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bowed bass in jazz

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Stefan Boeters, Dec 12, 2000.

  1. In another thread (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?threadid=9055 in the technique forum) I went so far to say that I in general don't like arco playing on the DB in any kind of swing or bop oriented mainstream jazz.

    I was anxious to include this "swing or bop" qualification because on the other hand there is some arco playing of jazz bass players that I like very much (I've solo work of Dave Holland and Miroslav Vitous in mind, though I wouldn't insist on calling that "jazz"). However, as soon as the bass player in a swing or bop standard reaches for the bow for soloing, I would rather skip that solo and go one with the closing melody.

    Of course this opinion is open to revision. I think that the jazz setting most suited for the sound of a bowed bass that I like would be some kind of ballad. Unfortunately I know of no examples of bowed bass solos in jazz ballads.

    Any suggestions for listening?

  2. How about Slam Stewart? His bowed solos are IMO Great music, not to mention his humming in unison, only an octave higher. His duo works with Slim Gaillard are by the way also hilarious! And if someone says it´s not "jazz", I have one old recording, where Slam is playing in Lionel Hampton´s band, the piece is Star Dust, and Slam´s hummed & bowed solo is one of the greatest I´ve ever heard. Listen to this guy...
    Of course there are many players who do bow solos for Bop tunes and everything they want. I´m sorry that the only music including arco solos ( except for this Lionel LP ) I have myself, are some 50´s & 60´s recordings w P.C. or sometimes Ron playing stuff. I really can´t distinguish whether it´s great art or crap ( ´cause you know the sound...).
    When I listen to those things, I always get a strange feeling of relief when they put the bow away and get back to the head out....

  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I mentioned about Christian McBride's latest solo album - "SciFi". Track 9 is "Butterfly Dreams" by Stanley Clarke, which is a very nice ballad in this context (I haven't heard the original) with some very nice bowed solos - wonderful tone!

    Avishai Cohen also does some nice bowed solos, but he might be regarded as more "crossover" than Jazz.

    I'm sure I've heard a lot of "bowing in Jazz records - it's just a question of remembering where this is. At my local Jazz club, the bassists very often do bowed solos. I remember Richard Davis playing with a bow on the Eric Dolphy classic : "Out to Lunch".
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    As far as straighahead jazz is concerned, you can hear some beautiful, melodic arco soloing from Christian McBride, Eddie Gomez and the very underrated George Mraz, to name a few. Vincent Charbonnier--Jacques Loussier's bassist--also has excellent arco technique, though the music has an obvious classical bent. Stanley Clarke is capable of drawing an almost voicelike tone from a bowed bass, but I've never hear him do it in a straight bop context.

    Admittedly, compelling arco bass is very hard to do in traditional jazz. However, this seems to be the case for all bowed strings! (How many good jazz violinists can you name? Grappelli, Ponty, Carter, Nance, Lockwood, Feldman...that's it for me!)
  5. This may be because it's hard to swing with the bow, let alone play bop lines. With the triplet feel and accents
    falling on the weak beat it takes some thought and practice.
    To see what I mean try bowing swinging eighths on just one
    note detache. If you're placing the accent on the second eighth and giving it a slightly longer duration you have to
    compensate the length of the stroke. It's not to tough on one note. Next try playing a two or three octave scale detache in swing eighths, that's a little harder. Now try playing a Parker head. I was working on Ornithology this morning. That's not too tough, but you're able to think about the bowing and the fingering in advance. The bow knows what it has to do. Try improvsing, it's not so easy getting the bow around.

    Much of PC's sound can be attributed to plain gut strings and black horsehair. Really it's amazing it sounds that good, because when improvising you not only have to get the
    bow to the string with the note, you have to think about bow speed and pressure and measuring your stroke to be prepared for wherever you're going.

