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Any straightahead jazz players using P's or P/J setups?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wilbyman, Jun 18, 2007.

  1. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I have long assumed that a jazz bass or modern version thereof was the thing to have for playing electric bass in a straightahead jazz setting. It was one of those paradigm's I just assumed to be correct. However, we must all remember that the first electric players playing jazz were using P's...at least until the J's got popular.

    I'm finding that the ideal straightahead tone is more of an clear, dark "organ" sound (P-Bass like) than a thinner, punchy bridge pickup sound. While I still like the bridge pickup for clarity (when soloing especially) the "organ" sound seems to work better for walking and just playing bass lines.

    Anybody care to comment? Will the jazzers all go back to P-Basses when the memory of Jaco fades a bit?

  2. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Any gigging Jazz musician (or most of them) will not have the Jaco tone.
    I'm at school for Jazz, and I use either a Fretless Jazz, or my Modded Squier P-bass.
    Both are great!
    I usually have the low-mids on my amp dailed up a bit on the amp, so it's still pretty defined.
    Also, when soloing, I still move my hand towards the bridge.
  3. Hey Will,

    I would think a P Bass would work wonderfully. Since I don't play DB, but do quite a few jazz type gigs (not burning, straight ahead stuff, but lot's of 'Real Book' type gigs), I use EB in a jazz setting quite often. I usually use the Sadowsky RV5, with the pickup blend just slightly toward the bridge. That keeps the tone fat and warm (as you describe the P tone), but also provides a little more note definition when soloing or playing faster passages.

    I'm not a fan of the solo bridge pickup tone for that type of playing. That's too thin sounding for me, and it also seems to make my playing sound more 'on top of the beat' and also too much out in the front of the mix. A J type bass with at least some neck pickup or a P Bass would seem to be the ticket for this type of playing. Of course, your Fodera should do the trick also! Interestingly, even with those big humbuckers, I always found the bridge pickup tone on my Fodera quite thin, and actually usually ran that bass with both pickups wide open and the pre flat. That sounded nice in the settings you are describing.

    I should note that I very much dislike the tone of a J bass (and most basses) with the pickup blend toward the neck pickup... boomy and 'sloppy'. However, I like at least some of that neck pickup tone in there to fatten the tone, and at least provide the subtle impression of a little bit of lag and swell to the notes when swinging.

    Regarding P/J's, unless you have the neck pickup favored, I'm one who finds the tone difference between a JJ and a PJ very subtle... to my ear, it does move the low end up the frequency curve a touch, but this can easily be achieved using the blend control with the standard JJ configuration IMO and IME. However, it obviously gives you a true P tone when you play neck pickup only, so that part of it makes sense.

    IMO from a 'cocktail jazz' player:D
  4. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Thanks for that Ken, +1 to it all...and mostly your comments that the bridge pickup tone seems to causes you to play on top of the beat. I've experienced the same phenomenon.

    I think what I seek can definitely be achieved with the Fodera, mostly with a little pickup blend experimentation and technique alteration. I guess at the moment I'm just a little curious whether a true "P" would be any more suitable. From your comments it sounds like the difference would be somewhat negligible. Maybe I'll get ahold of somebody's P and give her a whirl.
  5. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Basses, La Bella Strings, and 64 Audio IEMs
    When I'm playing straight ahead real book type jazz gigs, I use a jazz bass with the blend rolled forward to the neck pickup, and my treble rolled back. If I had a p bass that's probably what I would use. In that specific setting, definition works against me - I want more of a "thuddy" sound with less sustain so I can get more of an upright tone. Much of this is in my hands though - I also will pluck closer to the neck. When I was in college I played with the big band at Michigan, thats the tone I went for there.

    However, I also play jazz trio gigs where we aren't really playing straight ahead changes, but we do more of a 70's fusion Headhunters/Bob James/Roy Ayers type thing. In that setting I use a much more defined, articulate sound that is moreso "my" tone.
  6. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Hey Jason-

    +1 to all of that, and I am definitely talking about a Real Book type straightahead gig as opposed to a modern/smooth/fusion type thing. I actually think there are very few tones that will "work" for a straightahead gig, whereas there are many ways to skin the cat on a fusion gig (Jaco tone/Marcus tone/Haslip tone/etc).

    Ken told me that there is less "DB prejudice" in Detroit/STL than there used to be. I think that's a really good thing. Incidentally, I brought my DB on the gig last night and the (young) bartender was actually giving me grief about it! "So, I see are we back in the stone age this evening?" Of course, the older guys in the crowd have the opposite mentality.

  7. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Basses, La Bella Strings, and 64 Audio IEMs
    Definitely...although I think the reason for this is that there is much less traditional jazz being played in Detroit than there was in the past. There's really only one actual straight-up jazz club in Detroit (Baker's). In all the other venues, multiple genre's are played on different nights, so when you get a call to play jazz at a spot, it's not a place where you have extra traditional guys that have to have a DB player for "authentic" jazz. Most of the time, they don't even know what traditional jazz music is - they just want some instrumental tunes.
  8. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Audiences are becoming that way. Some day, there will not be anyone alive who was at Pearl Harbor...no one alive on September 11, 2001. Similarly, there will some day be no one alive who saw Bird play and no one alive when a Coltrane record came out.

    I guess the point of this abstract rambling is that all the people who have some emotional connection to "period" jazz are necessarily dwindling. It was likely similar in the 60's, when the last person who saw Bix Beiderbeck disappeared (etc). There will still be people playing and enjoying "straightahead", but fewer people will walk into a "jazz" expecting to hear it as it was played in the 40's-60's.

