Frederick’s own Scott Ambush has toured the world as the bassist of the longtime jazz fusion band, Spyro Gyra. But Ambush will be performing at Vini Culture on Saturday and Vini Culture is far from the international stages where Ambush dazzles audiences with his syncopated bass rhythms inspired by Larry Graham. The Graham Central Station bandleader pioneered the slapping technique Ambush uses to this day.
“I told him, ‘Without you, there’d be no me,’” Ambush remembered saying to Graham after they both performed individually at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. “He came off stage, I swear he was going to need oxygen. I think I would have, too, because he never stopped moving.”
Ambush is a man who remembers his roots, but some can find it odd that Ambush, who still lives in Frederick, performs at small local venues. Ambush doesn’t feel that way.
“I don’t think of them as two different worlds,” Ambush said of the up and coming Frederick jazz scene and the more prominent nationwide jazz scene in New York and other major cities. “It’s all music. Every musician is at some rung on the ladder, either career-wise or their musical development, but we’re on the same ladder.”
Ambush described that ladder as the never-ending journey of a musician to improve oneself.
“If we’re on the same ladder,” he noted, “it’s a ladder that doesn’t have a top.”
Ambush can pop up in some unexpected places, like the plethora of Thursday night jam sessions in Middletown, Hagerstown and Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
“You have to make the rounds,” Ambush said of all the Thursday night sessions. “It’s encouraging. I think there’s as much music downtown now, and in Frederick County in general, in some time.
“One thing that helps,” he continued, “is for whatever reason, people have gotten more accustomed to paying at least a small cover charge for a change, which helps to underwrite live music. There was a long time when no one charged a cover charge, and charging a cover charge would put people off.”
Ambush also believes that Frederick getting a mid-size venue is the logical next step to a more vibrant music scene.
“A 300- to 500-seat venue would be great here,” he explained. “That would allow enough sales for regional and less expensive national acts to play in an atmosphere where food and drink was served. If I had the money, I would do it.”
There are some challenges that may get in the way — Ambush cited that a smaller venue means there’s less at stake compared with a mid-size venue.
Whether Ambush gets his wish or not, he has no plans to leave his home or change who he is.
“I’m constantly in touch with my instrument and the music,” Ambush said. “I feel so fortunate that I can make a living and have a career. It’s the kind of thing you can do until you die.”