It’s a long way from the steamy climate and sandy beaches of Miami to the rolling hills of Southwestern Ohio, in more ways than just physical distance. No one knows that better than the multi-talented electric bass player, producer, arranger, and composer Scott Gold, who lives in Lebanon, a sedate county seat north of Cincinnati.
Born in New York City and raised in Florida, he has found his ideal home in an unlikely locale – the historic county-seat town of Lebanon, Ohio, best known for horse farms and antique stores. “I live in a house on the edge of a forest, with a big deck facing the woods,” says Gold, 50. “It’s a very serene setting for composing and recording music. Lebanon is a pretty cool small town, too – it even has its own little blues festival!”
Growing up, Scott spent half the year in Manhattan with his grandparents, who lived directly across from Lincoln Center. He spent the other half in Miami. “My parents, who were both professional musicians, didn’t want to raise me in New York,” he explains. “My dad, Michael Gold, was a clarinet player who was like a reincarnation of Benny Goodman. My mom, Nancy Van, played upright bass. Between them, my parents knew all kinds of music people from all over.”
Following in their footsteps, Gold found himself fascinated with music and composition as a teenager. Dropping out of high school, he spent two years at home, obsessively studying the scores of such 20th-century composers as Stravinsky and Prokofiev. “I loved the Russians, especially the more dissonant and scary-sounding stuff like ‘The Rites of Spring,’” Scott says. “I started writing music in the same styles, and even convinced some local orchestras in South Florida to play my compositions!”
An Influential Mentor
Working and living in Miami, Scott’s parents became close friends with the members of the ground-breaking jazz fusion group Weather Report, especially keyboardist/songwriter Joe Zawinul. When he was still a teenager, Scott’s parents arranged for him to take lessons from the band’s brilliant bassist, Jaco Pastorius, who later died of complications from substance abuse.
“I was only 17, but I knew him and the other guys from Weather Report quite well,” he remembers. “It was very informal. I’d go over to see Jaco, and he would sit down at the piano and I’d play bass. He was a very inspiring teacher who played bass as a lead instrument, which is what I do too.” Not surprisingly, Gold cites Jaco and the other members of Weather Report as a major influence on his musical development. He also admires bassists Marcus Miller and Paul Chambers, as well as sax player Michael Brecker.
Along with jazz, Scott was exposed to a huge range of musical genres growing up in South Florida. “You hear everything down there, from reggae to Cuban music to Puerto Rican salsa,” he explains. “So if you want to make a living as a professional musician in Miami, you need to learn how to play in just about any style.”
As his reputation and resume’ grew, Gold gradually became an in-demand bassist, equally adept at straight jazz, jazz fusion, funk, rhythm & blues, Latin music, and pop. Wielding his instrument of choice – a cherished Tobias five-string bass from the early 1980s – Scott has been a working musician all his adult life, although some years he earned as little as $2,000. The bassist has even developed an international following, selling his music through iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and similar websites.
You Name It, He’s Played It
Over the years, Gold has played almost any kind of gig you can name, from weddings to Broadway shows, reggae clubs to Little Havana dance halls. Among the stars he’s backed are Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., The Fifth Dimension, The Temptations, Rita Moreno, and Hal Linden. Scott has even played bar and bat mitzvahs, which he says are especially fun. “Cuban Jews love to mix Jewish and Latin music,” reports the versatile bassist, who estimates he has personally arranged 40 to 50 salsa tunes for large ensembles.
Among his many engagements, Scott often gigged with house bands on cruise ships. One day, a bandmate suggested he should relocate to Columbus, Ohio, because there were great job opportunities for musicians. The tip was a good one. Columbus had a burgeoning local music scene, and Gold soon found a berth in the rhythm section of a 23-member Latin dance band.
While Scott admits that moving to the Midwest was a culture shock, he soon became more comfortable and has lived in Ohio ever since. These days, his plate is full. Gold performs with singer-flautist Peg Allen in a duo called Table 15. He also plays with a rotating lineup of local jazz and R&B musicians, including Blue Note regulars Ron Enyard, George Farnell, and Randy Villars(spelling?). In his spare time, he also plays in a new group with noted pianist Steve Schmidt and Megan Watkins, performing “a mix of tunes, including some Motown and far-out arrangements of pop songs.”
A favorite with audiences at Miamisburg’s Blue Note Bistro, Scott is scheduled to play again on November xx at 9pm. “The acoustics were tough for the first few weeks after opening, so we just took the amps offstage and set up a house PA system for the whole band,” he adds. “Now I can just go up onstage, plug right in to the system, and start playing. The room sounds really great.”
What’s next for Scott Gold? Quite a bit. In his home studio with its scenic view of the forest, he’s been working on a solo album for a release in early 2017. “I’d like to tour behind that release, play with Table 15, and record and produce more solo albums,” he says.
“Thanks to sampling, I can record almost any sound at home now. Lately, I’ve been creating some African grooves with jazz harmonies, like Weather Report. I’m also starting to write lyrics.”