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Arco solos in jazz...do you do them?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jan 2, 2006.

Arco solos in jazz...do you do them?

Poll closed Mar 4, 2006.
  1. Yes, often

    5 vote(s)
  2. Sometimes, when the mood strikes me

    7 vote(s)
  3. Only once in a blue moon

    4 vote(s)
  4. No

    8 vote(s)
  5. Carrots

    6 vote(s)
  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Most of us have heard PC, Slam Stewart, OP, John Clayton, etc. solo with the stick 'o pain to some extent or another. I was curious as to how many of those on TB actually bust out their bows when their solo choruses come up.

    I made my first attempt along to ATTYA (TB'er Phil Smith's site has playalongs in any key for many tunes.) Keep in mind I'm using fairly fresh strings with a french bow (I play German) and it was my first attempt. My best estimation of it was...

    ...I guess..."catbutt." Yep. It sounded that bad. I know it'll get better with practice (and a German bow!) but for the moment, it's one of the worst sounds I've ever successfully cranked out of a DB yet.

    So...anyone here actually *succeed* at this?
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    My first introduction to this on Record was Paul Chambers. Then I got to watch Major Holly live every sunday for a year or two. I also watched Dr.Lynn Cristie and Eddie Gomez with the Bow. This was from about 1968 to 1975. Lynn also did the singing thing like Major but more upper pitched singing. Major was more of a Schamo type voiced singer/bower and Slam was in the middle from the records I heard him on with Hamp.

    I have tried this mostly alone of course and it is not easy. It helps you bow and finger more accuratly. All the players we are discussing studied Classically to get thier bowing down but the improv thing, that's juat a gift.

    If you want to do this, practice your butt off classically first and then start with some melodies of tunes you know. Then put in a slur or two like in 'Misty' that starts with a Bb. Play an A-Bb on the first note like a grace note. Then when you hit the D on the downbeat, play (a-Bb,G) D Eb C D.. (all slured)....... Bb C Db b-C(grace/Slurs)b-C bC Bb G Eb C... etc..

    If you are not sure, call me and I will play it for you over the phone. Try it Pizz first and then with the Bow. You will see how much better the Bow MAKES you play.. Have fun..
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    I've been workin heavily at this. My goal being to have the freedom of flight somewhere a vocalist and a horn player. Well, the expressive abilities of the voice and the fluidity of a horn.

    So far the experiement has been going well. As KSB mentioned, playing a lot of melodies is a big key. And, BTW, you really REALLY should check out the lyrics to a song before you play with the bow as you then have the ability to really sing the tune. A lot of listening is also very important. Listen to the things that you want. For example, I love Clark Terry's time feel when he plays, that real heavy pocket and almost staccato and mumbly thing he does. For tone and pocket I've been listening to Edgar Meyer, Zoot Sims, Lester Young and Stan Getz. Vocalists Annie Ross and Carol Welsman and pretty strong in my ears, as are every single thing I hear all day in my travels. I listen to all of the pop singers (a whole topic on its own) that I stumble across, and the jazz singers that I love.

    As far as articulation I've been exploring it all. The stick has in it endless possibilities it seems for the types of sounds that you can get and I want them all. I do some eight note sawing as well as a lot of slurred stuff, and combinations thereof.

    The biggest challenge for me, aside from keeping the stick under control, is adopting all of these new toys into my vocabulary, musically. All I can say for that is that you just have to stick with it. ( Sorry about THAT pun, but not sorry enough to hit backspace ).

    Another thing that I've been learning is that there are a couple different types of pitch: Bass pitch and melody pitch. I took me a little while to find this and I still can't describe it well, but when I mentioned this to my father, his reply was, "Well, sure there is." :)

    I start some classical lessons later this month and I'm expecting that, with the right teacher, my obsessive work of the last 3-4 years is going to explode into something pretty usable.
  4. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    Hey Aaron,

    I'll break out the old bow from time to time and I think it's a blast to do. As mentioned above, classical lessons are invaluable for learning how to use the bow. You might also try to transcribe some PC bowed solos. That's been working well for me. It's just another tool in your belt....
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Just a plug from the peanut gallery; Ray has got a very tuneful, soulful and HAPPENING thing going on arco. It's a real joy to hear him break into something with the bow.
  6. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Agreed! I only have one recording of Ray playing with a bow, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, and I listen to it all the time -- 'happening' is exactly the word I'd use
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Oh, man! Thanks for the kind words, but I've come so far in the last year+ since I put that stuff up. I have a new sound card on order and I'll have some new clips up shortly after it arrives and gets installed. Maybe I'll put up a new version of the same tune for public dissection.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ah! I love that song. Is it on the TBDB Sampler?
  9. I'll sometimes take the bow out of the quiver for a solo, usually during the last set when the joint is empty. Occasionally something nice will come out. Getting it to swing is the real challenge, finding the right articulation.