    Check the Tyrone Brown String Sextet _Song for the Sun_. All strings, and they burn (the parts I've heard on the radio at least). I love the sound of all the strings too.
  6. John Coltrane "Ole"
    somewhere on this cd there is a smoking 2 bassplayer bow solo.
    Art davis and Reggie Workman
    Check it out
  7. Forgot to mention Anders Jormin ( one of my great favorites ), who plays a two and half minutes intro for one tune in Charles Lloyd´s title "Notes From Big Sur". That´s worth listening too, even though it´s as far from Bop solos as it possibly could. Anyhow, things he does with the bow sound great in that context.
    Well, when you come to think about it, there´s a lot of bowed jazz around.
    DAVID K: You´re absolutely right about PC´s sound attributed to plain guts & black horsehair. Slam also had that kind of setup, not to mention his old Kay and a lowsy 15-dollar bow.
    I once read a story somewhere ( don´t remember where ) that when Slam was playing in Philly with someone´s band, there were the whole Symphony Orchestra Bass section sitting in front of the stage tryin´to figure out how he got that incredible sound...
  8. Other than soloing, I like that one line on Mingus' Nobody Knows where there is a arco line playing the root notes of the chord progression over the top of the other bass, which is walking. Makes for a cool sound. Not sure if Mingus is doing the walking, the arco, both or neither (maybe he's just wailing on the piano!)
  9. Slam Stewart and Major Holley did a CD titled "Shut Yo Mouth" with piano and drums. Both of these guys are master bass players, have different Arco/Scat solo styles, and are funny as hell. This is one of my favorite "BASS in your face" CDs and a great blue day disc, when you hear it you can't help but smile. If you say these guys don't swing you better get your headgear checked, it may be empty.

    [Edited by bassbrad on 12-12-2000 at 06:07 PM]
  10. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Slam, Major Holley, Mraz, and several others, of course, but I hear the most artistry from McBride and Lynn Seaton. Michael Moore can bow some wicked solos, too. Rufus Reid also. Man, I just don't how you can overlook all the great jazz arco going on.

    [Edited by Don Higdon on 12-12-2000 at 07:54 PM]
  11. Thanks for all the suggestions. For me, they have the more value the more specific they are. Often it's difficult to find a bowed bass solo if there's only a single one on a CD (say on one of the last tracks).

    So I would appreciate very much if you could give me hints as to particular tracks on particular CDs.

    Any suggestions for McBride recordings apart from "SciFi"? I'm also very much interested in hearing Lynn Seaton, Michael Moore or George Mraz bowing.

    Do you have particular recordings in mind?


  12. Thanks, double dad, for that link to David Hollenders discography (also thanks to Bob for collecting it, and, of course, to David for compiling all that information). This actually seems to answer far more than my initial question.

    Two minor questions remain:

    (1) Lynn Seaton does not appear in that list (which isn't, as David writes, meant to be complete). Any hint about a bowed solo by him?

    (2) As to Arni Egilsson, see the thread in the "Bassists" forum.

  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Lynn Seaton has an album of his playing. All that information is home. I named him on the basis of what I've seen him do in person. Electrifying.
    On most recordings, only one or two of the bass solos will be arco. You have to take what you can get.
    An excellent recording for hearing the bass (McBride) is "These Are Soulful Days" by Benny Green on Blue Note. The group is piano, guitar (Russell Malone), and bass. No drums, so you hear everyone clearly. You won't believe how tight this trio is.
    There is good Mraz, both pizz and arco on Zoot Sims - Soprano Sax, recorded on Pablo. Zoot and Lucky Thompson are my 2 favorite soprano players. I know, who asked me?

    [Edited by Don Higdon on 12-14-2000 at 10:55 AM]
  14. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Only one person mentioned Michael Moore and I'd like to add that he studied with the great virtuoso Ludwig Striecher and has purity of tone to rival anyone. He plays arco on all his duo recordings with Gene Bertoncini and is an essential part of the collection of any bassist interested in arco in jazz and it's history.
  15. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    And some lucky stiffs have Michael Moore as their teacher.
    :D :D :D :D
  16. bootsaco


    Sep 8, 2001
    Portland, ME
    richard davis did an album with elvin jones entitled "heavy sounds" there is some great bass playing on the one, and a mostly arco version of summertime played by just davis and jones, some great stuff on that one. i can't take it out of my cd player this week, for some reason.
  17. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"

    On the other hand, Davis' arco on Pat Martino's "Footprints" record sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. Very disappointing! Just goes to show (a) everyone has an off-day and (b) if that one is a recording engineer, yer gonna pay for a long time!
  18. While in Prague, I picked up local hero George Mraz's new solo album "Morava"... in additional to containing breathtakingly beautiful songs, Mraz's arco sound is really fat and pretty.

  19. bootsaco


    Sep 8, 2001
    Portland, ME
    george mraz is amazing. his sound and his melodies are beautiful.

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