I first met Rob Wasserman on stage in San Francisco during the fevered early touring days of my group Violent Femmes. I can’t remember how VF bassist Brian Ritchie came to invite Rob to sit in with us that night, but let me say that I’ll never forget that magical evening. As a drummer, when you hear that shaping of tone, the confident drive of his instrumental dexterity, and the depth of soulfulness that projected from Rob’s playing, needless to say, the drums play themselves, and the music soars!
When Janet Schiff and I as Nineteen Thirteen decided to build a song around an organ-only version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” that was recorded in 1961 by Janet’s grandmother Margy, we thought that our friend Rob could add just the right amount of an old fashioned jazz approach to the bass part with a touch of modern backing in the layers of bass constructions underneath the song’s structure.
Along with engineer Steve Hamilton and vocalist Monia, we produced a temporary audio mix of drumset, organ, lead vocal, and cello to send to Winslow CT Studio in L.A. for bass overdubs. Rob then proceeded to craft the main bass part and many other tracks of bowed and plucked bass with helpful suggestions from his wife, Veronica, and engineer Craig Parker Adams.
Once we got Rob’s collection of superb bass parts back to the studio in Milwaukee, I finished recording Janet’s cello parts and then began to figure out how to approach the layering of the many bass and cello ideas (around fifty tracks combined) that had been recorded. I wanted the overall feel of the song to convey to the listener that they were given access to something that was happening once, and that they were the only person to hear it.
A Midwestern surrealism. A gothic approach from 1913, if you will.
The final mix of our version of the Gershwin classic combines beautiful cello and bass interplay, an extrasensory rhythm section, a timeless vocal, and a double tribute to the wonderful Margy Schiff and the gifted and tall man of low tone and loving spirit, Rob Wasserman.
We miss Rob madly.
For much more with Victor DeLorenzo, pick up a copy of the September 2016 issue of Modern Drummer magazine. To hear Victor DeLorenzo, Janet Schiff, and Rob Wasserman perform “Summertime,” go to Nineteen Thirteen’s Soundcloud page.