An idea that's been floating in my head for a while

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Mar 29, 2002.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I've had this in my mind for quite a while. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slamming any of the great players like Jaco or Wooten, cause I think they are phenomenal. This is just a thought running through my head.

    We've come to put such players up on a pedastal, which is fine. But sometime, people call them "The greatest bassist" "Greatest guitarist" ect. The only problem I have with that, is people can say that, simply because they've heard them. They got record deals, which allowed them to get exposed. They have showed they are more proficient players than what's been pressed onto a CD or Record in available music.

    Personally, I believe the greatest bassist is probaly working at a factory for minmuim wage and gets spotlighted by playing down at the Legion on Saturday night. I've heard some killer bassist that are local. Some that I would even put up against people like Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool, ect.

    But that brings me to another question. If a bassist is truly great, will they get spotlighted eventually just because they are great? Or do they have to "make it happen" (i.e. try to make a name for themselves as a session musician or something like that)

    Just a few thoughts I had. What do you think?
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    It's a romantic idea, certainly a VH1 made for TV movie, but the reality of the situation is that our best musicians, (John Coltrane, Jaco Pastorius, Charlie Parker), got that way by being full-time professional musicians that practice relentlessly. What is so often forgotten about Jaco and others is the obsessive dedication to practice. A normal blue collar working guy isn't going to have the time or environment to produce a phenomenal musician. That's one thing that bothers me about this situation LiquidMidnight describes, it gives no respect to the time and energy devoted to become truly truly great.
  3. "Greatest" anything, when it comes to the arts, is ludicrous, a fool's game, just an indication of immaturity.

    How can a knowledgeable person say someone is the "greatest painter"??? It's all about which artist's work is the most meaningful to you. Likewise, the "greatest religion" always seems to be whichever church/temple/whatever that person goes to, (or none at all for non-believers).

    Unlike sports, there are no stopwatches, won/lost records, or other quantifiable measures for musicians.

    As for how one gets perceived as "great", it usually seems to be a combination of doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, (in other words, an environment that accepts and supports the musician).

    Unfortunately, some "greats", (especially the blues giants), aren't recognized during their musically active years.

    Being dead can help one's rep a lot, too. :D
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Bird, 'Trane, & Jaco...throw in Tony Williams & that would be one Helluva band!
    Anyway, those guys are considered to be greats 'cause they were innovators all. I mean, damn, Williams was 17-years-old & drivin' Miles' 2nd Great 5-tet("OK", maybe he was still with Jackie MacLean...check out Vertigo to hear one bad ass teenager on cans!). ;)
    Further, Jazzbo nailed it...all were obsessive about practicing(Miles used to complain because Coltrane practiced on the bandstand!).
    Also, initially, Bird & Coltrane were dissed...Both Bird & 'Trane were attempting something 'new' & uncharted. And for their trouble & vision, both were the critics' whipping boy(musicians even belittled these geniuses).

    Now, back to LM's initial comment-
    Granted, they are some heavy, heavy cats that will always remain 'nameless, faceless'.
    I wonder how many *Great* Cuban musicians we have missed out on? Or some rhythm genius that lives in a far away jungle?
    Hell, a guy like Herbie Nichols even went pretty much unknown...
    It's a crazy bizness.

    BTW, I'm glad Oteil finally got his due; back in '83 or so, trust me, he coulda stepped right in as Jaco's replacement in Weather Report. Believe me, he was very happenin' even back then...yet, he was an unknown entity until only recently.
  5. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I dont think that anyone can say someone is the the greatest. I think alot of people often interprit that as the one they like the most. And say the one they admire most. You have many great players out there. But to say one is the greatest of them all just cant be done.

    I dont think that a bassist or any musician that is truly great will get spotted by anyone of importance, unless he has the right connections. Is in the right place at the right time, and as much as I hate to say this, the right "look"

    A normal blue collar working guy isn't going to have the time or environment to produce a phenomenal musician.

    I dissagree with you on that my friend. A normal blue collar stiff, if providing he has the desire to become truly great/phenominal will make the time to practice for hours on end to achieve that goal.

