It’s hard to overstate Donny Tesso’s love for his 1975 Fender Jazz Bass guitar, a classic instrument which until this week seemed to be lost forever.
When the 50-year-old Albuquerque performer, instructor and studio musician was just a teenager he had been eyeing the instrument at a guitar shop in Arizona. He told his father about the instrument.
And then one day his father told him to look under his bed, where his new bass was waiting for him. He remembers that moment—opening the case, the smell of its plush lining— to this day.
“It was intoxicating,” he said. “It was a thing of beauty. Musicians are kind of crazy with their instruments. They become a part of you.”
The guitar traveled with him throughout the continent, taking on a butterscotch color Tesso attributes to years of playing gigs filled with cigarette smoke.
Tesso has an obvious personal connection to the instrument but he said this Fender model is sought after by other bass players as well for its unique tone and feel. It joined a collection of bass guitars, Tesso’s professional toolkit, which he kept in his house.
And then in March 2001 — in broad daylight, Tesso notes — someone broke into his home through his back door and stole the Fender and four other guitars. The thieves didn’t even put them in their cases before stealing them.
“I was pretty much devastated,” Tesso said.
He had given up on ever seeing the instrument again, but he kept a note with the serial numbers of his instruments just in case.
That note came in handy when Tesso was browsing the online classifieds website craigslist Tuesday morning and spotted his old bass guitar for sale.
“I just about choked on my coffee,” he said.
Tesso, who’s played over the years with many of the all-stars of New Mexico music, said he was able to match a serial number pictured on the guitar in the ad. The guitar even had a bridge modification Tesso had set into the wood of the guitar decades ago. The bridge was made by a company called “Badass,” which is inscribed on the bridge. The posting, which was listed in Santa Fe, has since been deleted from the site.
Tesso called the Santa Fe Police.
Sgt. Andrea Dobybns said Officer Jeff Worth contacted the guitar’s seller and arranged a meet-up in the parking lot at Sam’s Club. The officer matched the guitar to the information provided by Tesso, informed the seller that the bass was stolen and took it into custody.
Dobyns said police in Albuquerque, who took the initial report, will pick up the investigation from here. Both she and Tesso don’t think it’s likely that the seller, who had the guitar this week, was the person who snatched it from Tesso’s home some 11 years ago.
Tesso said he filed a claim on the bass with his insurance company, which now has a claim on the instrument. It’ll take some time, he thinks, for the guitar to make its way to its rightful owner, but he’s excited.
For a 37-year-old instrument which was unceremoniously stolen without its case, it’s still in good condition, save for a couple nicks and scrapes. The musician said he feels blessed.
“I really feel it’s a sign from above,” Tesso said.