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Chicago musicians organize benefit concert for John Bany’s broken bass


When: 6 to 11:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Chambers Seafood Grill & Chop House, 6881 N. Milwaukee

Tickets: No cover, but donations accepted

Info: (847) 647-8282;

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Updated: February 6, 2013 8:42PM

You can lean on a stand-up bass.

You can count on John Bany.

Bany’s timeless bass playing is as much a part of Chicago as expired parking meters. Bany has recorded with Bud Freeman, Joe Venuti and folk-jazz singer Bonnie Koloc. He played on the 1986 Grammy-winning album “A Tribute to Steve Goodman” and has appeared at 10 Chicago Jazz Festivals. Bany is a member of the popular Swing Gitan, a gypsy-jazz band which plays every Wednesday at the Green Mill.

Last month his beloved bass fell and shattered.

And now Chicago musicans will jam between 6 and 11:30 p.m. Thursday in a “Bass Benefit” at Chambers Seafood Grill & Chop House to help the bassist get his groove back. Scheduled to play are the impeccable chops of Frank D’Rone, Larry Novak, drummer Paul Wertico, guitarist Alfonso Ponticelli, Arthur Hoyle and many others. A second benefit with Swing Gitan and special guests is slated for 8 p.m. Feb. 19 at Katerina’s , 1920 W. Irving Park.

“The music community is like this,” Bany, 71, said Tuesday from his home in Skokie. “These guys coming out are the best in the world.”

And his peers are happy to help.

“John is such a giving guy,” Ponticelli said. “He’ll teach lessons and not take money sometimes. He’s always willing to help others, maybe it is time to help him.”

It was during a regular weekly jam session at Chambers when tragedy struck.

“I don’t want to use the guy’s name because he felt so bad,” Bany said. “The guy was coming away from the bass. I put my left hand on the bass to hold it for a minute. The other guy’s hand went right on the bass and I thought he took it for a minute. So I let go of the bass.”

The belly of the bass cracked into several pieces.

“It sounded warm and smooth. It was the most wonderful bass in 55 years of playing professionally. This was the bass I finally found.”

Ponticelli, 47, plays guitar, violin and dulcimer. He explained, “You can try out a bunch of instruments but sometimes they just come to you. I’ve had to go to 20 places in France to find different instruments. It’s like a mate, you find a match. You know how it is going to respond when you go for that one thousandth lick; you know it is going to be there.”

Bany, 71, is the fifth in a family line of bassists and tuba players. He loves to play with a bow, although he never thought he was good at bowing.

“When I got this bass, that turned around,” he said. “The sound is just richer and deeper. Bass players like Richie Pardo who have heard me for 30 years told me what a great sound I was getting. And now I’m bowing on every solo I take. I used to be afraid of that. Bowing is very exposing. If your fingers go one way or the other, the pitch is off. It’s much easier to do pizzicato [picking].”

Bany may get his beloved bass repaired — someday.

“There’s $5,800 worth of damage on a $4,000 bass,” he reasoned. “And there’s no guarantee it would sound the same. I don’t know.”

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