Coleridge Goode - Double Bass

“That was the chair that Django sat in,” says Goode, as I make myself comfortable in the living room of his west London home. “We moved to London in 1941,” he continues. “And we’ve been here ever since.”
Coleridge Goode is known not only for his 1946 recordings with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, but also as the bass liner for Joe Harriott’s ground breaking quintets of 1958-67.
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“I was born in 1914, in Kingston Jamaica,” he recalls with some pride. “My father was a choirmaster and organist who promoted classical choral music in Jamaica and my mother sang in the choir.” I mention that Coleridge is an interesting Christian name and Goode is only too keen to fill me in. My name comes from my father putting on a performance of Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’ as a tribute to him,” starts Goode. “I was born a year after – so that’s how I got my name.” So when and with what, did Goode start his musical journey? “It all started from a concert of my father’s that I went to,” he says in measured tones. “The cellist was playing a beautiful solo and it impressed me enough to go home and put some orange boxes and wood together and try and make an instrument. My father saw me doing this and bought me a violin for my 11th (next) birthday.” Goode cannot remember what make or model his first instrument was, but he does remember his first teacher.

“My father picked the best teacher in Kingston,” says Goode. “Ms Livingston was also very beautiful, so that was an added attraction. I worked very hard on the violin and I was always glad to go to lessons!” Following the Royal College of Music syllabus, Goode eventually achieved an LRSM.

But when he arrived in the UK at the age of 19, he had not come to further his music studies, but rather to follow a course in electrical engineering at Glasgow university. “I used to listen to the radio a lot,” says Goode. “And I heard jazz, and I thought, oh, I’d like to play some of that,” he continues. “Back in Jamaica my father wouldn’t have any jazz in the house, so I never heard any jazz – strictly classical music.” Goode tried playing jazz on his violin. “It’s very difficult for classically trained violinists to play jazz,” he says. “The technique is very different – it’s only those who have grown up playing jazz that make it playing jazz on the violin.”

Goode had always been influenced by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. “I really liked his bass lines,” says Goode. “And I figured that I could probably learn to play bass lines in a more progressive style, like the bass player in Count Basie’s band, who was outstanding in that respect.” In 1939 Goode bought his first bass from the bass player of one of the big London bands that regularly came up to play in Glasgow. “They came up to play in the ballroom,” remembers Goode. “And if it was a Sunday, players would go on to play at the Just Jazz club to play a bit of jazz. The bass player from this particular band had taken his bass along to the jazz club and it got scorched because he had left his bass standing too close to an open fire. I think that’s when he fell out of love with the instrument – and of course after listening to it, I fell in love with it. I offered to buy it off him and thankfully he let me have it.” Goode remembers carrying that first bass around Glasgow. “I used to take it to the jazz club on the tram car – and I used to stand on the end,” he recalls. “On one occasion it went round a corner and I didn’t have a proper grip on it and it shot off the back of the tramcar onto the road and it broke the neck. That’s when I got to find out a little bit about it – from the repairer! It’s a Mittenwald made in 1860.”

Around the same time Goode bought a Cello from a well known guitarist. He laughs. “I can’t remember why I bought it – I just fancied a Cello I suppose.” On one occasion, the Cello proved to be very useful. “I was playing on Boat Race Day and had a microphone knocked right through my bass. Fortunately I had brought my Cello,” says Goode, “so we put amplification to the Cello and I stood up with the Cello!” Goode also remembers having a “small chamber bass that I used once or twice,” but has no recollection of when he bought it or where it went. “Then there was that bass that I picked up in Frankfurt when I was touring with Joe,” says Goode. “I was looking round a music shop and saw this new bass. It was made out of what looked like plywood. It was essentially a jazz bass. I bought it, but I’ve since given it to a good friend of mine who drives me from place to place these days.” I ask about the other bass propped up in the far corner of the room.

“That’s my new bass,” says Goode. “It’s a Nicholas Diehl. I bought it when the Mittenwald was at the repairer. It was made in Darmstadt in 1830 and it’s got quite a different sound – it’s harder and has more attack. Not at all like the Mittenwald.” I ask Goode if he still has the Cello. “Yes,” he chuckles. “But it’s not in working order right now!” We move on to strings. “During the war it was very difficult to get strings,’ says Goode. ‘So at one point I used to wind my own.’ He continues. ‘There was only one place in London where you could get strings – I can’t remember where it was exactly, except that it was a large store – the best strings were Guiviers.” Although he has played on Pirastros, both his basses are currently strung with Thomastiks. As he says, “they just sound better on these particular basses.”

So what has been the highpoint in this long and distinguished career?
“There are three really,” says Goode. “Playing with Joe and the recording of ‘Modal’. Playing Jazz Praises with Michael Garrick at St Paul’s Cathedral and watching Django play. Would you like to see the photograph of him sitting in that chair?”

Goode’s autobiography Bass Lines, A Life in Jazz is published by Northway

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