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Am I picky, jealous, or just stubborn?

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by stormwriter, Apr 17, 2005.

  1. stormwriter


    Mar 25, 2005
    I've been playing acoustic bass half my life. I started out listening to the usual suspects: Ray Brown and Paul Chambers. My sound, approach, walking, and solos were most a combination of those two. I had a desire to go "out" a little bit, so that's when i got more into Lafaro, Peacock, and NHOP. The latter of which i have most of his stuff. It's not cause I want to sound like him. I think i just like try and collect as much as possible of a certain artist. Also, i do approach the bass like he does: i don't "throw darts" in the upper registers, i try and play bebop lines over standards, go "out" a little bit, longer phrases, with precise intonation and hardly any vibrato.
    More to the point of my post, and this is about SOLOING, NOT WALKING/ACCOMPANYING is that i have such a hard time finding bass players that are how i like to play, or want to study and transcribe. If i do find something cool, like Marc Johnson's playing on Stan Getz, "Pure Getz", then i get frustrated cause he doesn't play standards on very many recordings. Kind of like Dave Holland too.
    Even with cats that have been recommended to me, like Neil Swainson - you can barely find anything with him, and maybe he gets a solo or two on an album.
    I always find things with the contemporary masters that i don't like for one reason or another, like Patitucci, Gomez, Peacock, Rufus Reid, Miroslav, Bromberg, etc.
    I have done my research and have quite a collection of the older masters, and you can hear it in my playing. Everytime i solo, an Israel Crosby lick i learned years ago comes out. I have so much Paul Chambers in me as well.
    My long-winded point seems to be that if i want to learn cool phrases, licks, styling - i seem to transcribe horn/guitar/piano, like Joe Pass, Tete Montoliu, and Stan Getz.
    Do i sound like a dufus? In my dreams, i'd play like Tete and Kenny Barron, but on the bass... haha. I know, that's IMPOSSIBLE...
  2. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I think you're on a good track. Many good soloists steal ideas from different instruments, and that's not just bass soloists and not just in jazz. Many of Richard Thompson's guitar solos use very horn-like phrasing, for example.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    If I wanted to be a jerk, I would reduce this sentiment close to absurdity this way: "I want to play modern solos over standards. Most of the great old standard records don't have modern bass solos and most of the great modern bass soloists play mostly modern songs."

    But this reduction is incorrect, because as you've noted, there are many examples of fine modern bass soloing on standards. One name not found on your list is Michael Moore. There's all kinds of very up-to-date stuff lurking in Michael's oh-so-pretty solos.

    Or you could take the reduction to heart and and shift your repertoire to match your aim.

    Somebody's gonna do it so why not you? There is no reason to limit your improvisational heros to bassists -- after all, we aim to be musicians who play the bass, not merely bassists, right? I will never sound like Michael Brecker but I know I have a lot of company . . . .
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Am I picky, jealous, or just stubborn?
    As far as the first or last part of your statement, I would say that you are misguided or perhaps a better way of saying it, your approach may not be the best way to get to the heart of what this music is about. The thing that makes the playing of Ray Brown or PC so compelling is that they are saying something true and personal that is universal enough to speak to a variety of different people in different situations. Sure PC heard something in Pettiford who heard something in Blanton that made them look at things in a certain way. But there's more to PC's playing than "being a combination" of other players. The thing that is compelling is that PC is PC. Not that he's been successful at copping OP. I gotta agree with Jason here, you should strive for your own personal voice rather than trying to be as perfect a copy or "amalgam" of whatever players you like. Forget about "cool phrases, licks, styling" and try to play what you yourself hear as a response to a given musical situation.

    As for the middle of your statement, how can you be jealous of someone else's playing if what you are trying to do is sound like yourself?
  5. I dig the sounding like yourself thing and everything but there's a stage all players go through when they sound like someone else. I was told Oscar Pettiford was called Slam Blanton for a long time in fact. Copying and emulating your favorite players is a normal part of the process. Then eventually real players emerge beyond that.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    CRACKHOUSEKEY - glad yer around more.

    I wish it was as simple as "eventually real players emerge beyond that", cause I don't think that it just happens as an evolutionary process (now you has originality). I think at some point there is or is not a mental shift and getting to your core either becomes the reason that you pick up the bass every day or it doesn't, and you continue on in the same fashion that you have up to that point. I've heard far too many people who have NOT made that step. And I was almost one of them myself.

