Erik Kleven died in a car crash last night. He was the bassist in that gig I described in my last post. I watched him play two years ago and he inspired me to take up upright bass. Everything about his playing was so effortless and beautiful. He served the music selflessly, and had the utmost respect for all the human beings around him, while playing music as well as in conversation. He had a tremendous ear for color in music, in a way unlike and far beyond any other bassist I have ever heard, with the exception of the two or three top guys in the world. I am not exaggerating to glorify him, it is the truth. He played an electric upright bass and his technique was so weird and confused me sometimes, but his sound was just so beautiful, so lush and living. His bass sounded like a male voice often in how he used vibrato and that special light touch, a very rare and special quality. And he put such joy behind the simplest basslines, never overstepping or falling back on the tired, over-used bass tricks out of the jazz idiom. Listening to Erik play with a four-person band was like listening to an orchestra composition because he would lay out sometimes and not force his voice into the music, and he would never solo beyond what he felt the music needed. In this way, the music was his in a way unlike any other bassist. I only had a few conversations with him, but he had such a full life full of experiences with bands of so many genres which took him around the world and he constanly read so many books and listened to all different types of music that he had so many nuggets of insight and wisdom. Erik was very kind to me. I felt very comfortable in his presence, the only discomfort was the result of my own dumbness in being in awe of him all the time. But he loved to play and was always happy when he had his bass near him, and that happiness maifested as the simplest type of joy in talking to me. I believe he had a great respect for simplicity--his music certainly reflected that. He was so happy playing the simplest lines and so happy being a part of a greater music... few are like that. He personified the playful spirit, always joyful and repectful while maintaining that precious simplicity which is so easy to lose given all the devices at an artist of his caliber's disposal. In fact, self-restraint was his joy since he served the music so humbly. humble is perhaps the most perfect way to describe the way I see him. His manner of being reflected that humble sweetness and that playfulness, since he had a great wit and was so positive. Apparently he lived alone and his 19 year old son and ex-wife lived down the street. He was 56 and he had lots of cats. He was driving on highway 16, a small highway with two lanes--going in opposite directions--and no dividing barrier between them. Three women in a volvo drifted into his lane and crashed into him head-on. He had to have been killed instantly, since the sac bee was fucking insensitive enough to show a picture of his car, to broadcast the man's scene of death out in the paper when it is only the private business of those present and those close to him. But death is something we all share so why not show the world his crushed car, people like to see that shit.
Many musicians have been killed in auto accidents, bass players especially. This is not the first time someone I know will be taken. Hopefully it will be a while before I am taken, but there is a chance I will be sometime. Cant control that. I cant belive I played with him just a week ago. That gig was so special. We played together perfectly. We both served the music and each other and it was quite something. Playing with two basses is tricky and typically it is difficult to not step all over each other, but with Erik and I, it was just awesome, no problem. The artistry was so inspiring. I'm just really taking stock now of how much he meant to me and how much he inspired me. I dont even think I know how much he inspired me. He was just a goddam hip musician, especially since he would probably react to my saying that in the most humble way.
No need to leave condolences. I hardly knew the man, really. I saw him only a few times the past two years, but at very crucial times always and at his best moments playing with my mentor Adam. Those few times were enough to change a lot for me. But I am not sad. Life goes on and death is a natural part of life, or some stuff that the Buddhists would say. Take my word that I am fine and I wrote this entry as a memory to the man and bassist, not because I need pity. He was great and impacted me in the most positive way. I remember now how the sensitive way he played one of Adam's basslines two years ago made me cry. True to Erik's spirit, I would like to take myself out of the way and let Erik shine without contaminating his legacy and genuine impact on me with a lot of davidnoise.
Rest in peace, friend. You were beautiful. You are free of body and mind now. In whatever form you are, I am sure you are still serving selflessly a greater force. My heart smiles remembering you.