Electric bass vs. guitar in jazz...irony ?
Some discussions lately here and elsewhere about reluctant acceptance or rejection of electric bass in some genres that tend to be purist about acoustic instruments got me thinking.
While electric bass has largely met resistance or outright rejection in Jazz circles, what about electric guitar ? It seems to have been readily accepted from the beginning. Charlie Christian , Herb Ellis, Joe Pass for example,playing right along where an electric bass would have been rejected.
How to account for this seeming inconsistency ? Thoughts ?
I never understood it either.
I was in a jazz group in 1970's..all of our gigs fell through, so I quit.
Loved the guys..still do.. Enjoyed the musical challenges..but I was doing it to play out...$$..not for self entertainment. ..I digress.
Anyhow.. there were some purists.. in our circle of friends..who did not play any instruments.bu twerefull of OPINIONS. At that time, I owned and played String Basses.
as well as electric
In this group, KEYS were electric, Guitar was electric..drums are always loud.
Sometimes I used string bass unamplified..sometimes I used electric.
The NERVE OF THIS ONE PURIST GUY.. LECTURED me on how non-serious any electric bass was in jazz..MORE OR LESS INFORMING ME I WAS COMITTING A BLASPHEMY...
Later We recorded. I opted to record with my electric and tweaked my EQ on my A C C 370 head to best emulate a 'jazz' tone. EVERYONE Loved the recording..all 1-takes. no overdubs or do-overs....
Later same PURIST guy complimented my decison to use and record with my string Bass....HE WAS STUNNED when I revealed I used electric to record...proving his golden ears were flawed.. he cursed and ..pitched a fit..never saw him again..GOOD RIDDANCE..IT WAS ALL JUST STRING BASS PREDJUDICE.
USE WHAT YOU FEEL IS BEST UNLESS SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING YOU TO USE A STRING BASS..LET THEM PAY FOR THE BASS, PICK UP SYSTEM ETC...OR SHUT UP...
This is going to raise some eyebrows but I feel playing an upright is like driving a model T car. The electric bass has better intonation and you can hear it. Give me a Ferrari. In reality they are two different instruments and both have their place.
I think we all know well the prejudice against electric bass, I'm going more for why was the same prejudice not shown to the electric guitar, or at least, not nearly the same amount of prejudice ?
Again.I still do not understand..I doubt I brought up that side as I was too busy being lectured to and condemned otherwise..I gave him his space, right to opinion..I listened..wanting to learn..THEN..LATER... DID I EVER ENJOY HIS HUMILITY..well actually..he pitched a fit..as he just could not accept electric bass as a valid jazz instrument..This was pre Jaco days when electric bass was just so wrong..ask Ron Carter and them...LOL...
Band members never questioned nor challenged me nor validity of my choice of instrument..of course they all played instruments.. MR Purist Opinion ..did not.
I got my skin burnt, then thickened from non-purist posting on the DB side of TB as well as ultralight..'Gb' and similar speaker cabinet threads....
I won't start an argument, but as long as I have an opinion to contribute......
Sometimes, I feel it is in best interest of TB, our newbies and younger folk..not to get into mega-thread debates..so I will back off in favor of the whole of TB. Also, now my skin is so thick..can't hurt me anyhow..
DB requires a different technique and I think those that have walked that road are rather proud of their efforts and that colors the choice of EB or DB. They are different instruments with different pros and cons. But a good musician can make either one work.
I think the real reason that electric guitar was accepted is the general tone of the electric guitar (and I'm thinking of Charlie Christian, Joe Ellis) is closer to acoustic guitar than electric bass is to DB. Just a thought.
I don't mean to highjack OP's thread but...
in my circumstance, guitar was acoustic Gibson Custom L-5 ......with DeArmond PUP...through a small amp. Thus electrified..thus electric.....
[ DB threads don't acknowledge their basses are electrified..even though a piezo, mic or pickup and into an amp makes them electric IN MY OPINION..We won't fight that AGAIN here..sighs.. your opinion is welcomed..]
Keys was Fender Rhodes..PURE ELECTRIC.
So I believe anyone seeing us would agree that as all instruments were amplified..thus ELECTRIC except drums.
I rest with the opinion it is pure predjudice against electrics.
I have been trained on..have owned and sold (2)String basses..
LOVE THEM...Agreed that they are vastly different.. but don't tell me electric bass isn't a valid jazz instrument.
