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Examples of good jazz arco phrasing

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by winston, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. winston


    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I've been doing a lot of arco exercises to develop my basic bow technique, but when I solo in my jazz band I have a hard time figuring out how to phrase with the bow. Any suggestions for recordings/learning materials would be most helpful.

    I am taking occasional lessons with a good local jazz player and am working with the Simandl, Rufus Reid, and Ray Brown books. I'm impressed by Mingus's agggressive arco and Michael Moore's sublime expression with the stick (particularly on his live album with Bill Charlap.)
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I suggest listening to tenor sax players. No joke.
  3. Sam has got a good point there. In my other life as a jazz violinist, I’ve had to "forget" a lot of the traditional ways of thinking about bowing and how it relates to phrasing. I learned a lot from listening and watching horn players; and even took lessons from them. All the horn players I took lessons from had me sing solos at first rather than play them on my instrument - and then kept reminding me to breath between phrases when I was playing. It helped tremendously, and also caused me to think less "square" with the bow arm.


  4. I've always dug the way Slam Stewart phrased. Maybe it was because he sang and played at the same time.
  5. John Goldsby has a book called Bowing Techniques for the Improvising Bassist. I've heard Eddie Gomez and Edgar Meyer solo arco with very fluid, horn-like phrasing.
  6. I think what Sam meant to say was transcribe horn solos and play them arco.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I'm sure Sam will be along to speak for himself, but I didn't read anything about "transcribing" in his post...

    He said listen to tenor players in response to a question about how to phrase.

    I'm always talking with my horn-playing colleagues in crime about the music we play, how we play it, etc. I'm always amazed at the differences brought about between their "melodic" worldview and our "harmonic/rhythmic" worldview. It's the same music, but we're often coming at it from different angles.

    I think transcription and learning is a great SECOND step. Just listening and hearing is the first step.
  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Kinda reminds me of one time playing an original with composer and drummer Steve Grover. There was some question about interpreting the chart, and we asked Steve what to do. In his Maine-ish way, he just said, "Play what the composer intended."

    It is no surprise to find that someone as skilled and disciplined as David K has put time into transcribing. I'm too lazy. My loss.

    I meant that Winston can learn a lot about jazz bowing by listening to tenor players.

    a) Pizzicato phrasing conception is built around a note that decays (as are guitar, piano, vibes and drums, each in their own ways). Arco phrasing concept is built around notes that sustain and offers the ability to control dynamics in mid-stream. Same for wind-players.

    b) Consequently, in the typical jazz combo, it's only the wind-players who have a phrasing concept based on the tools which the bow allows a bassist to take advantage of.

    c) IMO the difference in registration (and testosterone) makes it difficult to learn much about phrasing from trumpeters. (Yeah, David K, there's a bunch to learn from Miles, no doubt.) I feel the same way about alto sax -- I'm not an alto! Trombone phrasing is highly idiomatic based upon the limitations and opportunities of the slide. In the typical combo, that leaves the king of horns, the horn of kings, the tenor saxophone.

    If you can't learn about phrasing from Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Bill Pierce or Chris Potter, please e-mail me so I can buy your disc.
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Oooh: I gotta get Prez on the list!!

    LESTER, yah!
  10. Sam, I've heard your playing, you know I think you're great. I'm suprised to learn you don't transcribe. I dig what you said about the bow being like the horn players breath, that's exactly why I started transcribing horn players and playing them arco. I've noticed how Paul Chambers arco solos are more or less the same as his pizz solos. I think the bow has a lot more to offer (not that I'm anywhere close though.)

    I'm still relatively a transcribing novice, but what I've discovered is how transcribing, writing down what was played, gets you inside the phrasing in a way that nothing else can. IMO that's a larger benefit than even getting the notes.

    I have to disagree about trumpet solos. Earlier this year I trasncribed Miles' solo on Freddie Freeloader, that sounds totally hip played arco. Mike Richmond loved it. I know Mike transcribed a bunch of Miles too. Recently I've been working on Coltrane's solo on Softly As In A Morning Sunrise. His phrasing is incredible; totally in the cracks or floating over top. At times it's very difficult to notate. I've been listening to that solo since I was a kid. I didn't start to get to know until now, like I've been decrypted a coded message.
  11. Again,we get back to what Michael Moore told Dono after Dons solo at a lesson: " You sounded like a bass player "
    For me, as Sam says, especially arco wise, I go directly to tenor players for phrasing. The timbre of the tenor seems to give me something to shoot for. Red Mitchell, when he was bowing alot of solos, was trying to get that Gene Ammons (Jughead) sound. For those of you not familiar with Jug, he had this huge, dark, controlled vibrato sound.
    Guitarist Jim Hall has always been a big influence on me pizz or arco! And of course, all these guys come directly from Lester Young.
    Last, but surely not least is Miles. Miles and Jim, both being studies on what not to play!!!
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Speaking as a listener and avid Jazz fan, I must say I've never been that keen on bowed DB solos in Jazz - but I did like what John Patitucci was doing with the bow when I saw him play with Wayne Shorter recently! :)

    Another thought - how about Cello players - worth studying their approach?

