The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Life of the Jazzman

Adjunct professor, Gerry Pineda, is the definition of a rambling musician, he teaches music classes at colleges, has private lessons for those learning bass, plays in a live kareoke band, and at 57 stills plays gig in and around the sacramento area. Tony Wallin | [email protected]

The bar is dark and you can hear the clink of glasses and laughter. But only just. There is a jazz combo on stage and they are swinging through a Duke Ellington tune. The horn player is softly blowing and the smoky sound transports the listeners back in time.

The bass player is wrapped around his instrument like it was a woman. His left hand is caressing her neck and his right is wrapped around her waist. His head is bowed and his eyes are closed as he reaches out with his senses to feel the song and the
mood of the other players.

Every note is perfect; every bar pushes the listener further into the mist.

Bassist Gerry Pineda has been playing music since he was 9 and at the age of 57 is regarded by his peers as one of the best
musicians in town. He has given private lessons for over 20 years, and since 2009 has taught at City College. In that time he has introduced hundreds of students to the transcendent joys of playing music.

Pineda, who plays in at least eight bands, is a slim, dark fellow with long quiet fingers and a wicked sense of humor. He can be found most nights holding down the bottom end in clubs all over town. You can often spy him telling jokes to the drummer between songs. There may not be a happier guy around.

Born in the Philippines as the son of an aerospace engineer, Pineda’s family moved to the U.S. in the late ’50s. Their arrival coincided with the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll and the youth culture movement in America.

“What really got me into music seriously was Elvis,” says Pineda. “Listening to Elvis on the radio, you knew you wanted to sound like that.”

Throughout the ’60s his family moved every year as his dad followed military contract work. Music turned out to be something he could count on wherever he was.

“My brother Greg and I decided we wanted to play guitar, right around 9 or 10,” Pineda says. “Greg was a great guitar player and great older brother. We got guitars and just started playing.”

“We got this big idea that we were going to be in a band,” Pineda says. “My brother looked at me and said, ‘You’re playing bass.’”

He laughs. “It was like a demotion, but he was my older brother. He could beat me up.”
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Pineda says he started out with an old Teisco Del Rey guitar, with the B and E strings taken off, tuned down a step.

When he was 18, Pineda heard a Stanley Turrentine record with Ron Carter on the bass and decided he wanted to learn how to play like that. He found an old Kay upright bass in a pawnshop in Inglewood and dove into jazz.

After graduating from high school he went on to study music at Loyola Marymount University for two years before moving to Sacramento and continuing his studies at American River College and Sacramento State University. It took him a while but in 2009, Pineda graduated from CSUS with a master’s degree in music performance.

“I avoided going back to school for years because I thought it would be hard,” says Pineda. “But it was the most fun. I’m really glad I did it.”

That same year, City College music professor Kurt Shiflet recommended Pineda to fill the slot created when instructor Gabe Nelson left the music department to tour with the band Cake.

“Gerry is just an awesome bass player,” says Shiflet. ‘He is perfect for the job. We have a faculty group. Gerry wrote a couple of songs for it. One of them is very hard. So I will have to practice. I’ve known him since we went to [American River College] together. We even played in a band together.”

Pineda teaches Popular Electric Bass Styles, which is a lab and a lecture and is part of the Popular Music Ensemble class.

Eric Vasquez, 20, is one of Pineda’s former students. He enjoyed Pineda’s class so much he has taken it twice.

“He is cool, chill, mellow,” says Vasquez. “He makes funny jokes once in a while.”

Pulling out his bass to show what he has learned, Vasquez begins thumping out a riff with his thumb and plucking the high notes with his fingers. He’s got it down. Vasquez peers out from his hoodie, looking out of the corner of his eye with a grin.

“He taught me how to play that,” he says.

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