A local jazz bassist has had an incredible 2022 and is soaring into 2023.
Cloverdale’s Colin Sankey just got back from NewYork and after winning a bass competition there, he released his debut album in September, and he’s developed a massive following on social media after making a bunch of viral videos.
Apart from being a jazz bassist, Sankey is also a composer and arranger and has lived in Cloverdale for many years.
He said his experience in New York was “pretty awesome” and he learned about both the city, and himself, when he was there.
“I got to see a bit of the city and take in some of the culture that is associated with it,” Sankey told the Cloverdale Reporter. “And then I went and won the solo bass contest.”
Sankey said he was planning to enter the contest, the Phil Jones Solo Bass Competition, for a long time, so it was very rewarding for him to just finally be there, but also to win it.
He overpowered the field in his championship performance, garnering rave reviews from the judges—his nearest competitor sat 69 points behind him. Sankey played an original piece of music, “Musica de la Noche”, the seventh track off his debut album, to win the event.
He said “Musica” is a latin jazz piece inspired by the music of Cuba.
“I played a solo version of that, I adapted it into a solo arrangement,” explained Sankey. “The judges were really into it. A judge put his hand on my shoulder after and said, ‘Are you for real, bro?’ Another said, ‘I didn’t know that was possible on a bass.’ And they’re all professional bass players in the New York area, jazz guys and so forth.”
He also landed two endorsement deals after the competition, one with Michael Tobias Design and one with Phil Jones Bass.
His New York success came on the heels of the release of Reawakening, Sankey’s debut album. Released on all streaming platforms Sept. 23, he said the record was a milestone for him.
“It was an album that I’d been working on since 2019,” he said. “It was an almost three-year process.”
Reawakening has had airplay on CBC Radio’s program Saturday Night Jazz and it was featured in Bass Magazine.
Sankey was fully committed to a band in 2018, but it eventually broke up and he was left wondering what direction he would turn.
“I put all my eggs in that basket, so I was just trying to figure out, musically, which direction I was going to go in,” explained Sankey. “I was always passionate about solo bass playing and technical virtuoso type stuff and jazz and fusion, so I took the solo bass route and I wanted to see where it would go.”
He said his transformation as an artist was continual through the whole process of writing, recording,and releasing Reawakening.
“That’s where I got the title song, ‘Reawakening’,” he continued. “It’s a reawakening and a reimagining of my musical path and direction as a composer and as a bassist.”
He said the seven-song album is “an eclectic mix” of music.
“Five of (the songs) are just bass only, one track solo bass. Two of them have a band on them. There’s a jazz-fusion funk jam, pretty energetic and upbeat. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a really chilled, mellow lyrical song called ‘Memories Of Home.’”
He said the track “Yardbird Suite” is a rendition of a classic jazz tune he plays as a tribute to legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Sankey arranged the entire track for a solo electric bass.
“I decided to imitate the sound of a jazz trio with just the two-handed tapping technique on the bass,” he explained. “I tried to capture the sound of a bass, a guitar, and a saxophone—the lead melody—at the same time.”
For his two-handed tapping technique, instead of plucking the notes with his right hand, Sankey hammers the fretboard. He does this with his left hand as well.
“It turns the bass into a piano, so to speak, where each hand is a different voice,” he said. “Then you can get two-to-three-to-four voices, depending on how you’re able to coordinate your fingers.”
Sankey also has a big following on social media. He posts short videos of him playing bass to his Tik Tok account and now has more than 30,000 followers. Several of his videos have gone viral. One video has had nearly 400,000 views.
“Some of my clips have been reposted by lots of bass channels, some which have over 380,000 followers.”
He said in 2021 he entered an online bass competition on YouTube and battled against hundreds of bassists around the world. Sankey placed second. He didn’t think much of it when he first entered, but when he checked his video online, in just under 24 hours, he’d received 136,000 views.
That contest video is now well over 1 million views, but it showed Sankey the power of social media.
“Seeing that video go viral, I learned a lot about what my target audience is, what they’re looking for in my niche, what resonates with them,” he said. “They liked really flashy videos that show off a bit and do these fast funky grooves and virtuosic passages to really showcase your skill.
“It can be really gimmicky, in a way, but it helped me learn how to target people in my niche a little better.”
Sankey said next up for him is getting some more gigs and working on a new album.
“I got my first taste of being a professional musician this year,” he said. “I want to go and record a new album. My first album was an EP. Now, I want to set out and do something more ambitious. I want to expand my reach.”