” I forgot my bass! I’m out hunting and I forgot my weapon!”
It’s the 2015 summer solstice and our mood is solar: we’re about to make a record.
We gather around a midday coffee, close to the studio, to set all the details for a session that was in the planning for many months now.
The team is rounded by Corneliu Panait, my father in law, who brought all the video and lighting gear; and Sarmis Pinzaru, a close friend with a passion for rock music. Mihai is joined by Mihai Jr., his 18 year old son, himself a passionate guitar player which also studied piano for more than 10 years. We’re all Romanian immigrants settled in Toronto. Mihai, Cornel and I come from the same hometown, Baia Mare, in North Western Transylvania.
Mihai’s car is loaded with gear – amp, cables, digital recorder, video camera, mikes – but he forgot the beautiful Sadowsky bass guitar that started up all this story.
Roger Sadowsky is one of the most highly respected instrument makers in the world. His instruments are played by many of the world’s greatest artists including guitarists Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb and bass players Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Rickey Minor, Michael Rhodes, Verdine White and Jason Newsted.
“I’ll meet you at the studio in 20” – Mihai jumps in the car followed by Mihai Jr.
Back in August 2014, Mihai was still part of an intelligent power rock band that had a rehearsal room in an industrial area in Scarborough, East Toronto. He wasn’t happy with his bass instrument, and was close to getting a new amp and a fabulous Sadowsky bass guitar.
“After 12 years of hard work in Toronto, I finally get to buy the bass I always wanted” – Mihai says to me during a visit to their rehearsal room.
“Well, Mihai, once you get the bass & amp, why don’t I shoot you during an improvised bass solo with your new instrument? I’ll do it on my phone, upload it on YouTube and it will mark a happy moment in your life. It will be done in 15 minutes.”
“Sure, good idea, let me think about it… I’ll let you know when I get the toys.”
I knew what that meant. That meant: “don’t rush, George, we’ll do it, but we’ll take our time and do it properly”.
After all, I’ve worked with Mihai while writing and recording together two songs (listen here and here). It was a time in my life when I wanted to see how hard it is to convey music from your head to the finite product (it is very hard, and after all that work I still want to redo the vocal parts; this made me understand the motivation behind so many artists re-mixing their early work, a recent example being Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra).
We’re at the Rehearsal Factory, at the base of Islington Avenue, close to Lakeshore Boulevard. Ontario Lake is just across the park to the South, and the patios are tempting, but we are here to work.
My idea of shooting a short bass solo on my phone and upload it straight to YouTube was swiftly discarded. Instead, Mihai went home and immediately started working on an elaborate suite of bass solos, which eventually merged into a stunning, dexterous four-minute twenty-second compact attack. It is a full-spectrum emotional gallop, with sweet-sounding parts followed by sharp riffing that conjures images of milling machines in action.
We shoot a number of takes with Coco (my father in law) acting as director. In between, Mihai Jr sits at the drum kit and gets into a groove that his dad quickly follows on bass – a delightful jam ensues, a cherished father & son moment (comme il faut, as today is Father’s Day 2015 as well as the summer solstice).
A few hours later we’re done and happy. I know it will take me a while to edit the footage into a 4-minute clip, but I am grateful that we shared some great moments and sounds with a hard working musician, bassist, writer, all-around-positive-guy: Mihai Zaharia. I only wish this would happen more often.