    Going back to transcribing, I gotta say (again) that what (at least) Bird was doing wasn't just looking to cop "cool phrases, licks and style" from Pres. He was working on the act of getting something from his head out into the air. Which is how he could get to where he was in that great interview about "hearing melodies built in the upper partials of the chords".

    It sounds like STROMTHURMOND is either at or getting close to the point where he's gotta either get with the program or start getting closer to the question of "why am I really doing this?"
  7. stormwriter


    Mar 25, 2005
    I think we all know that besides drums, the bass in jazz is the easiest instrument to fake (from a soloing standpoint...) Rarely do we know all our scales, rarely do we have the technique/proficiency like other instruments, rarely can we play the melodies, and rarely do we have a huge "bag" of learned/transcribed solos/licks/whatever, like every other instrument in jazz. Turn on jazz radio and listen to some of the bass solos. Some are embarrasing.
    Oh well.
    I guess what i was trying to say in my original post is that i sound too much like ME. Ya know? I've dealt with it my entire jazz life. When i studied with Chuck Israels, i told him i'm sick of my playing, and the same stupid lines/licks/ideas that i play. He said, "The audience isn't sick of it - it's new and fresh to them!"
    That made me feel better, but i still feel that i'm not coming up with enough WOW ideas, so i transcribe other things to sprinkle into my playing, and those ideas rarely seem to be other bass player's solos.
    Plus, i feel guilty when i "strive for my own personal voice" because i feel like i'm cheating, or not truly learning to speak the language from the masters.
    So, once again, it goes back to hearing other bass players around town and on the radio that just don't sound "right" when they solo, as if they took the shortcut and "strived for their own personal voice."
    I should record myself playing, and you could hear what i mean. I sound good, and i don't really sound like anyone else.
    Or, i could just not post anymore, and leave you dudes alone. haha, that sounds like a better idea...
  8. That last sentence of yours is rather disturbing. You've only posted a few times....why would you want to leave us alone? We're supposted to be here to help each other out.
    By the way, please give us some more info on your profile, so we know where you are. You mention "hearing other bass players around town" What town?
    Also, with Sam's mention of Michael Moore, i'd like to suggest Red Mitchell as one of the great standard players on any instrument.
    You seem to be a little harsh with yourself... such as saying very negative things about your own playing sounding stupid. I think you need to spend more time here rather than less.
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Not trying ot sound harsh but IMO, it sounds like you're more bent on impressing people than expressing yourself through music. The general audience probably doesn't care if you played the most complex solo in history. They're only listening if they like what you play.

    From what I'm reading, I'm thinking that you'd rather be able to repeat the brilliance of a master than express yourself sincerely. I think there's a fine difference between that and wanting to be able to express yourself like a master expresses themselves. I like to think that some masters present their best thoughts with the simplest ideas.
  10. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    You make some really great points, StormTrooper. They reveal that you have some experience, even though your profile doesn't :smug:

    Every improvising musician in any kind of music, has his bag of tricks that they rely on, but it is the "in between" moments of invention that we all live for. When you can execute what you hear on your instrument you have a lifetime of music at your fingertips. I find that I am much more satisfied playing the simplest melody from my heart, rather than a string of sixteenth notes copped from a Stanley Clarke solo. Transcription never ends, whether you write it down or learn by ear, but learn the music that makes you feel something. Reach your ears, (not saying that you dont) beyond jazz. All the great innovators drew from a wide pool of resources.

    You might just be in a rut, god knows we've all had them. Try to imagine that you have a solo bass concert coming up. What are you going to play?
  11. Your post is one of the more perplexing I've yet encountered here. You present yourself as simultaneously humble yet cocky, experienced yet naive, insightful on some levels and clueless on others. It would really be useful for me to know how old you are, how long you've played the bass, who you studied with, and for how long, what ensemble experience you've had, etc.

    A few thoughts:
    1. You talk of soloing as if that's what defines you as a bassist. Soloing is only one component of playing the bass. You might consider taking some time to figure out how you can become a better accompanist, which is really the mark of a superior musician.

    2. It sounds to me like you view your current dilemma as a strict dichotomy - you can't decide whether to find your own way or focus on imitating/emulating the masters. Does it have to be so black and white? Who says you can't continue to study to the masters while you let your own voice emerge? I use those words because I can't get with the idea of "finding your voice" as if you go looking for it, or try to figure it out, and then you say "oh there it is - that's my voice!" Your voice is what it is. You already have it. You can stifle it, or cultivate it. It may be a reflection of your personality, or an alter ego. But don't try to figure out what it is - it will come out if you encourage it.

