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11-year-old upright bassist Ned Hobson is making connections

“I’ve got this whole network of numbers in my head that I can chain together”

Rob Thorsen on Hobson: “The future of jazz is in very good hands.”
Rob Thorsen on Hobson: “The future of jazz is in very good hands.”

The upright bass is in some ways the most essential instrument in a jazz ensemble. The trouble is that there just aren’t enough bass players to go around, and the really good ones end up working all the time in a myriad of different ensembles. One culprit: when school budgets for band and orchestra classes were decimated in the 1980s, an important pipeline for young bass players suffered.

So it can feel like something of a miracle to see things opening up again through programs like Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, which has nurtured a handful of young bassists — including young Ned Hobson, a polymath 11-year-old multi-instrumentalist from a musical family. (His dad Chris is a prolific recording engineer and pianist, and his older brother Henry plays a mean trombone.) “I’ve been playing music for seven years, something like that,” says Hobson. “I started out on the piano, which I’m taking a break from. Five years ago, I started playing the violin, which I’m still involved with.” He became interested in the bass after seeing John Murray performing with Castellanos less than a year ago. Now he’s studying with working pro Rob Thorsen, and playing on a weekly basis with his brother in the Young Lions Unity Ensemble.

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Hobson says he enjoys the music the ensemble creates. “I just love jazz so much, and basslines. Making music with my brother is important. We have a different connection than anyone else. We can practice at home and make sure we’re in sync, and that can help guide the rest of the ensemble.” He also enjoys the private lessons from Thorsen. “He interprets the music in a way that other people can’t, because we’re both bassists, and a lot of things are different. We play walking lines, which is something no one else in the ensemble does. They are all playing melody or chords or rhythmic hits. We have a completely different mindset, because we have to bring everybody together.”

Perhaps because of his background on other instruments, Hobson took to the bass pretty easily, although that doesn’t mean hard work isn’t necessary. “I practice every day. I practice scales, jazz tunes, and of course, walking. Soloing is also a key part of my routine, but walking is very important. I usually practice that with my brother, because his melody instrument and my walking combine for a complete picture. I just want to be the best that I can be. No, make that better than the best I can be. I currently practice a half hour a day on the violin and a half hour on the bass, but I’ve been trying to increase that so I can get better.”

As if splitting time between two different instruments wasn’t enough, Hobson is also committed to weekly ballet classes. “I’ve been interested in ballet for nine years,” he says. “I think that one of the main connections that helped me learn jazz was my experience in dance.” Another key element in Hobson’s routine is carving out listening time. “I like listening to Mozart violin concertos; we have a ton of classical vinyl, and rock vinyl, and quite a few classic jazz records, like Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.”

He cites Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, and Paul Chambers as key influences, along with John Murray, from whom he recently took a lesson. All this leaves him few opportunities for doing normal kid stuff, “but I can still find time for video games. I’m basically a lazy person, so I don’t like the effort I have to put into it. But I’m satisfied with the final product of creating music and dance. It’s worth it.”

“Ned is an extraordinary young bassist,” says Rob Thorsen. “He’s got a wonderful feel for the music, a very good sense of rhythm and harmony, and an intuitive approach to music that belies his young age. When Ned performs, you can feel his energy and joy. The future of jazz is in very good hands with him. I think he’s a genius.”

For his part, Hobson grants that “I’ve got a quick brain. I’d say that the main thing with my brain is making connections. I just make very quick connections, especially with math. With math, I’ve got this whole network of numbers in my head that I can chain together. Things like how 64 and 8 are linked, or 512 and 16. I can see a lot of connections between math and music, and I hear them.”

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Rob Thorsen on Hobson: “The future of jazz is in very good hands.”
Rob Thorsen on Hobson: “The future of jazz is in very good hands.”

The upright bass is in some ways the most essential instrument in a jazz ensemble. The trouble is that there just aren’t enough bass players to go around, and the really good ones end up working all the time in a myriad of different ensembles. One culprit: when school budgets for band and orchestra classes were decimated in the 1980s, an important pipeline for young bass players suffered.

So it can feel like something of a miracle to see things opening up again through programs like Gilbert Castellanos’ Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, which has nurtured a handful of young bassists — including young Ned Hobson, a polymath 11-year-old multi-instrumentalist from a musical family. (His dad Chris is a prolific recording engineer and pianist, and his older brother Henry plays a mean trombone.) “I’ve been playing music for seven years, something like that,” says Hobson. “I started out on the piano, which I’m taking a break from. Five years ago, I started playing the violin, which I’m still involved with.” He became interested in the bass after seeing John Murray performing with Castellanos less than a year ago. Now he’s studying with working pro Rob Thorsen, and playing on a weekly basis with his brother in the Young Lions Unity Ensemble.

Sponsored
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Hobson says he enjoys the music the ensemble creates. “I just love jazz so much, and basslines. Making music with my brother is important. We have a different connection than anyone else. We can practice at home and make sure we’re in sync, and that can help guide the rest of the ensemble.” He also enjoys the private lessons from Thorsen. “He interprets the music in a way that other people can’t, because we’re both bassists, and a lot of things are different. We play walking lines, which is something no one else in the ensemble does. They are all playing melody or chords or rhythmic hits. We have a completely different mindset, because we have to bring everybody together.”

Perhaps because of his background on other instruments, Hobson took to the bass pretty easily, although that doesn’t mean hard work isn’t necessary. “I practice every day. I practice scales, jazz tunes, and of course, walking. Soloing is also a key part of my routine, but walking is very important. I usually practice that with my brother, because his melody instrument and my walking combine for a complete picture. I just want to be the best that I can be. No, make that better than the best I can be. I currently practice a half hour a day on the violin and a half hour on the bass, but I’ve been trying to increase that so I can get better.”

As if splitting time between two different instruments wasn’t enough, Hobson is also committed to weekly ballet classes. “I’ve been interested in ballet for nine years,” he says. “I think that one of the main connections that helped me learn jazz was my experience in dance.” Another key element in Hobson’s routine is carving out listening time. “I like listening to Mozart violin concertos; we have a ton of classical vinyl, and rock vinyl, and quite a few classic jazz records, like Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.”

He cites Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, and Paul Chambers as key influences, along with John Murray, from whom he recently took a lesson. All this leaves him few opportunities for doing normal kid stuff, “but I can still find time for video games. I’m basically a lazy person, so I don’t like the effort I have to put into it. But I’m satisfied with the final product of creating music and dance. It’s worth it.”

“Ned is an extraordinary young bassist,” says Rob Thorsen. “He’s got a wonderful feel for the music, a very good sense of rhythm and harmony, and an intuitive approach to music that belies his young age. When Ned performs, you can feel his energy and joy. The future of jazz is in very good hands with him. I think he’s a genius.”

For his part, Hobson grants that “I’ve got a quick brain. I’d say that the main thing with my brain is making connections. I just make very quick connections, especially with math. With math, I’ve got this whole network of numbers in my head that I can chain together. Things like how 64 and 8 are linked, or 512 and 16. I can see a lot of connections between math and music, and I hear them.”

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