Can we talk about Scott LaFaro?

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by hateater, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    Well, this cat definately has chops, but from what I understand, he has more to offer to jazz history than his blazing fast solos. I read somewhere (I think it was an amazon review for the villiage vanguard cd) that he was the first bass player to really step out of the traditional quarter note walking bassist box. He definately is more lead sounding than rhythm, but he still keeps it sounding tight. So, is he really the first bassist to play like this? Do we owe him respect for stepping outside of the box before other cats did?
  2. I am sure someone more knowledgable than me will chime in but I don't think it is at all accurate to say that LaFaro was the first to move beyond 4/4 walking into really melodic playing. Jimmy Blanton probably deserves credit for that, and he was doing his thing with Duke Ellington in the late-30s.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Mingus, too...not so much with his bebop sideman stuff, but definitely in his own compositions.

    The thing about LaFaro wasn't that he was the first, it was that he achieved a practically telepathic level of improvisation with a pianist AND drummer that was far away and above just about anything else at the time...and also that he was so young when he did this, and that he also died very young.
  4. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    If you listen to those trio recordings, the remarkable thing is that each one of them was.... Well I don't want to put it this way, but each one of them was sort of playing an identical role in the ensemble. It represents such a breakdown of barriers, to hear a pianist, a drummer and a bassist playing off each other equally that way. I'm still amazed, every time I listen to Alice in Wonderland from the Vanguard recordings.
  5. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR

    And how about LaFaro's own compisitions? Gloria's step is a GREAT song.
  6. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    There were other contemporaries of LaFaro's advancing the role of the bass as well at the same time - Haden, Peacock, Steve Swallow, etc were all pushing the boundaries in their own way
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Very much agreed! I guess the reason I wish he had lived longer is far more that of his (excellent) compositions rather than just his playing.
  8. Paul Warburton

    Paul Warburton In Memoriam

    Aug 17, 2003
    Denver, Co.
    interplay,interplay, interplay, interplay, interplay
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    PAUL! :D
  10. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I'm pretty sure that was Percy Heath, though... :p

    The thing with that trio is that it was one of those perfect moments in history where the right people were together at the right time, and with the ingredients in place they did something special. The other thing is that Scott's playing is so authoritative, so genuine and true, that he can do whatever he wants and it works; that's what really impresses me about him, especially about that last recording--you get the impression that the sound and the ideas are just gushing out of him in an unstoppable torrent. In one afternoon he played enough stuff to last a room-full of musicologists a lifetime's worth of work. Hearing those Village Vanguard recordings just refreshes my ear and recharges my battery; playing transcriptions of the solos completely energizes me and makes me glad to be a bass player. I don't think one can give him too much credit--if not for his influence (how many bassists have the courage to try to follow in his footsteps, I mean really follow?) then at least for the genuiness of what he did. (Of course, this is a forum in which one of the threads is titled "Is Miles overrated?" :rolleyes: )
  11. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    I bought the live cd, and i inted to purchase waltz for debby. Paul Motian smokes.
  12. dylanjohnson

    dylanjohnson Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2002
    Morro Bay, CA
    I while back I found a recording of the Stan Getz band at Newport in 61, I believe just after the Vanguard recordings and just before his fateful drive to upstate NY.

    What was amazing to me is how he was able and willing to shift gears for the situation. With Getz his playing is more traditionally supportive and appropriate for Stan's style. His playing with Ornette was a whole other approach as well.

  13. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    He plays very differently again, and also wonderfully, in the Hampton Hawes quartet with Harold Land and Frank Butler. Quite reiminiscent of Ray Brown, very strong, swinging lines. That album, 'For Real', has recently been reissued with a very good sound, LaFaro is very clear in the mix.
  14. Paul Warburton