    I also dont think environment is that big of an issue either. Granted it does help. But all you really need to practice is a bass guitar and discipline. If you have the discipline to avoid distractions, and do what it takes to practice then you can IMO eventually become a phenominal musician.
  6. Sorry, Cassanova, but I agree with the notion of blue collar workers not making it. In all my life, I have not come across one guy who could work 8 or 9 hours a day, then come home and practise for another 8 or 9. Fatigue, mental and physical, does not allow this to happen. All the best players I have ever come across were guys who started their practise regime mid to late morning, when their mind and body was fresh. I am a blue collar guy. I come home absolutely stuffed, mentally, and find it a challenge to do one hour of concentrated learning.
  7. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Sad, but true.
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I kinda agree with you, Marty. I definitely relate to being totally spent after an, essentially, 11-hour work day(get [email protected]:30am, get home @4:00pm).
    Getting 'old' is a bitch.

    Cecil Taylor worked as a dishwasher & still managed to hone his craft.
    Charles Gayle was HOMELESS for a certain time in his life.
    Charles Ives was an insurance salesman.
    Granted, all were already players/composers...musically, though, neither sat still while 'not being a full-time musician'.

    IMO, it's still about QUALITY time & not quantity of time...
    And it helps if one is gifted vs. merely talented. ;)
  9. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    i never said they make it, just that they can still become a great musician.

    I also dont think you have to practice 8-9 hours a day to become a great musician. 3 hours a day is sufficient, as long as you do it regularly.

    I know what its like to work a really long day, and your spent when you get home. But thats where the discipline and desire come into play.
  10. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Interesting thread.

    I actually agree with opinions on both sides here regarding blue collar workers (or what-have-you) 'making it'. I agree on them not having the energy after a long day at work, but I also agree on devotion and discipline too.

    As personal experience, I know I would never 'make it' if I had to work like that. Back in '98 I was playing acoustic guitar and I was working an 8-hour a day job. Around that time I was developing back problems brought on by a deformity I've had all my life, but being I never worked that much it was never really that big a problem. Anyway, I'd get home from work and try to practice but I couldn't even sit up straight. Besides the physical stress of working that much, I just had no energy and would usually come home and go right to bed. I tried so much to practice. I really wanted to, but pffft. Anyway, I soon couldn't take it anymore and went to the doctor who told me to quit that job and stated how much I can work a week. Sometime after that my chiropractor said the same thing about taking it easy on jobs. I got some good exercises to do. Around that time I was practicing much more on the guitar.

    Now, being that I'm playing bass, I know, if I were playing professionally on a stage a few days a week, I'd never make it. I've worked a few jobs here and there whilst having the bass and no matter what the pain in my back (and even worse lately, my legs) is still there. And I can never stand up for long without my legs buckling beneath me.

    But anyway, that's my story. So personally, I don't think I'd 'make it' if that were my life. And I have so much dedication and passion for the bass.

    Back to LiquidMidnight's topic, I think "greatest" is a matter of personal opinion. I think alot of hard work, dedication, and passion will bring out the 'greatness' in your own self. That's what I think makes someone 'great'. If the passion isn't there, I really don't care how perfect or cool a specific musician is.
  11. What about wes montgomery Jazzbo. A blue collar worker by day, but when the night came hed hit the clubs and do his thing. He probably one of my favorite guitarists, and he had very humble beginings and only later in his musical career did he get noticed.
  12. b0nes83


    Dec 14, 2000
    im going to have to agree with JimK " it's still about QUALITY time & not quantity of time". When i go into a practice room i very im practice times because I dont like to leave the room unless i come out knowing that i have learnd something. peace
  13. To say that someone is "the greatest bassist" is a relative distinction subject to the opinion of the person making the statement, but I believe it is totally possible there are unknown part-timers out there who have risen to the level of those we consider great. It's short-sighted to say that a person with a 9-5 job can't achieve the same proficiency as our favorite musicians. There may be a 5-yr old Mozart living in China who gets made into an engineer by the State because he's good at math.

    I think many people are forgetting about natural talent and aptitude. I've known many players devoid of a musical ear who've been playing for years and practice a lot, but still aren't as good as those prodigies that can pick up the bass and become good at it very quickly. What about the person who has such talent, practiced hours every day during their youth, and then due to the fickle nature of the music business had to become a blue collar worker instead? Sure, a player might not become as technically proficient as Jaco without putting in the time, but Jaco's not the benchmark for "great" -- he's a paragon.

