Tag Archives: Tom Wakeling

November 27th: The Linchpin

27 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Tom Wakeling

Instrument: bass

Student of Tomas Svoboda, Gordon Solie, Fred Sautter, Norman Leyden

B.S. in Music Education -1976

Putting Music Forward

The role of the bass in a jazz group is to serve as the grounding force that holds the band together.  The horn players get to rest, the pianist may lay out, even the drums might take a break, but the bass forges on.  A good bass player outlines the harmony, maintains the pulse, and the best of them lift the band off the ground.  It takes a certain type of persona to occupy this role: a hard worker,  soneone with stamina, a willingness to reside in the background, and calmly steer the ship.

It takes a linchpin.


Putting Skills to Work

In Tom Wakeling’s  last year of high school they needed a bass player in the school stage band.  He played his first professional gigs at age 16 and “got serious” about being a working musician in his early twenties.  In 1976 he  graduated from Portland State with a B.A in Music.   In the 46 years since then, Tom  has put his bass to work in concert halls, jazz nightclubs, recording studios, and at music festivals around the world.

He has performed with a who’s who of jazz artists ranging from Arturo Sandoval, Lee Konitz, Mel Torme, James Moody, Herb Ellis, Mose Allison, and Charlie Rouse, to Houston Person, Ernie Watts, Charles McPherson.  He has toured with Grammy nominated pianist Lynn Arriale,  performed as jazz festivals across North America and Europe, and  been featured nationwide on CBC Radio’s “Jazzbeat” and on NPR.

Tom  has also worked in the “show biz” end of the music business, playing in the orchestras of national touring shows like “Cats”,  “A Chorus Line”, the Joffrey Ballet, “Grease”, and “Damn Yankees” (with Jerry Lewis). and performing with artists like Della Reese, Red Skelton, Rich Little, Mickey Rooney, the Fifth Dimension, and many others

But perhaps even more significant than Tom’s national accolades has been his role as linchpin in the Portland music community.  In addition to being the bassist of choice for scores of local jazz artists over the years, he has developed long-term musical relationships that have yielded decades of inspiring creative music in Portland and the pacific northwest.  Tom has played with pianist Steve Christofferson for over 30 years.  Their partnership yielded the trio CD, “Harmonic Tremors” (with drummer William Thomas) and two CDs of Steve’s original music, “To the Last Holdouts” and “Skol Brothers”. Their quartet still performs monthly at Portland’s Camelia Lounge/Tea Zone.

For many years Tom  performed and toured with legendary jazz vocalist Nancy King, on whose album “Perennial” he appears.  He has worked for much of the past decade with Portland drummer Alan Jones, both as a member of the Alan Jones Sextet and in The Bridge Quartet, a cooperative group that also includes pianist Darrell Grant and saxophonist Phil Dwyer.  Tom’s recordings include Day” and “Night,” with the Bridge Quartet,”Climbing” with the Alan Jones Sextet, and his own quartet recording with noted Canadian trumpeter-pianist Brad Turner entitled, “Live at the Cotton Club.”

An experienced and dynamic educator, Tom has served as a guest artist at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Stanford University Jazz Workshop, University of Kansas, University of Nevada, Washburn University, University of British Columbia, Centrum/Pt. Townsend Jazz Workshop, New West Jazz Camp, Douglas College Summer Jazz Intensive, and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival among others.

For the past 30 years, Tom has been on the faculty of Clackamas Community College in Portland. The past 12 of them as Tom as Chair of the Music Department.  He also directs the CCC Jazz Ensembles, oversees the Music Technology programs and runs the annual Instrumental Jazz Festival.

Nearing his retirement from CCC, Tom is as musically active as ever.  He continues to hold down the bass chair with Steve Christofferson, the Bridge Quartet and perform with many other groups.  Two recordings, the first with Canadian greats Phil Dwyer, Kelby MacNayr, Miles Black, and Dan Lapp, and the second with Alan Jones and Francois Theberge, are set for release in 2013.

The linchpin shows no signs of slowing down.


Adding Something Unique

As CCC department chair, Tom represented his department in the planning, design, and construction of the first ever performing arts building at the college.  Over a four-year period, he spent thousands of hours doing research and working closely with architects, contractors, consultants, administrators, and donors in order to ensure the success of the project for music faculty and students. The resulting facility, CCC Niemeyer Center for the Arts, received unqualified positive reviews for its functionality, versatility, beauty, and thoughtful design.

Through the process Tom gained a thorough knowledge of how the planning, design, and construction process works and decided to pass that knowledge on through a book. “Music and Arts Facilities: A Teacher’s Guide to Funding, Design, and Construction” is intended to serve as a primer for potential users of arts-related and other institutional facilities projects.  Tom’s mission in writing it is “to help fellow facilities users achieve successful outcomes in the planning, design, construction, and/or renovation of their new or existing facilities.”


What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“I’m grateful to PSU for providing me a solid education that complemented and reinforced the experience I was receiving at the same time in the real world of music and music education.”