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Chuck Israel's quote on walking and spontaneous composition

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by marc40a, Dec 19, 2002.

  1. marc40a


    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    "When you come right down to it and start analyzing great jazz basslines, as long as they're tied to normal tonal harmony, they're like Bach.... Except for a few situations, a good bass player will play roots rathwer than fifths of chords....some other rules: A scalewise passage can change direction at any time. After a leap, that is, an interval of more than a second one returns by a step in the opposite direction, except when that leap is followed by another leap, in which case you have an arpeggiated figure, and you're free to continue or change direction. But as soon as you go from a leap back to a step-wise, conjunct motion, you invariably do that in the opposite direction from the last leap you took. Unless, as in Bach, you continue in the same directionm only to come back immediately and then turn back in the opposite direction so that the continuation in the same direction becomes and embellishment. If you look at satisfying jazz bassline, almost all of them follow these rules."

    Can anyone shed light on the connection between Bach and walking? Is he referring to Bach's basslines in counterpoint or does it apply to solo compostions as well - like the cello suites for example. I remember an accomplished player mentioning that he followed a few 'rules' for walking. Does anyone else use anything like this?
  2. I don't conciously think about any rules per say when I'm improvising a walking line, but I like to build a line that moves the harmony forward in a way that provides a useful reference point for the soloist -- I view that as Job #1 in terms of harmony. A certain number of the "rules" the Israels describes are going to occur because of choices regarding note leading etc.

    The more I feel that a soloist is comfortable with the tune and the changes, the farther away I move from these rules and play on substitute chords, extended tones, move away from traditional "figured bass" voice leading.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've always said that Bach is the daddy of all bass players.
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Israels' Rules sound like Yogi Berra On The Bass: "You're always playing steps except when you're playing arpeggios. And you can change direction when you want, but you'll be going the opposite way."

    Consider the "Rule" over this up-tempo Ron Carter-oid F Blues line -- think "Eye of the Hurricane" off the first VSOP: HighF MidA C B | Bb Ab G Gb | F F# G DownDb | C Gb F -- This line has leaps with steps in the same direction as the leap. Sometimes it conforms, sometimes it doesn't.

    Israels has forgotten more than I'll ever learn about walking a bass. But once I'm in motion, I'm not thinking about "Rule 2a says to change direction," I'm listening to the players and running the changes.

    Sure hope I haven't said anything dumb. Or broken a rule.
  5. And just what Israels mean by a "satisfying" bass line anyway? Is he talking about regular or menthol bass lines?
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Samuel, far from saying anything dumb, I think the "Yogi Berra on bass" thing is perfect. I perceived that in the quote but couldn't say it...
  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I can't count the number of times I've played the major 7th on one. When it feels right, I do it. Michael Moore has heard me do it many times and never disapproved.
    A note is never played or heard in isolation. What comes before and after are essential considerations.
  8. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon

    to answer your original question, drawing parallels between bach and walking lines, i think chuck was talking about general counterpoint rules.

    in a basic counterpoint course one learns about 'nonharmonic tones' - notes that don't fit the key or chord they're played in/over/during. counterpoint in bach's time had basic rules involving the use of these nonharmonic tones to make stuff sound good.

    chuck is talking about moving stepwise in the opposite direction of a leap. this is one of the traditional ways to resolve a nonharmonic tone - to leap to it and move stepwise back off it. there are all kinds of other approaches and resolutions for nonharmonic tones, even [leap-step same direction] and [step-leap same or opposite direction], this one just happens to be really common and sound particularly good.

    and chuck ain't talking about nonharmonic tones either - one could be walking a totally enharmonic (in the key) line and he'd say that a 'satisfying' line will follow this guide...
    but that nonharmonic tone stuff could be the counterpoint he's referring to.

    sean p
  9. ~~~Could Chuck Isreals be referring to the way the bass lines move in Bach's 4-point Chorales? My teacher suggested I practice playing the bass lines for Bach's Chorales on the double bass. PG Music.com has a good CD-ROM of them, which I am planning to order.
    ~~~What's interesting about Bach's Chorales is that this is vertical harmony as opposed to counterpoint. So it makes the study of harmonic chord changes easier for the student, then trying to play the bass line of a Bach fugue.

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