Gary Karr, acclaimed as “the world’s leading solo bassist” (Time Magazine), is, in fact, the first solo double bassist in history to make that pursuit a full-time career. Since his debut with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1962, Karr has performed as soloist on six continents with orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Simon Bolivar Orchestra (Caracas, Venezuela), Jerusalem Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and with all the major orchestras of Australia. Today, each summer, starting on the first Monday in July, Gary Karr presides over a four-week intensive course of double bass playing. It is held on the beautiful campus of the University of Victoria where all participants are housed in single rooms in a luxurious dormitory. In 1998, he accepted an offer to teach at the world famous University of North Texas, home to one of the largest jazz programs in the world, where he continues to teach and perform to this day.
The Upton Bass Story
We contacted Gary Karr back in 2008 about building a specialized bass for students of his style of solo performance after hearing that he was dissatisfied with many of the instruments available today. After many months of design and refinement, we came out with the first few Karr Model Upton Basses, one of which was a solid wood version that won a Silver Medal for Tone at the 2009 ISB Instrument Makers Competition.
This model was available until after the 2011 ISB conference in San Francisco where Gary Upton Birkhamshaw and Eric Rene Roy got a chance to speak with both Gary Karr and James Ham (the maker of Gary Karr’s personal instrument). Upon their return to Upton Bass HQ they quickly redesigned the Karr Model Upton Bass to fully maximize both the playability and tonal expectations of Gary Karr and his students.
This new model, now called the Karr v2, is the epitome of solo performance without sacrificing the double bass tone that draws us to the instrument.