Making the Low Notes: A Life in Music

Bill Harrison

A bass player navigates his way through the muddy waters of Chicago’s music scene

Bill Harrison chronicles his journey from bumbling music student to successful professional bass player in late twentieth-century Chicago. Told with a mixture of wry humor and hard-won insight, Making the Low Notes gives readers an insider’s peek into the prosaic life of a working musician. Harrison describes periods of camaraderie, disappointment, pain, and joy as he toils in venues as divergent as bowling alleys, jazz clubs, recording studios, hotels, orchestra pits, and concert halls. He shares the stage with jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Clark Terry, Bunky Green, and Max Roach. Along the way, the bassist struggles to reconcile the dissonance between his desire to be heard and his impulse to hide silently in the shadows.

  • Our Price: $18.99 + $3 S&H within continental US
  • ISBN: 978-1-956897-28-9
  • e-book ISBN: 978-1-956897-29-6
  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • 236 pages – 5.5 in. x 8.25 in. matte paperback
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“Full of heart and the craft of a natural storyteller, Bill Harrison's memoir Making the Low Notes is a tender, rhapsodic, funny, evocative love letter to the bass, an instrument which ‘leads from behind’ and that he describes with such memorable resonance we can almost feel the blisters callusing on our floating thumbs . . . By the end, reverberating with notes of social justice, grace, irony, tenacity, family, and psychotherapy, this memoir grows to mean so much more than mere music. A first book worthy of a virtuoso performer.”

Dr. Ravi Shankar, Pushcart Prize–winning author of 15 books including Correctional

Making the Low Notes is a rollicking and heartfelt memoir about a lifelong love affair with music. Harrison writes about the highs and lows of a musician’s life with wit, candor, and verve, capturing the pleasures of performing in the limelight as well as in its lambent periphery.”

Meghan O’Gieblyn, author of Altered States and God, Human, Animal, Machine

“Bill Harrison’s memoir captures the wild life of a professional musician with great flair. I had a blast discovering the lessons Bill learned from Joe Daley, Warren Benfield, and other Chicago musical legends. Bill paints a vivid picture of the highs and lows of the circuitous path of the professional musician. Highly recommended!”

Jason Heath, bassist, teacher, podcaster (Contrabass Conversations) and writer (Double Bass Blog)

“In this vivid and candid tale, Bill Harrison [journeys] through . . . the ‘business’ from the ’60s to the nows, and the phases of life as one matures their way through it all. The tale of a true survivor, this deeply felt memoir transcends jazz bass, as does this next chapter of his own life.”

Steve Rodby, multi Grammy Award–winning bassist, producer, former member of the Pat Metheny Group

“I first met Bill Harrison nearly 50 years ago—when invited to hear the college quartet he writes about in the early chapters . . . But I never really heard him until reading this account of his honest, intimate, often witty and always insightful journey . . . His lively writing contains a wealth of detail about the musicians’ life, the gifted oddballs that line the path, and the pure joy of true collaboration. Title notwithstanding, Harrison hits plenty of high notes along the way.”

Neil Tesser, Grammy-winning author and broadcaster

“Harrison’s memoir will tell you a lot about the bass and being a bassist, but his real themes include the development of a sensibility, the dignity of work, and how to do change. Although Harrison’s knowledge of his instrument and the bassist’s trade is bottomless (and delightful), he fetishizes neither. This is a profound book about life, love, and commitment.”

David Van Biema, former religion writer for Time magazine and coauthor of The Prayer Wheel: A Daily Guide to Renewing Your Faith with a Rediscovered Spiritual Practice

“Bill Harrison is an awesome, creative musician, a master of all styles of improvisation.”

Hankus Netsky, multi-instrumentalist, composer, faculty New England Conservatory

About the Author

Bill Harrison worked as a professional bassist in Chicago for four decades. He performed with jazz luminaries Clark Terry, James Moody, Bunky Green, Max Roach, Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others. His theatrical credits include Wicked, The Lion King, Always Patsy Cline, The Visit, Bounce, Turn of the Century, and Billy Elliot. Bill’s writing has been published in After Hours, Allium, Counseling Today, The Intermezzo, Performink, The Sandpiper, Sledgehammer, Under the Gum Tree, and elsewhere. He has a private psychotherapy practice in Chicago, where he lives with his poet/therapist wife, Nina Corwin, and a naughty Bengal named Jazzy.