    There is a great young(ish) Cellist called Ben Davis who I have seen leading his own Jazz groups in the UK - a septet most recently.

    I liked what Davis was doing - great solos - all bowed - and interesting comp'ing as well.

    So he mentioned how he had studied with Dave Holland who had also played Cello - how about Cello in Jazz?
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Gene Ammons' vibrato is bad to the bone. Ever since I started bass lessons I've been working for a vibrato like that all over the fingerboard.
  14. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I've spent quite a bit of time trying to get as close as possible to Dexter Gordon's sound and phrasing.
  15. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    I don't know. I think I'm hearing pretty much the same stuff pizzicato as I do with the bow -although I'm not that agile with it yet. The lines I hear in my head are more or less the same, with certain diffrences due to the ability to sustain tones longer.

    To me, Miles is playing more or less in the same style with or without a
    mute... his lines are pretty much the same to my ears.

    That's the same way I view arco/pizz bass playing...to me it seems kind of awkward to try to mimic a kind of tone or phrasing of some player (dexter, prez, whoever) in my Arco playing when that's not what im going for pizzicato.
    Anyone with me?

  16. Yesiree! And by the way, this is my idea of a good, musically healthy thread. Johnny L. i'm impressed you're into Jug! Sometimes on TBDB, one is not clear on the musical backgrounds and tastes of the players or Luthiers. Sometimes, I get the idea that you guys are all too young to remember guys from those older generations!
    Very refreshing!! I'm right proud of You all!!
    I don't play many arco solos since the advent of amplifiers, plus I get frustrated with the fact that I can't find a string that supports both arco and pizz....But, please lets don't get into that!
  17. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    For those who didn't get it, Michael was expressing disapproval of my solo. Michael has said what Sam said: listen to tenor sax players, although at other times he has broadened it to mean hear like a horn player
  18. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    You can thank the information superhighway for broadening my musical tastes.
  19. Yes and no. What are you going for with pizzicato?

    I think the whole idea of tapping into the potential of the bow, is that it IS vastly different from pizz. I don't want all of my solos to sound the same. Maybe I want to try and mimic Pat Martino (more pizz-like) one time, and Jim Hall (more bow-like) another. Lee Morgan one time, Miles the next. One solo pensive, another playful, another angst-ridden. Something in keeping with the mood of the tune. Or to change the mood to contrast from the previous soloist...

    Bowing should lead you to hear lines that you wouldn't hear when pizzing, and vice versa. As Sam said, it is more than just a timbral difference. With the bow, you have the ability to crescendo on one held note, and to slur many notes together before rearticulating; things you just can't do with pizz. The bow, being the string player's "breath", brings him a step closer to the human voice, which as we know can be the most expressive and emotionally powerful instrument. For these reasons, I don't agree with the mute/no mute analogy.
  20. winston


    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Thanks to everyone for your helpful replies. Like T-Bal I find the bow inspires me to play different things than I do pizz. It's exciting to have the voicelike quality available but I'm still figuring how to do it. I'm also starting to realize that I need to "just play with it" as opposed to "just practicing with it" all the the time, if that makes sense.

    So far, I actually like the fact that the Spirocores on my bass have a gruff, pokey tone that's nothing like the pizz. It's a cutting sound that makes the other players take notice--and maybe even ratchet up the intensity a notch or two--instead of going into autopilot "let's bring everything WAY DOWN for the bass solo" mode.

    It's good to be reminded to listen to other instruments for inspiration...since I started DB 6 months ago (after 18 years of BG) I've kind of obsessively immersed myself in the culture of the instrument.

    I've always been more into the "big note" sax players (Prez, Hawk, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster) than the shredders. And there's something about the precision of Wayne Shorter's playing and writing that fascinates me. Since I'll be away from my instruments for several weeks over the holidays it will be a good time to sharpen my transcription skills.

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