Jimmy Blanton vs Oscar Pettiford

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by afroblue, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. afroblue


    Oct 25, 2012
    Both these bassists were around at the same time - Blanton appears to have had the bigger influence due to his stint with Ellington, the bass duets etc.. I was just wondering what people thought separated them? Pettiford for me, is more melodic -Blanton hits more roots in some of his solos, and they seem more scalar-based. I'm wondering about their harmonic language too, Blanton is always described as being very advanced, using lots of subsitutions. Apart from tritone subs, what else did he use (and for that matter Pettiford)?
  2. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Well, I think Blanton died before Pettiford was ever recorded, so I believe that instead of being viewed as contemporaries, Pettiford was seen as something of a successor to Blanton.
  3. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
  4. Ron B

    Ron B

    Mar 26, 2006
    Jimmy Blanton died at age 23 in 1942, so he did not have a long career, Oscar Pettiford also died young at 37, but 18yrs later
    in 1960.
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  6. Pettiford was a cello player, so likely approached the bass from a different perspective, given that cellists are more used to playing harmonies and counterpoints.
  7. Bassist30


    Mar 19, 2004
    23 is young. Wonder what advances he would had made if he lived longer. Something I think about with Scott Lafaro.
  8. Actually Pettiford was a bass player who picked up cello after breaking his arm playing softball sometime in the early 50's. He played it tuned in fourths and mainly pizz...
  9. afroblue


    Oct 25, 2012
    That may be the case, but apparently Pettiford was approached by Ellington before Blanton, but was underage and therefore couldn't play in many of the places that they performed in. The two of them also hooked up and jammed together at some point so they were around at the same time, it was just that Pettiford wasn't recorded until later.

    I was wondering if people could spot differences in their playing... the two of them were the most advanced bassists of their time.
  10. It's a great question. They had very different sounds to my ears. Pettiford was more sophisticated, I think, but Blanton was visceral and exciting. I wish we had so much more of Blanton recorded. Imagine the trios he might have played in.
  11. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    True, I was just trying to speak to the level of influence on other bassists. As Blanton's recorded output preceded Pettiford's, I think he was seen as the innovator by the bass playing community of the time (except maybe in Minneapolis). Pettiford's first recordings with Coleman Hawkins and others, coming right on the heels of Blanton's death, made him appear to be the successor to Blanton's role.
    I feel like, even in his earliest recordings, Pettiford shows a more developed rhythmic sense with more use of space and interesting phrasing. Of course, it could be that in the year or two between Blanton's last recordings and Pettiford's first, Blanton may have developed along similar lines. There were a whole lot of changes going on in jazz right in that period.
  12. afroblue


    Oct 25, 2012
    I hear it described when both Blanton and Pettiford walk, that their concepts were advanced (for the time), but is that really the case? When they are soloing or playing melody sure, but Blanton's walking seems to me to be pretty much arpeggio or scale notes, quite diatonic, with the odd chromatic passing note. Pettiford the same.

    Even Blanton's soloing, for example on "blues" he starts lots of phrases with the root (not that important - I mean u can tell where simple blues harmony goes). I just hear a lot of people referring to his advanced harmonic language and I don't really hear it as such...
  13. One of Oscar's brothers Ira was a trumpet player who worked w Benny Carter's big band in the mid 40's. The story is that before Oscar made the move to NY Ira would teach Oscar melodic phrase's by playing something on the trumpet and then have Oscar play it back on the bass. Talk about ear training.....
  14. I agree. I remember being quite surprised when first transcribing both of their walking bass lines. Measure after measure I would write out almost identical arpeggios, chorus after chorus, only occasionally inverting them or stringing them together with a few passing notes. Pettiford stepped outside a little more than Blanton but not wildly so. As a student I could only surmise that they knew exactly where to put the notes, simple and obvious as they were, to the greatest possible effect. One tune I remember to be a masterclass in the use of simple arpeggiation was "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" by Pettiford on the album Monk Plays Ellington. Simple brilliance.
  15. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Yes, I think even Professor Einstein would have agreed with that statement.
  16. jmacdbass

    jmacdbass jmacdbass.com, openmusiccollective.org

    I love OP, but no way could he have played the duets with Duke like Blanton, that stuff holds up and is still modern sounding, and not so diatonic, but even look at a tune like "Jack the Bear" and Blanton is playing the tritone for four beats at a time...there is tons of chromatic stuff going on all over the place

    just had to chime in, Blanton is the top of the pyramid for me
  17. Really? I guess I haven't looked at those transcriptions for about twenty years. I'll check that out. I'm with you though, Blanton is my all time favorite.
  18. Relatively speaking...
  19. afroblue


    Oct 25, 2012
    "Blanton is playing the tritone for four beats at a time"

    Can you tell me where this occurs? and anywhere else he is playing tritone subs?
  20. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    The duets are incredible, historic.....remember Ray Brown and Duke put out the tribute album to Jimmy in the '70's. But I think the real power of Jimmy's playing is evident in his playing with the whole big band. Seek out those recordings.
  21. jmacdbass

    jmacdbass jmacdbass.com, openmusiccollective.org

    right around the minute mark, the bridge, it happens every other bar

    it might have been "intentional" but it is clear the tritone in the lower part of the chord

    and really...can't compare the ray brown "tribute" to the real thing, all my love to ray and OP, but, naw...