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Forever a BassMaid?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Kneehimiah, Sep 6, 2005.


  1. I'm working on a book, and this topic occured to me, so I thought that I'd throw it out to all of you. We bass players are naturally thought to be sidemen. The gig is always headed by a pianist, or the cute chick-singer, or the blasted horn player. How many of you lead your own groups? Regularly? Never? No interest? I just played the Montreaux Festival in Atlanta and they had a theatre playing filmed concerts. Well, they played Charles Mingus at Montreaux from 1975, among others. I nearly wiped tears leaving the theatre. I don't see that kind of performance coming from too many of the previously mentioned folks. Now don't get me wrong. I make my bread and butter showing up at a gig playing, packing, leaving, and showing up somewhere else to play between the wolf-howls and the bird-chirps. I head maybe 5-10 gigs a year. Well folks, what do you think?

    Kneehimiah
    www.ramonpooser.com
     
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Ramon, that still sounds like " you know I don't see any moose around here. Why aren't there any moose any more?"

    There are plenty of bands that are led by bassists. Sure, not as many as are led by other instrumentalists; but as more bassists are composers, arrangers, strong soloists they naturally step into the forefront.
     
  3. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I think there are lots of bands headed by bassists and I think bassists are often best positioned to lead groups just because of their function in the group. I personally play more far more gigs as a leader than I do as a sideman.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Bass players don't HAVE to be leaders, and so, as a species, are less compelled to do so. If you're a singer or hornist, you pretty much have to get gigs and call sidemen. Pianists are somewheres in the middle.
     
  5. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Prince, for one, has already shown that hit songs with catchy melodies can be produced and sold for big cash without a bass in the mix.

    Worse, any keyboard player with 2 hands make bass obsolete. I won't even bother to mention samples and synthesizers.

    We bassists should be counting our blessings IMO...
     
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Polly, polly-polly-polly-olly-olly AAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNAAAAAAAAAA.

    :)
     
  7. There are leaders and then there are people out in front, just like a caravan (trailer in the US I think) is out in front of the traffic queue behind it.

    BTW, when out in CA to see my bro he told me that out there if a caravan trailer or whatever gets more than 3 cars behind it they pull over and let them past. Sod me they did. They don't over here. And the loon getting the limelight doesn't stop pretending he or she is in charge either.

    Ray Brown kept saying in one interview I read that he palyed in bass trios. The interviewer kept slipping into repeating 'piano trios' that Ray had played in but Ray kept putting him right.

    IMHO choosing an instrument who's principal role in a jazz band is to support the rest of them could mean two things and they are not mutually exclusive 1) you aren't aiming for personal out-front look at me glory at the front like leaders seem to be and 2) in supporting the rest of the band you're the person most likely to make sure they get things done - and that's leadership.
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    RAMON - hey, you still working with Charlie Robinson? If so, tell him I says "Hi". We go WAY back...
     
  10. I just saw Charlie at the Montreaux festival. I believe that he's in good health and is playing well. We haven't played together in a while, though.

    Ramon
    www.ramonpooser.com
     
  11. That's impressive to me, Chris. Most of the bass players that I know who have clubs have them to headline/sideman with everyone who comes in.

    Ramon
    www.ramonpooser.com
     
  12. The idea behind the thread was more conversational, and to encourage more bassists to balance themselves between being sidemen and leaders, certainly more than me. I cut my teeth in the Atlanta area playing 12-15 regulars a week. This lasted more than 6 months. I was happy running from gig to gig, but I think that expressing yourself more as a leader is a part of the big picture too.
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Eh? :confused:
     
  14. In my 43 year career as a jazz bassist, i've played many more gigs as a leader than as a sideman.
     
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I consider myself a covert leader. :)
     
  16. Western Jazz Quartet

    headed by Tom Knific, does a nice job of letting the bass be heard. He uses very sparse arrangements in his album "Home Bass".
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I dunno. The only real reason I can see for being a leader is because being a sideman doesn't allow you the full expression you need. If it DOES (or if it will by saying NO to gigs you don't want to play with people you don't want to play with doing music you have no interest in), then leading a band just so you can say "I led a band" seems kind of pointless.

    I mean maybe it's a metro vs. sticks thing too; I know when I was in Augusta the best insurance that I had for being on a gig that had the people I wanted to play with on it was to put the band and the gig together myself. But up here, it's pretty easy to pick and choose the situations I'm involved in without being THE cat who puts the band together.

    Glad to hear Charlie's doing OK, his hair's gotten even whiter than mine! It was a gas seeing the little video clips of him; I couldn't really hear much, my computer speakers are for crap...
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ditto what the big bird said. If you get to be a sideman for really good players, your jones is fixed and there's no reason to become the big cheese. Plus, most great players who are great ensemble players accept what you bring to the music to such a degree that you are in effect a vice-president of sorts - at least in a small group, anyway.

    But before I had the chance to play with a lot of great players, I found myself putting together and booking groups more so that I could have more creative control of what was going on. Of course, I wasn't a bassist then...
     
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Man, I gotta get a t-shirt....
     
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    There are reasons to be a leader, but liabilities and responsibilities that come along with it. You have to be prepared and have your purposes for doing this.

    If you're a successful leader, people aren't as likely to call you for sideman gigs -- because you are a band leader. So, you have to be prepared to hustle most of your work. Also, as a successful leader you have to know how to work your market. Saturation can be a problem, and keeping interest in a saturated market can be a problem. If you don't keep your material (be it music or musicians) fresh, you have to be willing to travel. There is a lot to consider as a leader, including time spent hustling being subtracted from the time that you have to dedicate to your musical growth.

    As a sideman, the basis of your success is on making the leader sound and look good. After that, you can be a successful sideman by being a REALLY successful sideman and having some room-filling capabilities based on that success. When you reach this level you're back to the saturation issue, and then you have to be selective in your work and have the balls to raise your prices to achieve the balance to keep your attractiveness up and your bills paid.

    Now, in smaller markets these things seem more subtle, but in NYC they are life and death.