    I think achieving recognition as a bassist is probably easier for good jazz players because musicianship is spotlighted. There's a tendency to discount musicians who play so-called "less serious" styles like hip-hop, rock or metal, where fame is more contingent on a marketable product and often the attention is not directed toward the bassist. Just because a player doesn't chance upon a successful vehicle for fame doesn't preclude their capacity for greatness. I suppose it all depends on one's definition of the word "great."
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...and here's another thing-

    I have a couple friends in ROAD bands for some well-known New Country acts.
    These guys are full-time players & are paid pretty well(I assume). ;)
    Anyway...just my opinion, I can't really say they have progressed that much 'musically' these past few years.
    In the past, I have played &/or subbed with/for these I'm pretty confident I can gauge their abilties.
    IMO, their growth has been stunted.
    Whatever, though, they are making a living from playing their ax.

    The question is-
    Playing full-time in a somewhat non-challenging capacity...I dunno, whaddayathink, maybe that becomes Blue Collar-esque(ie saps creativity)? ;)
  15. If they don't have the time to play anything else... yes, I think so. They might have the technical chops to play anything they want, but without the freedom to break from one style I imagine it's like being in an oppressive rut. But then again, you never know... when they practice they may be so sick of country they play something else.
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Well, I don't actually know anything about Wes Montgomery, so there is a very real possibility he is the exception. Still, you must admit though, while nobody will argue Wes' abilities, did he change the world of music the way Trane, Bird, or Jaco did? I guess in my earlier statement I was referring to 3 individuals who are very well known, and really changed the face of music for the whole community. I don't think Wes ever did that.

    Sure, there is definitely something to be said about natural talent and abilities, it's a given that these contribute to success, but I would make a very strong point toward dedication, focus and environment. Would Bird have been what he was if he wasn't getting cut in KC clubs and therefore becoming focused to shed for 18 hours a day?! Would Jaco have been the same without the musical influence from his father and the growing R&B scene in Florida? I just don't know, but I gotta think the guy with oodles of talent and drive in Hoboken might not get the same chance or exposure to phenomenal music as the same guy in Chicago, New York or New Orleans.
  17. CMoon


    Apr 2, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I just joined yesterday, and I have to say I like the site. As far as this discussion goes, I agree that 'greatness' is subjective. There are great players (of whatever instrument), and then there are (what I consider a step above) the great musicians - people who contribute new developments, styles, and innovations to music, whatever instrument they play - and some don't play, but write or arrange. And when it comes to bass playing - sometimes the song/music (which is really what it's all about) calls for restraint. It's not always about technique (which is what usually calls attention to a player), but those who play what the music wants -especially if it's not technically impressive- don't always get noticed. Of course, sometimes the music does demand technique, which is the best reason to practice (besides the pure enjoyment of making music). And as Brad J. (hey Brad!) says - 'I could be wrong!".
  18. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Wes is a heavy cat...don't dismiss him!
    I imagine he sent many a guitarist back to the shed just as Jaco did for many a bassist.

    As far as Jaco changing 'music'...I dunno, IMO, Jaco was an innovator 'cause "what he was doing he was doing on an electric bass".
    Acoustic bassists had already begun playing 'horn-like' lines/solos pre-Jaco.
    Same goes for Stanley Jordan...Jordan was unique 'cause it the guitar was his tool-of-choice(i.e. pianists had already been playing like that for eons). ;)

    Louis Armstrong changed music.
    Bird & Diz...yes.
    Ellington & Mingus...yes.
    Coltrane & Ornette...yes.

    BTW, many a scholar/critic will argue that Coltrane was the last great innovator.

    Did I say Wes was bad?
    (Nice job on "Impressions"). ;)
  19. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I wholeheartedly agree with LiquidMidnight. For every "great" musician, there is probably someone who is just as good or better, that will never be heard. It may be that he can't afford to move to a more "happenin'" area, maybe he can't afford to take a risk, or maybe he's just happy playing to his family on Saturday nights. Not every great musician wants to be a famous musician.

    The whole "World's Greatest Bassist" scenario is a lot like People Magazine's annual "Sexiest People" issue. The contestants are what the entertainment industry has to offer, yet their labeled as "America's sexiest." What about all of the sexy people (like me) that aren't in the public eye? A more appropriate title would be "People Magazine's Sexiest People in Entertainment" and "Greatest Performing or Signed Bassist."

  20. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    There are some unknown guys who can rip.
    I know a 46-year-old welder who can REALLY BURN on EB and DB. He is a family man with a 9 to 5 job, but still practises up to 4 hours a day...

    But apart from that, bassists from countries other than the US usually don't get the publicity they deserve, e.g. Britain's Laurence Cottle or Esh co-founder Peter Sonntag. There also are some killer players in Japan you usually never hear of.
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