    Sorry, this thread has taken something of a detour now!! LOL.
  9. I can't really speak to Detroit, since I don't know the jazz scene at all here. However, it's interesting in St. Louis. It's kind of a two edged sword. There are a few clubs that are really trying to do the 'jazz' thing, and actually require DB and are looking for true, traditional straight ahead playing and set lists. However, there are only a couple of these clubs left, and they are mostly empty.

    As Jason points out, most 'dinner style' clubs actually prefer EB, even if the vast majority of the set list is in the jazz area. There are very few gigs that are straight ahead from the first set to the last, and most club owners now want 'dinner music' up front, and dance music later on in the evening. I've actually been doing a club gig lately in St. Louis that originally required DB for the 'look', and now requires EB for the ability to mix in more contemporary tunes. Amazing.

    At the other extreme, the agency I play with actually now gets some requests from corporate and other private clients for 'no jazz' for the dinner set. This supports your idea that pretty much the last of the 'jazz era' listeners are disappearing. While people still want soft, instrumental type tunes in these situations, they are starting to consider swinging Real Book standards as a cop out... behind the times and uninteresting.

    Hey... it's your thread.. you can take it any direction you want! :D
  10. OrionManMatt


    Feb 17, 2004
    I'm a fan of Haslip's tone in ANY context. It's just so tasty. :)
  11. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    +1 to that!! :D

    Interesting that there are requests for "no jazz", that is a new one to me. I understand it though...it's all about the environment you want to create for your event or group.

    I hope DB will find its way in to whatever is being played in the future. I think Bromberg's Downright Upright (a contemporary record which is partly original and party 70's funk/fusion "standards") is a really great example of DB in a very modern and fresh setting.

    +1 to Jimmy Haslip too, what a great player.
  12. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Basses, La Bella Strings, and 64 Audio IEMs
    +1...Same thing with wedding gigs. Back in the day they wanted DB for the traditional jazz sound (classy!). Then it moved to them wanting DB for the traditional jazz look (classy!), and not really being aware of the sound. Now, it's considered classy to have a band at all since most of those gigs are all DJ's, and when they have a band they want you to be able to play a wide range of music like a DJ can.

    What was this thread about? Oh yeah - P basses! This is the most posts I've ever had in a P/PJ bass thread! :p
  13. mikoespanol


    Aug 20, 2005
    Southern CA
    Downright Upright is a killer!! Bromberg's renditions of the 'standards' and all his solos were great.

    I dig Jimmy Haslip's 'straight-ahead tone'.

    One thing that I've been working on and doing on gigs lately is muting the strings when playing a straight-ahead walking bass line. When walking I'd usually have the neck and bridge PUs opened or I'd blend more towards the neck PU. When it's time to solo, I'd blend the PUs more on the bridge.
  14. My brother plays in a few jazz bands in the Dallas area. He had a Fender Victor Bailey jazz bass for a few years. He bought a Lakland Duck Dunn signature P-bass last year. He played it at a jazz gig and everyone was happier with his tone, so I sold his Victor Bailey on eBay about 6 months ago. He also bought a Sadowsky NYC P-bass which also sounds and plays great. He alternates between the two basses when he's not using his upright bass. He likes the jazz neck on the Lakland bass though.
  15. BargeOn

    BargeOn Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    You might be interested in tracking down a copy of the Joe Pass CD Resonance

    This is a straiight-down-the-middle RealBook date, live, and a trio no less, with Jim Hughart playing an early Fender split-coil P. (Hughart is a switch hitter, studio ace, with a solid background on jazz URB as well as pop electric).

    It's a great example of what a P can sound like in traditional jazz.
  16. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Thanks John, that is a very cool record. ITunes sadly doesn't have it but I will try and track it down.

  17. rok51


    Sep 2, 2002
    Crawfordville, FL
    Dayum...I am in so much awe of you guys!! I have always said that I will play anything but disco and jazz...disco, because I can't stand it...and jazz, because I'm simply not good enough.

    I absolutely cannot comprehend showing up cold for a jazz gig and pulling it off.

    Playing totally by ear, without a basic understanding of what the heck you are doing definitely has its limitations.

    I bow to you all!!

  18. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Will, when I play jazz on electric I've found that my sound fits best when I play over or just towards the neck. I saw Janek do this recently as well. Moving my hand along the strings for different tones has been the key for me.

    I met a great electric player years ago who was going to Berklee. He was way into Swallow...even contacted him to find out about what he was doing. To get a great electric tone in a jazz setting, which is what he played, he would favor the back pickup (Pedulla with dual coils) turn the treble all the way down and the bass almost all the way up on the onboard preamp. His tone was perfect for jazz. He did this after finding out that Swallow has his onboard preamps set permantly with the treble down all the way and the bass up all the way. It really works.

    Forget the P man. You can the the tone from your Fodera any day of the week.
  19. bino


    Jun 27, 2002
    Orange County
    I'm with Andy. You know how much I loves me a Pbass, Will, but favoring any neck pickup, rolling back the tone, playing up near the frets (none of that riding the bridge pup, now), and some muting with the fret hand gets me a supa' warm, dark and fuzzy. That CB I/we had with the Dual Coils had an amazingly rich, woody tone out of the neck pickup and I would bet your Fodera has the same.

    just relax, take a deep breath, and pan completely of that bridge. nothing will happen to you, I promise.
  20. bino


    Jun 27, 2002
    Orange County
    that being said, pretty certain I'm going to dump the Jazz and return home to mama P.
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