by Bonnie Schendell
June 2008

photo by Cary Gillaspie

“I have been blessed to play with many great artists and I attribute that to being well-rounded in various styles of music.  I want to be known for playing each style authentically, as if I grew up in that culture.”

Although born in Rapid City, South Dakota, bassist David Dyson has called Washington, D.C. home since he was two years old.  While other musicians have moved from their hometowns to New York or Los Angeles in search of their dream, David has remained a D.C. staple.  He is well known around town, playing with other local musicians, as well as nationally known artists and groups. 

David Dyson began playing the bass at age twelve.  “My parents bought me a beginners bass and amp for Christmas that year because I bugged them silly.”   His mother plays piano, but for her own pleasure.  “She used to play all the time when she was young and then just stopped.  Decades later she bought a piano and picked right up where she left off.  Blew my mind!”  David is self taught on the bass, although he did take a few lessons while attending Berklee College.  “One of my teachers, John Neves, who passed away while I was there, was an upright bass player and never even touched the instrument during our lessons.  He did turn me on to some literature that really took my sight reading to another level, though.”  But David credits every bass player he has ever listened to as his teachers.  In addition to bass, he also plays piano, upright bass, and a little guitar.

David’s musical hunger was nurtured along the way by a guy in his neighborhood, Larry Allen.  He would let David come over to his house and bang on the basses anytime he wanted.  Before actually touching his instrument of choice, his main influences were Larry Graham, Louis Johnson and Bootsy Collins.  It was at age 14, when David decided that a career in music was what he wanted.  “At 14, I did a lot of local studio sessions and eventually started playing in local gogo and R&B/Funk bands.  By high school, I knew that I wanted to be a pro and pursue music as a career.”

And what a career this man has had.  His resume reads like a Who’s Who in the music world.  Over the course of many years, he has played with Bob James, Jonathan Butler, Najee, Peter White, Rick Braun, Candy Dulfer, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Michael Franks, Regina Belle, Phil Perry, Bobby Lyle, Walter Beasley, Doc Powell, and the list goes on and on.  His two current touring gigs are with Pieces Of A Dream  and Lailah Hathaway.  David got hooked up with Pieces Of A Dream on the spur of the moment.  “I had just come from the movies with my wife and got an urgent call for a gig that night because the original bassist was missing in action.  I went down to Baltimore and sat in a car and listened for about half an hour to the tunes they wanted to play.  Then I went inside and did the hit.  They were so impressed that they just kept calling me!”  That was eight years ago!  His other gig is with Lailah Hathaway.  They were college buddies and were in Walter Beasley’s band together.  “We reconnected on the Capital Jazz Super Cruise in 2007 and she asked me to play with her.  I always loved her voice, and her as a person, so it was my honor to accept.

And who would this guy who has already played with nearly everyone, still like to play with?  The names Sting, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, and Jeff Lorber are the first to come to mind.

In addition to David’s current touring engagements, he has many other projects in the works.  “I am working on my film scoring chops and building up my catalog to do music for film, tv, and soundtracks.  I also want to write and produce for more artists, as well as still kick out my own releases.  I also have a DVD in the works.  David’s third release, Unleashed is almost completed and he has an instructional/performance video in the works for release by year’s end.

After being in this business for so many years, David offers up this advice to up and coming musicians:  “Absorb all you can, learn as many styles as you can authentically, and try to be issueless when working with people.  No one likes drama from anyone – musicians included!

When not writing or performing, David can be found taking a break by playing video games, martial arts (he’s now studying Brazilian Jiu jitsu), and watching kung fu flicks.

So, when you are out at your summer smooth jazz concerts this season, keep a watchful eye out for David Dyson.  You will undoubtedly see him playing alongside any number of artists out there.