If Only That Bass Could Talk

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Jeff Dalton –  if only that bass could talk

Jeff Dalton, the youngest of four brothers who are all bass players, was born and raised on Long Island, New York. His father, Big Al Dalton, was a music teacher and leader of the Dalton Family Band. At fourteen, he attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, a boarding school in the woods of northern Michigan. It was a classical intensive study with recitals, orchestra, and more. After Interlochen, Dalton attended Peabody Conservatory School of Music (part of John Hopkins University) in Baltimore, receiving a performance degree in music.

After graduation, Jeff moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1987 to play music. He hooked up with a Latin jazz fusion band group called Lunar Octet. They’ve been playing for almost 30 years. The group toured England last year and will tour California in a few months.

He married and raised two boys while running his small tech business, Broadsword, and playing music part time. He and his wife visited Marathon in 2013 and returned often. They decided to buy a house in 2016 and sell their Michigan home and business.

In 2015, he performed his first gig in the Keys with Ray West at the Marathon Seafood Festival. A few weeks later, he received a call from Ross Brown who said that Ray had recommended him. Ross was the most welcoming individual that helped Jeff get established in the Keys music scene. They became great friends.

Dalton became friends with a number of other Keys musicians. It was completely different than any music scene he had experienced. He had a little exposure in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Detroit but nowhere has he found a more warm and welcoming group of musicians than the Keys. There is competition but there are so many gigs and the strong camaraderie of musicians, which I like to refer to as our One Music Family.

Jeff had grown up with bass players. He jokingly said it was hard to start a band with all bass players. However, he has been working on a theater show idea titled “All About the Bass” featuring the music of Stanley Clark, Victor Wooten, Jacko Pastori, Weather Report, and others featuring all bass player music. Several Keys bass players are interested in participating — it sounds like a special night of music.

Dalton has always loved Latin music, especially Cuban music. The Lunar Octet performed a lot of Cuban music. He traveled to Havana five times to learn about Cuban music. He met several musicians and quickly became friends. He was invited to sit in everywhere he went. One night while sitting in with a group that included Buena Vista Social Club players, they called the famous song, “Chan Chan”, written by Compay Segundo. Jeff started playing and, in front of a very large audience, was given personal and special instructions to fit the Buena Vista Social Club music. It was a little unsettling at first but was a very helpful way to learn the Cuban styles of plucking a bass. His new friends were trying to help him understand the correct way to play these different styles.

As it turns out, Jeff’s friend Ross Brown plays “Chan Chan” and other Cuban songs regularly. He always brings his upright bass to every gig with Ross for that reason. One night at the Green Parrot, Ross called for “Chan Chan”. Along with trumpeter Tommy Tangie and drummer Lee Venters, the song just seemed to grow and grow into an anthem for almost ten minutes. It became one of those very special Key West music experiences.

Wayne Hammond, one of the most iconic and beloved Keys musicians and one of the best bass players ever, passed away in September 2018. Jeff did not have a chance meet or hear Wayne perform. Wayne’s wife Tina was selling some of his equipment and wanted them to go to Key West bass players. Jeff’s wife bought a gorgeous hollow body bass for him. Almost immediately, Jeff began getting messages and emails from friends that heard he had one of Wayne’s instruments. They began to relate some really cool stories about Hammond and his performances from those that knew and worked with him in Key West. I am always amazed at the depth of feeling our Key west musicians have for one another. If only that bass could talk.

Jeff has recently opened Sunrise Studios of Marathon, a music school with a recording room. He’s teaching music during the day, working gigs, planning his show, and working hard to become a better musician.





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