Warm and familiar, you know this tune by heart. Yet with twists in tempo, his story marches to its own beat. Meet Craig Akin, a versatile bassist whose 25 years of experience have afforded him the skills to play myriad styles of music with ease. Born into a musical family in the buckle of the Bible Belt and now attuned to the rhythms of the New York skyline, he’s a quick study whose talents have taken him across the globe.
Whether he’s playing his upright or electric bass, on stage or in the studio… jazz, pop, folk or rock, Craig Akin is comfortable and creative, and he consistently delivers the goods. With a degree in music education and formative years spent cutting his teeth in Kansas City’s jazz & blues scene, he currently tours part-time with Americana harmony powerhouse Red Molly and can be found playing and recording with various other notable East Coast artists. Craig Akin has performed over 5,000 shows, contributed to more than 100 albums and recently added a home recording studio to his artistic arsenal. He welcomes collaboration and new music ventures, be they shows, tours or recording.
TUNE IN… Craig Akin’s Music Biography & Background
Warm and familiar, you know this tune by heart. Yet with twists in tempo, his story marches to its own beat. Meet Craig Akin, a versatile bassist whose 25 years of experience have afforded him the skills to play myriad styles of music with ease. Born into a musical family in the buckle of the Bible Belt and now attuned to the rhythms of the New York skyline, he’s a quick study
whose talents have taken him across the globe.
Born in Tulsa, OK in the early 70’s, Craig Akin’s musical path was charted by a family of creatives and wanderlust inspired by the meandering Arkansas River. Next to his mama, he learned to play the piano at age 8 and turned to the trumpet at twelve. While most adolescents at the time were learning to “Walk like an Egyptian,” or glued to INXS (insert 80’s band of choice!) on MTV, Craig began guitar theory and harmony lessons.
Since then, Craig Akin has contributed to more than 70 albums and performed in shows from Tulsa to Taipei, with countless New York gigs and hundreds of national and international concerts and festivals in between. What he brings to the bandstand and studio today is a talent that is versatile, professional, relentless, intuitive yet always prepared. He’s passionate and authentic but also quickly adaptable to any musical situation, always committed to every note. How did he evolve into the in-demand bassist he is today? Tune into this story…
Moved by the music, teenager Craig followed his wanderlust and career dreams to Colorado, where he enrolled in formal music education amid the Rocky Mountains. While there, his grit and guitar prowess naturally flowed into electric bass and a coveted spot in the faculty jazz quintet.
A yearning to learn and play more gigs brought him to the University of Kansas to complete his music education degree and trumpet requirements. Meanwhile, Craig was drawn to the electric bass, followed by a fervor for upright, landing him many local gigs as a first-call bassist. These formative years proved “instrumental” to his musical evolution but only scratched the itch.
Kansas City, with its vibrant music scene, proved to be the perfect incubator for Craig’s maturing music style and professionality. Just a few years past drinking age, he was averaging 270 shows a year and had the honor to play in clubs with nearly everyone on the jazz and blues scene including veterans Tommy Ruskin, Paul Smith, Greg Meise, Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman, Todd Strait, Gary Sivils, Karrin Allyson, Bobby Watson, Gary Foster, Frank, Mantooth
A decade later, Craig was ready for new musical challenges. This time, he was drawn to New York City where he could learn from veteran bassists Jay Anderson, Scott Colley and Larry Grenadier. Under Larry’s guidance, Craig was keyed into further opportunities for growth, including a pivotal career moment: Two years of study with Miles Davis’s famed bassist Ron Carter.
"Ron accepted nothing less than perfection,” Craig said. “With his experience and amazing ears, just being in his presence was inspiring. While I often felt like I was under a microscope, I walked away a better, stronger and recharged musician."
Nowadays, whether he’s playing his upright or electric bass, on stage or in the studio… jazz, pop, folk or rock, Craig is comfortable and creative, and he consistently delivers the goods. Currently, he tours part-time with Americana harmony powerhouse Red Molly and can be found playing or recording with various other East Coast notables including Natalia Zukerman, Vance Gilbert, Ellis Paul, and Abbie Gardner. He has performed in well over 4,000 shows and recently added a home recording studio to his artistic arsenal. Despite his extensive experience, Craig is known for being easy to work with. He approaches each new project with fresh ears and laid back Midwestern personality.
Shows and a short-list of festivals include:
Germany’s Best of Music Festival in Bietigheim
Morocco’s Jazz in Riads Festival
South Korea tour
Taiwan’s Taipei Jazz Festival
Caribbean Cayamo Music Cruise
National festivals include Falcon Ridge, Kate Wolf, John Hartford, Meadowgrass, Burlington Jazz, Virginia Arts, Coleman Hawkins, Providence Folk, Hudson West Folk, Riverview Jazz, Targhee Bluegrass, Spirit Fest KC, and Dam Fest, Rockygrass, New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, Tucson Folk Fest, Cayamo Music Cruise, Pleasantville Music Fest, WoodyFest
"This guy has a huge woody sound -- what I would have given for an unaccompanied bass solo!"
