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B A S S G I R L S   M O N T H L Y   -    D e c e m b e r    2 0 0 6   -   J U L I E   G O E L L


Julie Goell was born in New York, grew up in Rome, Italy, and now lives with her husband and son on an island off the coast of Portland, Maine, in the USA. She studied theater in Boston and graduated with a degree in acting and directing. Having always been an “ear musician”, able to harmonize any tune but with no idea how or why, she recently completed a degree in Jazz Bass. She plays gigs in New England and beyond, and has toured with her band in Eastern Europe, Germany, and Italy. She totes her stand-up bass from the island and back on a converted golf cart, putting up with many well-meaning comments about playing the piccolo.

Julie Goell, do you come from a musical family? My mother is tone deaf but my father is a song writer with some track record (Kermit Goell, lyricist on “Near You”, # 1 in 1947). I remember drawing pictures under the piano while Kermit and his music buddies worked on tunes. The room was thick with smoke, and all manner of substances were passed around.

Where were you born? I was born in New York, raised in Rome and currently reside in Maine, on the northeast coast of the USA.

Did you ever perform onstage as a child? While living in Rome, I began my musical career at the age of 16, playing at the Folk Studio. I wrote sad songs about joy in minor keys and strummed my guitar, with long shanks of straight hair hiding my face.

At what age did you first take a bass in your hands? 42. I was not unfamiliar with strings however. I always played strings, guitar and mandolin mostly. I love the fat sound of the bass and the vibrations of the wood against my belly. I didn’t want to leave this earth without having tasted what it’s like to play jazz on the bass. It was a crazy idea.

Can you remember the first piece you ever learned on bass? “So What” by Mikes Davis. It’s a modal piece which stays on one chord so you can play the same Dorian scale for eight bars at a time.

Are you self-taught or did you have a tutor/teacher? I left Rome to study Jazz in America and wound up studying Jazz with a Polish teacher. His name is Bronek Suchonek and he plays with Artie Shaw Big Band and tours all over the world and plays with everybody. He is an awesome, solid, and imaginative player with great arco technique and an enviable pizz sound. I studied classical bass with George Calvert who is seven feet tall and owns a super-sized bass!

What was your very first band? The Casco Bay Tummlers Klezmer band was the first, and is still going 20 years later, though I’ve had many opportunities to play with other people. The Tummlers just realeased CD #3, “Journey” (at CD Baby). We are currently working on new repertoire of the musics which contributed to Klezmer (Eastern European Jewish instrumental music). We’re delving into odd-meter tunes from Macedonia, Turkey, Jemen, Morocco and so on. I am also guest-artist professor this year at Colby College where I’m teaching Musical Theater and directing “The Fantasticks”.

How did you come to start this band? I pulled the Casco Bay Tummlers together for my wedding twenty years ago and the rest is history.

Does the band-name have any history or significance? A Tummler is an entertainer who warms up the crowd. It’s a Yiddish word and derives from the old “Borsht Belt” comedians who got the crowd going. Casco Bay is where we live.

Have you been in any other bands not mentioned? I started a Jango-type quartette called Chiarivari. I toured Europe in the 80’s with a free jazz trio called “Impromptu”. I was a vocalist back then and also sang with an insane big band out of Rome call La Grande Orchestra da Ballo di Testaccio.

Of all the people you have played with, who has influenced you most? Carl Dimow, the flautist for the Casco Bay Tummlers. I learned band etiquette from Carl, and some measure of discipline and generally good habits like bringing a pencil to rehearsals. Carl is a sublime musician.
Martin Joseph, jazz /“free-style” pianist from London. We toured together in “Impromptu” and Martin taught me how to really listen, be bold, and to forgo being musically polite. It always impressed me that he warmed up with scales, then Beethoven, then moved on to Schoenberg, then forgot all that and played “free”.

What’s your main bass?  Ed Voigt, made in Mannheim. It’s a beauty.

What type or brand of strings to you like best? Thomastic Spirocore. They pizz as well as bow nicely.

What is the elusive ‘sound’ you look for and how have you gone about achieving it? The acoustic sound. I’m about to buy the Gallen Kruger amp. A lot of bass players I respect use one. I’ve heard great things about the Realist pick up.

Do you put much thought into what you wear onstage? It’s funny how the band always shows up at a gig looking color coordinated, though we don’t discuss it before hand. A friend once described my look onstage as “sexy butch”. I take it as a compliment. I like to add an ethnic touch. The main thing is comfortable shoes and unrestricted movement.