    Weird thing is, I was trained on French, but I play jazz on German. Don't know why, but German just feels better for improv.
  10. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    I've just started working on John Goldsby's jazz arco book, and I reccomend it. Its particularly strong on getting a swing feel through different bowing patterns
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I voted "no". I tune with the bow and practice with the bow and occasionally will accompany a ballad with the bow and more frequently, play the obligatory long tone at the end of a tune, but it stays safely in the quiver on my solos. Maybe some day....then again maybe not.

    Somewhat off topic. Would anyone disagree that modern players who take arco solos, like Mr. Clayton, are way better at it than the giants were, like P.C.?

    I realize the strings contribute to that, but I think it's more than that. And maybe Mr. Clayton is an unfair comparison, but pick someone else.
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I don't know about the older giants, but John Clayton is an incredibly accomplished classical player as well from what I've heard. IIRC, didn't he hold a principal spot in more than one orchestra/symphony?

    The only person not mentioned in this thread that I've seen take an arco solo was Ottawa player John Geggie. It was beautifully played...also, John's an accomplished classical player. He played in a strings group called something like "Thirteen Strings."

    PS: To be entirely honest, I'm terribly unfamiliar with older arco soloists. T'is why I put "to an extent" in my original post :p.
  13. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Mr. Clayton was the principal chair of the Amsterdam Phil., which is why I said it may not be a fair comparison.

    Some of the Paul Chambers arco solos are difficult to listen to to my ear. I know that he was bowing gut strings with questionable recording methods, but there also seemed to be a lot of sawing going on.

    It just seems that more than a handful of guys today can play beautiful arco solos with good classical tone, but jazz sensibilities.

    I'm not one of them, nor am I probably the best judge, but it's what my ear has to say on the subject.
  14. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I think the biggest culprit on those old records is the gut strings. Besides P.C., Jimmie Blanton got a pretty raw, raspy sound with the bow and so did Slam Stewart when he wasn't humming along with his solos. The bowed bass sound on old jazz records in general was like that even when the bass was playing time (as opposed to soloing). Bob Haggart, Wellman Braud, Pops Foster, Percy Heath, even Ray Brown...they all had that raspy arco sound to varying degrees back then. I think steel strings are what allows modern players to achieve a smoother, more "cello-like" sound. After all, modern classical players have completely switched over to steel (except for those who play early music). My own experience bowing on gut strings supports this theory as well. I think PC and JB would have had smoother arco sounds if they had played on steel. But boy, they sure had great pizz. sounds, didn't they?

    - Steve

    My web page
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Yeah, I love that gut pizz sound and I start thinking about that everytime I listen to Sam Jones, Mingus or others. It's really the perfect pizz for straight ahead jazz. But usually a listen to a PC arco solo cures me of that, plus tales of expense, durability, instability, etc.. Some of those solos sounded like a freakin' tree saw.

    I wonder, though if someone with more of an arco pedigree could comment, specifically on PC solos. I'm just not qualified to judge, but here goes, it sounds like he uses a new stroke for each note regardless of the duration, so there's only one articulation. Maybe he was going for that, but yikes, it just wasn't good.
  16. Maybe Im the only one that has ever heard a player
    by the name of Ed Bennett but I heard him play arco
    jazz solo's on almost every tune using gut strings and
    working a duo with a guitar player named Dave Koontz.
    This was in Pasadena Ca. about 1985 to 1988 and I
    understand he has since moved to the Seattle, Wa.
    area. Both great players. Any body else know of him ?
  17. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I think PC's arco tone was especailly harsh because he was using Kaplan Golden Spirals around the time he recorded "Bass On Top" and "Whims of Chambers". These were nylon wrapped gut strings that were very popular at the time (Chalire Haden still uses Golden Spiral for his D & G) and while they had a great pizz sound, the arco tone was nasal and harsh...even more so than plain gut strings. Like Jimmie Blanton's arco solos (which sometimes suffered from raspy tone and sour intonation) the overall concept and boldness of PC's playing are what makes these solos great and allows me to overlook any deficiencies in execution or tone.

    I get a pretty smooth arco tone these days with my Obligatos and Realist, but I'd gladly trade the nice smooth sound for a fraction of these bassists' creativity and musicianship.

    - Steve

    My web page
  18. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Yes, I am working on it like a maniac........on a 5-string with a high C, plain guts and dominants on the bottom (Insert Ray Parker Joke here ________________________________________________________________________)
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This post sums up my feelings exactly - so I mostly listen to two types of music - small-group Jazz and Symphonic/Orchestral and the contrast often makes bowed solos hard to take.

    So, listening to an orchestral section - the bowed sound is so smooth and as you say - cello-like....
    It can make a gut arco solo pretty hard to take and I still find it hard to listen to amplified arco...although there are notable exceptions of course!! :)
  20. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Nice topic, where to start:

    Real men don't do arco solo ! :D Classical music's for sisses :p

    I suck real bad but I can safely take one whenever I want: I have a day gig. ;)

    Seriously, Ray's right: the bow's wonderful tool with endless possibilities, just requires some dedicated shading. More than what I can do, cause of the day gig...