    3. What I'm getting from your comments is that you are not inspired by any bass players. And that's OK. But why do you play the bass? There had to be a point in time when you heard bass playing that made you say, "YES - I wanna play like THAT!" You've got to find a source of inspiration - something that gets you so excited that you can't wait to get your hands on the axe, you can't wait til the gig. If that source is Kenny Barron, then run with it. You can play those types of ideas on the bass. Maybe not every one, but many of them. If you can't get to it right now, device a practice plan that will allow you to get to it someday. The journey has no final destination. Relish the chase. If you're not motivated to make the journey on the bass, then do it on another instrument. If you're not motivated or inspired at all, then what's the point?
  12. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004

    welcome to TB
  13. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    yes, welcome.

    What's missing in this thread is, IMHO, who you're playing with and how you contribute to the music being performed as a collective experience. Woodshading discipline and personal goals are interesting topics, but the real good moments are when you do play with and for other folks. Consider that it's always a unique situation, try to contribute honestly and to make the best of it. Often a bottle of cheap wine shared among good friends leaves better memories than some expensive imported stuff served at a business convention where you don't hardly know anybody. So who cares about what mix of jazz greats can be found in your playing or if you're quoting entire PC lines ? The point is: are these enjoyable moments for the players, for the public, and for you. Are they worth getting together to do it. Introspection and soul searching are ok but don't forget to relax, contribute, and enjoy.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Starts with "T", rhymes with "bowl".
  15. I'm begining to think this guy flew the coup?
  16. JTGale


    Oct 26, 2004
    Hummelstown, PA
    Perfectly put!
  17. stormwriter


    Mar 25, 2005
    No, i'm still here.
    I was thinking of recording myself soloing and uploading it so you can hear, but my girlfriend dumped me, so i haven't felt too "inspired" on the bass. :(

    I'm not a troll, i'm just a dude that's struggled with jazz and the jazz community for years.

    Let me give you some background about me, so you can see where i'm coming from:
    I started playing upright bass at 15, taking lessons and playing with the jazz choir and with an exceptional guitarist in our high school. I think my main goal was just to impress him, but then i REALLY start to love jazz, and advanced fairly quickly. My first year of college, i studied for a year with the former principal in the Leningrad symphony, but i hated playing with a bow.
    Went to study with Chuck Israels for a year and half. I was playing around town and starting to get pretty good. I had steady jazz gigs with some pretty good players in town. I still wasn't top tier or anything. I learned ALOT from Chuck, but i was still immature.
    My playing was good, like i said mostly a combination of Ray Brown and PC, with some NHOP thrown in, and i had a warm kind of ampy sound. I still pulled fairly hard, so it sounded good.
    Moved to Portland, cause i heard it was a good jazz scene with lots of jam sessions. I was just 21 years old.
    I played around town, but never broke into the upper echelon, cause the people in this town usually call the same bass players over and over. Still kind of immature, and probably didn't deserve to be playing with the high-level cats anyways. When i did get a chance to play, boy they could tell i wasn't just some dumbass kid. One gig, i got a call at the last minute. The visiting guitarist from Seattle saw me walking in and i could just see in his face he was so damn worried that i would be a disaster. One song later, i had assured him i was for real. At another gig, a jazz singer told me i was "too damn young to be playin' the way i do."
    I haven't studied with anyone in Portland, cause i became disechanted with the scene. No, i don't want to smoke pot during breaks. No, i don't want to play funky songs to get the crowd into it. No, i don't want to play on your cruise ship anymore.
    I wanted to be the worst member of every group i was in. That was my motto. I LOVE playing with great players, but alas i rarely got the chance. I was stuck at jam sessions with lesser players, and it just drug me down. It's like having s*x with someone you aren't attracted to. Yeah, it's still s*x, but you're just not that into it. You're going through the motions.
    I quit the bass and got into computers.
    Several years later, at about 28 years old, i busted out the bass again and joined a trio. The drummer wasn't as great as i would like, and we played the same 20 songs in the drummers living room for months. Our one gig was at a pizza shop for a piece of pizza and soda.
    Once again, disechanted, i quit.
    Now, i'm 31 and newly-single. I miss jazz and i miss playing, cause i've wasted my talent. I don't practice much. I actually had a great piano player tell me, "You're a disgrace to your talent.." cause of how good i was, even without practicing.
    So, i went to some jam sessions last month, thought i would kick ass, but i was playing through an electric bass amp, it sounded terrible, i got a blister, the drummer was terrible, and all the bad memories of my jazz career just came flooding back.
    So, i just sit in my living room and practice, and i don't want to get out on the scene anymore, but i still want to play jazz.
    My bass is plywood, but sounds really good, considering. I have a buzz on an F and high C on the g-string. I called a luthier in Canada, and i'm going to have him resurface the neck. Then i'll be more excited to play.
    So, until then, i just wallow in frustration. Why practice so i can join the elite ranks of jam session players in this town?
    I don't come off as having a bad attitude. I'm a nice guy and people like me, but of course i'm speaking my private thoughts to you guys on here, so it makes me look stupid.