    Paul Warburton In Memoriam

    Aug 17, 2003
    Denver, Co.
    If you listen to Scott when he was in L.A., there's a great line of jazz DB history. For instance, several great bassists: Scott, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock and one cat...Albert Stinson, unfortunaly didn't live to fruition, But was on track for greatness. The one thing they all had in common was that they were all mentored by the great Red Mitchel (don't worry, I'm not going into my Red Rant)
    Another side bar....Scotts burnt Prescott was delivered to the Kolstein Boys by none other than guessed it...Red.
    If any of you have heard Gary Peacock before he moved to NY, you'd notice him walking his ass off, very similar to Scott in terms of laying it down.
    all jazz bassists owe Red a huge thanks for bringing these players into their own.
    Red was also responsible for getting Ornette Coleman his first record deal with Atlantic! Red also appeared on Ornette's first record.With of all people Shelly Manne on drums. Well, that's a small Red Rant.
  15. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    I asked Charlie Haden about LaFaro when I studied with him. Charlie shared a room with scott in LA. He said the cat was a practice maniac (who would have guessed) and was way into arco and classical etudes and being in real good shape. I remember Charlie saying he would fall outta bed and into the kitchen and there would be scott doing pushups (99,100....) even though they both had been out til all hours.
    I was so blown by scotts playing for so long...I have this theory that helps me figure **** out sometimes...its that, what these monsters are doing is EASY for them, so I try and deconstruct or reverse engineer concepts to get to thinking about how you make these mind blowing playing styles easy.
    But scott's had me stumpted for a long time. There are aspects to his playing that are just pure inspiration, flights that catapult into the stratosphere and ya just know he's pulling a lot of it outta the ether.
    but he also has a way of playing the upper tensions that make them sound like what they are, instead of new keys or mistakes (its really hard on the bass to play upper structures and have them sound as they do on say a piano or horn)
    and he can play those two string arpegios as though he were playing guitar (and not sound like a scampering fool)
    So much was Bill too. He just knew so well how to set scotty up for freedom. And the tempos were perfect. I play a lot of those tunes still on gigs and people always call them soooo much faster now. It leaves a lot less room to strech like scott.
    The ornette sides are so deep.
    But dig, scott had theory down like a pianist. His concept like many people who spend a lot of time at the piano as well as their main instrument was comprehensive.
    And still fresh.
    Wanna really get blown away? Download the program TRANSCRIBE which allows you to listen at half or quarter speed without a pitch shift.
    check out solar or ...any of him...
  16. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Yeah, brother. Go ahead . . . take your time . . .

    Yogi sez, "Ninety-five percent of this game is 100% mental . . ." IMO just not thinking, "Damn, this is hard" covers the 100% part and the other five percent is the masters' gift.

    Because anybody who hears the Vanguard records can tell that LaFaro was NOT saying, "Gee, I think I'll play some really hard **** now." Or, "Wow, I'll play fast now." Probably not even, "Golly, I'll move around the fingerboard a lot now." And definitely not, "I think I'll mess up some bass-players' heads now."

    Yessir . . . tell it . . .

    But I'll bet if he were here, he'd be saying, "I'm not doing anything you can't do . . . " Because as you so eloquently point out, it's not what he did, it's the music in back of the mechanics.

    Thanks for sharing, FB. Ya can't say enough about the man who broke the box forty-five years ago.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Amen. And you know what's funny? I've played things myself that made perfect sense in the moment that I'd have a terrible time trying to figure out how to play if I were analyzing and plotting fingerings. I wonder if Scott would say the same thing about some of the stuff he played, or if he would find a lot of that **** waaaaayyy more difficult to pull off in retrospect and out of context, or from the written just goes to show that there's no substitute for HEARING in the moment, and no substitute for playing with someone like Bill.
  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I believe it was Coltrane that was shown a transcription of one of his solos and his response was "I can't play that!"

    There is something magical about improvisation that takes us outside of our logical way of thinking and makes emotion and base reaction take hold. That is why I (and many others) choose to play jazz.
  19. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Yep, this is the beautiful thing about playing improvised music. As Chris mentioned I have myself on ocassion played things that i would have a hard time trying to cop from a recording. Luckily for me i take the "less is more" approach and refuse solos whenever i can...
  20. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    We should take a note from the man himself and remember to switch gears to play in the appropriate style when going from one gig to the next. The Getz gig seems to be the last one Scotty did, from looking at the timeline at the LaFaro website - - I'd like to get a copy of this appearance at Newport if it's available. You all should visit this site - it gets updated all the time with newly found photos and articles, etc.

    What gets me is he only played the instrument for six years and here we are still talking about him in astonishment of his abilities and legacy. Scott's sister once said he had a premonition of his life being shortened and was on a mission to get out as much music as he could before the end. Eerie huh?