Have you played electric fretless bass? I love fretless because you always have to be listening. I bought a very small electric Ukelele Bass invented by luthier Joel Eckhaus of Earnest Instruments. Its also fretless, but with painted frets and plays in the range of the double bass. The fretlessness gives it a very acoustic, vocal sound. The Kruger amp will sound great with the uke bass too.


  The Casco Bay Tummlers  

What bands/music do you enjoy listening to? John Zorn and David Krakauer and a lot of out-there klezmer derivative stuff. And I always tune in to the Jazz masters: Ray Brown, Milt Hinton, and I adore Edgar Meyer. His album “Uncommon Ritual” is the pinnacle of bassdom. Classical technique meets Jazz meets Folk.

What’s the last CD album that you bought? Madelein Peyroux, a jazz singer I currently love. And I did get an iPod and don’t know how I lived so long without it.

Is there one CD album you can’t live without? “Beyond the Pale” by Brave Old World. Check out the bassist, Stu Brotman.

Who did you listen to as a young teenager? Motown! Just like an iPod, I had my little transistor radio with a single earplug, and bopped my way to school, walking in time to all those great bass riffs. I had to have Soul Music in my ears.

Anything new on the recording front with your band? We’re still working to promote the most recent CD. And building rep for the new one. We like to play new tunes out a lot before we record them, so they fit like old shoes.

What was your best gig/venue ever? The Folk Festival In Vilnius Lithuania, “Skamba, Skamba Kankliai”. A park full of people, dancing and wigging out to the music. We were treated like rock stars there.

What was your worst moment onstage? A drunk guy insisted he should carry my bass because it was “too heavy for a girl” . He kept haranguing me that women weren’t meant to carry such large things, and grabbing my instrument.

Has anything funny or strange happened with a fan or fans? The Tummlers had a day off in Venice and decided to busk for the heck of it. We set up in a corner of a nice piazza . A fat guy in a holey undershirt comes out on his balcony with a super-soaker and a real mean expression. We thought for sure we were in for it. But we started to play and he listened to the music to the end, and threw money down below. He was a very good sport about our ruining his siesta.

Do you play/own any other instruments? A bouzouki, a baglama, both from Greece, handmade; A knock off of a 19th century Panormo parlour guitar, a Gibson mandolin and an old Martin 0019 guitar from my folkie days.

What other instrument would you most like to play? Just the bass from now to the end of my days. It would be handy to have better piano skills however.

What was the best concert you were ever at? I used to catch awesome Jazz concerts when I lived in Europe. I heard bassist Dave Holland with drummer Barry Altshul and trombonist George Lewis which really knocked my socks off.

Do you find singing while playing bass difficult? It’s challenging. A simple, repeating bass riff is easy. But if the voice and bass are going in different directions I need to memorize both lines together. I enjoy accompanying myself on blues, just stand-up bass and voice. I’m working on a set of Jazz standards, just bass and voice. I’d like to perform some of my father’s ballads that way.

Do you write/compose? I’m a decent lyricist. I couldn’t compose a tune if my life depended on it.

If forming your ideal live band, what other instruments would you have with you onstage? Acoustic guitar, percussion (not drums), trumpet.

If you could be taken to a concert anywhere on earth tonight, who would you want to see live? Edgar Meyer.

Do you have a day-job or do you play professionally? I play professionally, but when not touring with my band I’m touring my solo show as a comedienne. That’s my “straight” job.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of music? I like to knit hats for my loved ones. It’s very relaxing. I also serve on some arts boards.

Can you give one piece of worthwhile advice to someone who has just bought their first bass? Plan to touch the bass every day, even if its just 10 minutes . Try to do several short sessions with the bass a day.

Tell us about your comedy show Julie?  I’m up to my fourth solo show. It’s called “Opening Night Carmen”, about the cleaning lady of the Royal Opera, and her version of Bizet’s “Carmen” using mops and brooms in all the starring roles. I also do variety format comedy. As a physical comedian I’ve played in England, France, Poland, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Canada and Italy.

Where would you most like your band to play? The Sacred Music Festival in Fez.

What’s your opinion on basses with more than 4 strings? Why not? Especially for pop music, I think it would be great. I’m spending the rest of my life trying to master 4 strings. They are plenty for me. But I have no negative feelings about others playing 5 or 6 string basses. How low can you go?

What are your ambitions, musically and personally? I’d like to be the bassist that touring musicians call when they play a date or record in Maine.

text and photos copyright of the named photographers, Julie Goell and BassGirls.com ©



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