Bass is bass.
As long as it's there, no one cares one way or the other how it got there.
I'm one of Jaco's disciples on this topic and I'm going to say that the DB is outdated and that the EB will eventualy take over. All natural selection, boys and girls...
I feel that an EB has a more focused tone, with less string/finger noise and no more wooden 'clunk' that I so detest in so many jazz recordings. The best jazz DB tones, were amplified ones IMHO.
Bottom line: For jazz, I take my P/flats over a DB anytime of the year.
To the OP: The guitar was 'electrified' YEARS before the bass. It was already used in big bands in such, before the '51 P was even designed. It is because of that, that the electric guitar is more 'traditional' in jazz settings.
>>I'm one of Jaco's disciples on this topic
Me too. "too much work, too little sound" We've nailed the bass issue guys, but back to the question, Why didn't electric guitar get the same snub in jazz ?
I like Jazz but I'm not an authority and I have no idea what the modern trends are but as far as guitars go do most guys still use hollow bodies? Are solid bodies perfectly acceptable in most circles or is their some prejudice there as well?
Bass Chuck has a plausible theory...that's more in the direction of what I'm asking.
I wasn't around back then, so this could be conjecture on my part, but keep in mind the visual aspect - the guitars that jazz guys were playing back then were large hollowbodies that may have looked close enough to their acoustic brethren to have not overly offended anyone. Whereas with the bass, you're talking about going from a very large instrument that's very prominent to something that looks like...an electric guitar, just slightly larger. I'm guessing that if Charlie Christian had pulled out a Gibson Flying-V at a gig, it might not have gone over quite as well.
In my experience, there is seldom much rationality or order to the way that these kinds of things develop. More often than not, they're driven by preconceived notions, prejudice, and outdated traditions & conventions. Not unlike politics. :rolleyes:
I expressed no intent to hold out for consistency, but methinks your observation on how these things develop probably nails it. :D
Maybe early electric guitar players didn't get any static because the guys in the band were afraid they'd go back to banjo. :D
Early electric guitars were acoustic guitars with pickups. They were made from guitars.
The electric bass aka bass guitar was a new instrument entirely. It wasn't made from an UB, and the player even strapped it on. It was more like a big weird guitar than an UB. They even had frets, like guitars.
You didn't have to know how to play a UB (real bass) to play a bass guitar, any failed guitarist can do that (as we all know). :D
So the BG lacked the look, the heritage, and the required practice to become proficient.
The early bass amps weren't too sporty either.
First, the jazz groups that tend to be "purists about acoustic sound" don't really use guitar, right?
Anyway, guitar. That wasn't the first instrument, like Red sed, it was banjo. And tuba or sousaphone or bass saxophone for the bottom end. Because most of the music was outside, in parades or, if inside, in "boisterous" circumstance. It wasn't until the race laws in Louisiana changed so that any African ancestry meant that you were "all black" and many mixed race musicians lost their "polite society" jobs and threw a lot of conservatory trained string musicians into what had primarily been brass bands, that the music got quieter and moved inside. Inez Wyrick recently posted an article from a 1926 NYC entertainment paper that makes note of bandleaders around the city changing from tuba to double bass. (And all of them talk about the change in SOUND, not in LOOKS. I'm just sayin'.)
And like the Basie band, most guitarists at that time played acoustically and almost without exception WERE JUST RHYTHM INSTRUMENTS. No single line stuff. Even in Europe, when you look at the Hot Club stuff, which was all un amplified, it's mostly strings. No drums, no piano, just violins, guitar, bass, maybe accordion.
It's not until you get to guitarists moving out of the rhythm section and into the front line (Biddy Fleet, Charlie Christian, etc.) playing single line solos like a horn player, that they become amplified. And that electric guitar becomes associated with a jazz musician who plays single line solos.
So for bass guitar in jazz, it may be more like that great line from Barney Kessel who, after playing a gig with a bass guitarist who was playing in the "Jaco" vein and was asked by said bassist "what do you think of my playing.", Kessel replied "You sound great, we should find a bass player and get some gigs..."
I enjoy listening to db and Paul Chambers for me is one who inspires me.
But as an EB I don't try to replicate a DB sound and whilst I have an interest in Jazz I no longer pursue it as a player because it is for the puritans a DB world
I play music as an interest and not for a living so I seek out people who want, need and enjoy an EB.
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