Robert Bush, San Diego Reader
San Diego, CA
"Akin is better than you think. He is sublimely subtle. So subtle that a casual listen will allow you to miss what he is doing."
Travis Rogers, Jr., Writer, A Quest for Wisdom
"Craig's time is so solid, I have relied on him in the studio and live shows for years. His ideas are always inspiring me and the rest of the band through his patience and refreshing playfulness."
Brandon Draper, drummer, composer, producer, educator
Kansas City, MO
"Craig is a bright, open, film-friendly musician, first and foremost, who exudes enthusiasm. He helped turn a highly improbable situation into a success. I walked away that day thinking, “life should be like this all the time”.
Sylvain Despretz, Film maker
“Craig is a true professional, always prepared, always engaged, a stellar musician, and genuinely great guy.”
New York, NY
"I'm very happy to have gigged and recorded with Craig Akin. His sound is fat and warm, and it's a pleasure to play a solo when you have him in the rhythm section. He made my compositions sound great. My next project in New York will have him on bass again, that's for sure."
Martin Schulte, guitarist, composer
"Akin is equally impressive on electric bass or upright. He's got enormous technique, great imagination, and an approach to his instrument that is unusual and fresh."
Rich Hill, Jazz Ambassador Magazine
Kansas City, MO
"Craig is an incredibly musical and accomplished bassist. He has huge ears, beautiful tone, and complements any style of music with intelligent, relevant ideas. He nailed an entire record's worth of my tunes in one session. You won't find any musician more committed to the soul of the music than Craig. And he's a seriously fun guy to hang with."
Rick Bruner, Singer/Songwriter
"Craig is a great bass player. He's easy to work with on gigs or in the studio and plays several styles with ease."
Pete McCann, Guitarist/Composer/Educator
New York, NY
"I'm new to playing bass, so I asked Craig if he would come up with bass parts for the new tunes Red Molly was working up. When I heard what he came up with, I was amazed by the parts; they sounded SO good! Not too simple, not too complex, really interesting, and just perfect for the song. I wasn't sure I could learn them, but Craig wrote out bass tablature for me and somehow made it easier than I could have imagined. Now I'm actually playing the parts he wrote, which is thrilling. He's like our behind-the-scenes secret weapon! I can't overstate how talented Craig is and how fun he is to work with. His love of music (and especially his love of the bass) is completely contagious."
Laurie MacAllister, Red Molly
Jersey City, NJ
"A fantastic player. Akin's playing is the convergence of proficiency, sensibility and vibe."
Anthony Rizzo, GuitaristNew York, NY
"Swinging, rocking when appropriate, creative, collaborative when asked, intuitive, utterly perfect intonation, creator of a comfortable atmosphere even when the artist he’s playing for is scratching head, and interested in making art. That last line is important, for I want to be clear that while perfectly set to “lay it down” as simply as needed, he was willing to hear and try stuff that was hitherto just inside my head. Craig made our session memorable perfection. More cowbell my ass - More Craig!!"
Vance Gilbert, solo artist
“My last record relied on Craig’s ability to groove and drive a song, create melodic hooks and arrangements outside the normal bass routine, and to solo and improvise. His playing made the architecture of the song spring to life for all the players that were added after him, I can think of no better player on ANY instrument to have on a project”
Ellis Paul, solo artist
"When Craig comes into the studio I already know the bottom of this mix is going to kill. His feeling and musicianship is unmatched in my book."
Jon Castelli, The Hit Lab
"Craig is an inspiration -- both on stage and in the classroom. The things that make his playing so great -- the organic, soulful funkiness, the depth and intelligence -- are the same things that make him a great teacher."
Aaron Sizemore, Program Director, Music House School of Music
Overland Park, KS
"TONE!...few of us think about our sound as much as Craig does. He can play in any style, in any key, read charts or improvise. Whether it's on stand up or electric bass, Craig is a total pro, a great musician and a great guy."
Nathan Bliss, Barnaby Bright
"Craig offers the sensitivity and responsiveness that we all seek. He finds the balance between suggesting new direction and nurturing the space for creating music spontaneously. And the result - playing with him feels like the process of burgeoning musicality that we all live for."
Caroline Davis, Saxophone, Composition
"In addition to his expertly honed chops, Craig brings an innovative creativity and soulful musicality that raises the bar for everyone else."
Aimee Allen, Vocalist
New York, NY
"Craig is a real natural. He learns material at light speed and immediately sends it through the 'Craig filter' and makes it all better. He's the perfect balance of technique, artistry and attitude."
Beau Bledsoe, Alaturka, Tango Lorca, Bach Aria Soloists
Kansas City, MO
"Craig Akin is one of the most versatile bassist I've worked with. He is equally skilled with acoustic or electric bass and can play any style. Regardless of the setting, Craig always plays with commitment and creativity."
Kerry Strayer, Artistic Director/Conductor, Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Kansas City