    So, just frustrated and depressed. Putting so much effort into something for little reward. I don't expect to be recording albums and touring the world, i just want to play good jazz. If i won the lottery, i'd pay players to play with me, just so i could play some good jazz with good players.
  18. Storm,

    Thanks for the bio. It's good to know these things. There are a lot of wise people here who can identify with your situation and can offer advice, or just commiserate. Naturally you can do with it what you wish, but what the heck, it doesn't cost you anything! ;)

    Over a period of time, I came to an important realisation about my own situation, and I suspect this applies to many if not most musicians that I know: The reward is in the music itself. Let me say that again, in case you weren't listening. The reward is in the music itself.

    Anyone who plays jazz must realize that there is no fame and fortune in this genre (and likely that's a Good Thing). Furthermore, for many of us it's hard enough to make a living playing jazz. And in order to do that we make compromises - playing with lower calibre musicians, coming in through the service entrance, playing shlock to make better money, playing for low money just so we can play what we want, playing for people who are unappreciative, loud, and ignorant, etc. etc. etc. There are a zillion things to b**ch and moan about, and yet we keep doing it. BECAUSE WE LOVE THE MUSIC, enough to put up with all the other crap. Some musicians have gone so far as to pay club owners to let them play in their joints just so they can get some experience. (I have a problem with this, but that's another topic.)

    Two asides: 1. old joke - How do you get a musician to complain? Get him a gig! 2. Sam had a link to a thread about "sex vs money" IOW finding a balance between what you have to do pay the bills and what you want to do to cultivate your art.

    Back to my train of thought. This may be oversimplified, but it works for me. I think of all the BS gigs I do as paid practice/rehearsal time, where I can hone my skills. Then when the real playing opportunities come along, I can relish them, and not feel as though I'm unprepared. Who was it that said, "Every gig is really a rehearsal for the next one."

    So you don't like the scene. That's not really an excuse for not studying with someone. I would suggest moving to a town where you feel like you are the worst player, and where there is someone you could study with, but I wonder if you would just come up with some other excuses. Anybody can make excuses. The real question is what are YOU going to do about it? Take control of your own destiny and make something happen. Get yourself a gig and hire the best players in town.

    What effort? You don't practice. Also, saying that you "miss playing BECAUSE you've wasted your talent" is a nonsequitor. You miss playing because you miss playing. You regret that you (think) you've wasted your talent. They are two separate things.

    You seem very intent to tell us all just how good you are. Maybe you need a reality check. I'm not trying to be harsh, or a jack***. But if you could post a sample of your playing, or even snailmail us a copy, there are many experienced players here who can offer constructive feedback. Like, "Damn, you're killin! you should move to New York." Or, "Look, there's a few reasons why you didn't make it into the upper eschelon of players there." In any case a little humble pie might do you some good.

    Keep in mind, too, that it takes a long time to get to that place. You have to really develop a rapport with people so that they are comfortable playing with you. You don't just burst on to a scene and start playing with guys who have used another bassist for years. And even when you get better established, you don't get all the calls. There is more than just one bass player in any given town, and you just wouldn't be able to do every gig anyway.

    You're in a funk about your girlfriend. Look at it this way: now you have all the time in the world to practice, hustle gigs, and get your music career back on the right track. I would seriously recommend contributing to the Sampler for starters. Check out Dennis Kong's recent thread on "Got fired for solos being too busy". Hope this is some help, and keep us posted.

  19. I hope to hell not. I just wasted a lot of time with that post. :mad:
  20. stormwriter


    Mar 25, 2005
    >>You seem very intent to tell us all just how good you are.

    Yeah, that's my way of trying to tell MYSELF that i'm good. I'm trying to overcompensate for years of crushing low self-esteem and self doubt. I also do that after a girl dumps me: "Cameron, you're a great guy! ANY woman would be happy to be with you!" haha

    >>Putting so much effort into something for little reward.

    I USED to practice a lot. Man, when i was younger i had no problems spending hours a day practicing. Now, i only spend a few hours a week. That's what i meant.