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Big Band Bass Playing

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Sam Sherry, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Yeah, right. "There's something unique and beautiful about seventeen people swinging hard together," yeah that's great, but that's not what I'm talking about. Every player in the band gets to have that. We bassists get to have that and something else which is entirely separate.

    There is nothing I've encountered in music which is quite like deconstructing a big band bass chart live and in the moment. So many big band bass charts are written bass-ackward. If there's a long notated passage there's a high likelihood that the composer/arranger doesn't really care about making all those particular notes (except when s/he does). Conversely, when there's changes there's often a good chance that the c/a had some particular things in mind, at least sometimes, and just didn't care to clue us in about it. So you're sight reading, listening to the band, listening to the rhythm section and always thinking about what underlies the notated chart and how you can find the best music for that moment in spite of much of what is written in front of you.

    I love that. The listening and filtering is part of jazz playing always. The "decoding" though, you don't get that particular experience anywhere else.

    + + +

    In case you can't tell, I just joined a real good big band. The charts have much less malarkey than the traditional "Tuxedo Junction" book but there's still plenty of opportunity for this peculiar brand of joy.

  2. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    I am amazed at how good many fully notated Sammy Nestico bass parts are, and how poor many other arrangers bass parts are.

  3. Will Kelly

    Will Kelly

    Mar 3, 2010
    Anytime I see a big band chart with notes written instead of changes, I want to wipe my azz with it.

    On a side note, this past Wednesday I got to play a big band gig with Butch Miles on drums. It was the most fun I have ever had playing with a big band.
  4. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Agreed. I also don't mind playing Wolpe notated lines. Some of the other stuff out there though...:eyebrow:!

    One thing that might make me go :eyebrow: even more are the "Latin" bass lines you find in these arrangements.
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Too many big band bass charts are written by a pianist - that's not what a bass player would play and tends not to sound good on the bass. Time to *improve* those dots!
  6. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    If only big band bass lines could be written as well as those found on Thad Jones charts (listening to Tiptoe right now.. so tasty).