Zoltan Dekany is a terrific unknown bass player from Budapest, Hungary. He hasn't done any "big" gigs yet-but for several years Zoltan has played with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles. He can solo on upright and electric like few bassists can. He can play several styles as authentically as other bassists who stick to only one style. He has a great ear and has no problem transcribing difficult solos off records. Zoltan is my first choice as a bass sub at the Players School of Music, because I want the students to get the best bass instruction they can get - no matter who's teaching. Zoltan simply plays his butt off, and he's always growing as a musician.
Why am I writing about Zoltan? Well, because I've found the attributes that make him so good are far more obtainable by you than is superstardom or even a successful recording career. In fact, he's exactly what I wish many of you would aspire to become: a player focused on the love of music who feels the need to grow musically for no other reason than for the sake of growth. There's a large community of musicians like Zoltan - players who are unknown outside their own locales yet who are capable of joining the highest echelons of professional music. But the point is they have the skills, obtained through tireless efforts to learn the requirements of playing. And they've never wavered from that quest.
Many of these unknowns are better than some famous players; certainly they're at least as good as most of them. In a musical sense they've arrived - they can play any gig, because of their reading skills and live-playing experience. If at one point they felt under qualified to play with world-class musicians, they've overcome this fear through steadfast jamming and gigging. Experience is the best teacher; experience taught Zoltan he can get a phone call to do a gig in an hour, and no matter the style or the reading difficulty, he knows he can handle it.
Many "no-name" players are able to play heavy funk, jazz, blues, and rock; they can read, solo, and even teach. Yet they are totally anonymous to you and me unless they're called upon to play on records that showcase their abilities. Then their story changes. Suddenly they're elevated to a level of international notoriety. Jaco Pastorius, John Patitucci, Geddy Lee, and Billy Sheehan all played in their hometowns for years before they got an opportunity to share their talent with a wider audience. Zoltan is in the same situation. If he gets a call from a famous band that hire him because he plays great, he becomes a hot new talent-whereas three months earlier he could have been wearing a tux and playing in an Italian restaurant.
Here's another comparison to consider: My reading skills got me the Yes gig in 1989. Zoltan's reading abilities got him a six-month gig with a Disney touring show. There's not an iota of difference in the musical training required by either gig. Zoltan just as well could have become known to every Yes fan, and I could have been appreciated by Disney audiences.
I've mentioned before that many musicians believe any playing experience is good experience, and that you can grow in any playing situation. I don't subscribe to this idea a t all. Now, I can swing a golf club until the breeze knocks over my bag. This is golfing experience, isn't it? But I need some concrete instruction and serious practice to improve my game, or else I'll be standing out there all night trying to hit that ball. In boxing, I can spar forever and probably get hit forever. But I need training to learn bow to slip and parry punches.
Zoltan and 10,000 other great musicians under- stand these concepts. They know they have the skills to remain in the music industry in any capacity they wish. Unfortunately, some players don't have this peace of mind.
Learn music academically. Learn it for the purity if its content. Play with the best musicians you can find. Study with great played teachers like Zoltan Dekany. And keep trying to grow as a musician, just like Zoltan is dedicated to doing.