September 2002

Starry Night

Mary's Surprise Dave is one lucky man. For his 50th birthday, his wife Mary cooked up a big surprise: a custom bass inspired by one of his favorite bassits. He always loved the look and sound of Phil Lesh's Alembic basses, and it was one of his wishes to have something like that for himself. It's not a small responsibility picking out the features for such an important present, but Mary did her research and then consulted with Susan here at Alembic and the happy result is this month's Featured Custom. Who knew what was in that great big box? We're told Dave had a priceless expression when he opened it, and once the initial shock wore off, and he played the instrument he wasn't seen the rest of the day.
Some of the specifications for this bass Mary knew before she called us: the Omega body shape and the star inlays in the body were both given. She had also decided to do some sort of custom inlay. Susan advised Mary that the bass should be made from Coco Bolo, the sonically most versatile wood for Alembics (and one of the prettiest too!).
For the electronics, the decision was easy: 20th Anniversary. These offer the same control layout as the Series I bass, and while they don't sound exactly like a Series I (nothing but the Series II does), they get closer than any other electronics we offer.
Moon inlay

Jon inlaid the moon on this bass in white Mother of Pearl. It visually balances the body inlay without going overboard. The figuring in this particular piece suggests the craters and "seas" of the moon.

Double stars inlay

The double star inlays at the twelfth fret are also done in white Mother of Pearl. These echo the Abalone stars around the filter controls on the body.

Abalone oval inlay

The Abalone inlays on this bass are just wild! Each one is cut and inlaid by hand. The swirling figure of the shell goes very well with the swirling figure of the Coco Bolo. We are also really fond of this combination of Abalone ovals with Mother of Pearl custom inlays. They compliment the light and dark alternating grain of Coco Bolo.


When Mary ordered this bass for Dave, Susan pulled the files from the basses we made for Phil Lesh so they could review the features of those basses and design something unique for this project. One of the early basses we made for Phil had stars inlaid on the body and the knobs clustered around them. Since this bass was not going to have the number of controls that Phil's bass had, we adapted the stars to radiate from the filter controls.
When the bass was in final assembly, we decided to add the Abalone caps to our standard knobs.

omega cut

Kris does a mighty fine job of not only selecting the wood, but also positioning it well when the opportunity arises. In this view of the Omega cutout, you can see how the grain of the Coco Bolo reinforces the shape of the carving. Combined with the neat swirls eminating from the bridge, as if the tree knew it was growing for this unique bass. This instrument also demonstrates a particular resonant quality. Normally Coco Bolo offers its complex dark and bright tone, and this wood is especially responsive.

peghead front peghead back
We take great care in even the smallest details of our basses. When choosing the veneers for Dave's bass, Chip selected pieces that coordinated with the grain and the shade of the front and back laminates.

knobs view Omega view 2 upview wood detail
Knobs Omega Bass view Wood detail

Front Back


  • 4-string Mark King Deluxe bass
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Coco Bolo top and back
  • High gloss polyester finish
  • Laminated Abalone inlays
  • 5-piece Maple and Purpleheart neck
  • Custom Moon and Stars fingerboard inlays
  • Custom Stars body inlay
  • 20th Anniversary electronics
  • Custom Abalone capped knobs

Price available on request.

featured custom

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