president of Kolstein Music in Baldwin, NY, vividly recalls his father’s reaction to seeing Scott sample various basses at the shop. He looked at Duvivier and simply said, “Who is that and what is that?”
More than five decades after his untimely death at age 25, Scott LaFaro remains a profound influence on double bass players. “You have to understand that even by today’s standards, Scotty’s playing would turn heads,” says Barrie, “but back in those years, his style of playing was unheard of and completely unique in every aspect.”
With the new acquisition, the ISB plans to make the instrument available for select performances by ISB members as part of a future Scott LaFaro Archives, which will be housed at Ithaca College.
Walker explained why Ithaca College is the optimum location for the archives. “You see, Scott’s father, a violin virtuoso and bandleader, attended Ithaca College in the early days of the conservatory,” he says, “and Scott went to classes for a year at Ithaca College before leaving school for a career that continues to grow in legend and influence.”
Professor Walker profusely thanked Kolstein for his “extraordinary and extremely generous gift to the ISB,” adding that the donation “raises our net worth by six figures.”
“Barrie, a long time dedicated member of the ISB, could easily have sold this instrument to a collector for a hefty profit,” said Walker, “but it never occurred to him to do this. Instead he ensured the residency of Scott’s bass at Ithaca College will be a lasting tribute to Scott and his legacy.”
The ISB awards a “Scott LaFaro Prize” to the first place winner in the jazz competition at its biannual convention, courtesy of Scott’s four sisters and the endowment fund they formed for the ISB in their brother’s memory.
“For bassists everywhere, Scott LaFaro’s sound and musicianship have been a deep source of inspiration,” Walker concluded. “Both the LaFaro and Kolstein families are committed to keeping us all connected to the man behind that sound, a man they loved dearly. The creation of a living archive at Ithaca College will make it possible for future generations of bassists to come into direct contact with his instrument and the materials that helped shape Scott LaFaro as an artist. What a gift to us all!”
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