How Unforgiving is the Straight-Ahead Jazz World to Bass Guitar?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jazzbo, Mar 21, 2002.

  1. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    For reasons I recently disclosed in a rather lengthy PM to IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD DURRL I've decided, for the time being at least, to dedicate my time and energy to that inflated toy instrument I call a Bass Guitar. This, however, does not change my desire to play jazz, more in the straight-ahead vein.

    Assuming my skills will one day be there, how unforgiving is the jazz community to this idea? This idea of me playing bass guitar in a combo. How much resistance will I be met with? How many gigs will I lose based not on ability but on choice of instrument?
  2. XavierG

    XavierG In Memoriam

  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    You SUCK!
  4. XavierG

    XavierG In Memoriam

    ...when toybassers are unleashed in DB Castle.
  5. Loser, what the heck are you doing over here.
    Pack your bags.
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    I'm in no position to speak for "the jazz community."

    I guess it comes down to a) the skill and approach you bring to the instrument and the music, and b)the relationships you have with the musicians you work with, and how much they want to hear you as opposed to how much they want to hear that sound..

    With that in mind, we've all seen lots of slabs playing jazz and cocktail gigs, and musicians like Bob Cranshaw and Steve Swallow seem to have done just fine in The League That I Will Never Reach. Conversely, it seems pretty clear that Stanley Crouch and many others will not hesitate to give you the hairy eyeball just for bringing the slab onstage.

    Ultimately, we're aiming to be musicians who play the bass, not vice-versa. Follow your heart, man.
  7. Even though you broke the trend put on the plate and handed to Jazzbo I must say that was expressed nicely.
  8. """Assuming my skills will one day be there, how unforgiving is the jazz community to this idea?"""

    Nevermind the community...
    Would they have refused that freak Palostrius
    (can´t seem to recall his name;-))
    to sit in ?

    There will always be musicians who dislike
    the EBG while others look upon the dooghouse
    as ancient furniture...

    I would have my ears open for Samels advise.

  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The music biz is a bitch. Unless you have the horsepower to put a unique voice to the instrumet (which happens at that level maybe once or twice in 100 years), why cripple yourself?

    The problem doesn't lay so much in what your limitations might be, but most folks that you'll play with have no idea how to play straight ahead stuff with the electric. Invariably the rest of the band will try to compensate for the lack of what The Bass brings to the table, the band will sound like hell, and you'll not be called for the next gig. Unless you're in BFE and the only guy around.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This has been my perpetual question over the last 4 years or so and I know we're not alone!

    So - every year I go to a Jazz Summerschool and there are about 100 -120 students who split into small groups each of which have to have a bass player. So - out of 12 - 14 other bass players there is usually only one or two DB players and the rest are Bass Guitar players.

    I think when people get a bit older, their appreciation for music changes and they want more of a challenge so they turn to Jazz - but a lot of us bass players have only grown up with BG and are reluctant to put it down.

    Of course the thing is that of the tutors on the course (The Jazz pros) - all of them play Double Bass - they might double on BG as well, but the impression I get is that you can't make a living playing Jazz as a bassist unless you do play DB when required.

    So apart from my student experiences, I am a keen Jazz fan and attender of Jazz gigs - at least once a week, every week of the year! So in the last 4 - 5 years I have only seen 2 successful bassists who stick to BG only and that is out of literally hundreds of gigs! :eek:

    Funnily enough, I get the impression that there are more BGs in US Jazz; but this may be because there are simply more groups. Ironically I was watching the Jazz programme on satellite TV last night and nearly all the bands had BGs - I even saw footage of Dizzy Gillespie with a BG player!

    But generally in the UK, the Jazz audience expects a DB player and I have heard derogatory comments in the audience about the BG sound when they have featured ! :(
  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Chopsmeister and 6-stringer Steve Bailey played in Dizzy's final road band.

    Interesting to note that both Cranshaw and Swallow, often mentioned as guys who can really do the sh*t on BG, were upright players first; Cranshaw still doubles.

    Sonny Rollins (who uses Cranshaw) and Jimmy Giuffre (who uses Swallow) played with these guys using both axes and have stated clearly they prefer the BG because it's easier to hear the notes. As leaders go, they are obviously in the minority.

    I agree with them! As much as I love playing the URB, there's no doubt that it's always easier to hear a BG in the mix.

    What you lose out on is the tone and timbre, the whole vibe of the SOUND. There are obvious compromises, like playing fretless or even a semi-acoustic like a Godin, Turner, Rob Allen, Citron (what Swallow is playing these days), etc. that approach the sound of the URB.

    I've used my Godin on gigs (see a thread on this elsewhere) after despairing over feedback hassles with the URB and I can make it sound just like an AMPLIFIED (note emphasis) URB, though not like an unamplified one. It's easier to lug around and I can mimic Fender noises too saving me from hauling a plank as well to doubling gigs. But I miss the feel myself, it's harder for me to play it in the same way as the URB.

    The disdain for the BG will continue until someone comes up with a revolutionary concept on the axe in a straightahead format (Jaco doesn't count, he was a fuzer). Considering the controversy has raged since the 50s when Lionel Hampton made Monk Montgomery play a P-bass, it's not likely to change very soon.

    I would say that on the local gig level, I've found I will get hired for gigs simply because I will play URB. My jazz chops are non existent (I'm really a blues player) but I have done a few gigs with my nose in the Real Book trying to keep above water. The leader could have hired any of a number of guys who could have smoked me on BG but he wanted the URB, so I got the call. This bias is still very, very real.

    Of course, if YOU are the bandleader then no problem :cool: Good reason to start building a book, eh? :D
  12. Around here it's about how you play The Bass, how hip your lines are, etc. Maybe there are some gigs you wouldn't get but probably not many.
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Diz brought a slab player with him when he came here; forgot his name, he used to be in Larry Coryell's 11th House band. For me, it wasn't happennin'. He seemed pretty interested in my wife at a party afterwards; for her, THAT wasn't happenin' either...;)
  14. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    There certain things you can always count on McGruff for, even though he makes me cry.

    Perhaps I'm better off not playing with people who get too hung up in what instrument I'm playing, rather than how I sound.

    This is my fear. I know that there's a lot of elitism that goes on in the jazz community, and many will not want the sound of anything besides DB. Further, as Ray states, some may just not be willing to learn how to play with it.

    More news that is not terribly encouraging. It's not necessarily that I want to make a living playing jazz. I want to play jazz, on a casual basis, and if there is an aspect as supplemental income, that's fine, but it won't be make or break. Still, I want to know that if my skills and abilities are there, that people will be open to hiring me.


    Maybe I need to be "around there."

    This is all definitely not to say that I may never play DB, it's just that right now, I really want to concentrate my efforts on BG, and develop the sound that I'm just beginning to hear. I jam with friends once a week to straight-ahead stuff, and I play it with my teacher once a week, so I gotta think it's possible to do it and do it right. Maybe the key is to try and change people's minds.
  15. I try not to play with people who don't listen to anything recorded after 1965. Since I entertain no fancies of being a professional jazzer, I don't worry about the DB/BG bias. I konw some doublers who play DB on jazz gigs because "it's appropriate for the music," but the music would be much better served by the application of their abilities on BG. It is kinda sad.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think that's right and that's what Jaco did - he brought something new along that people hadn't heard before and which was adding to the Jazz vocabulary - in terms of the way he played.

    But I think if you are just going to play exactly the same lines as a DB player would and try to fit in, in the same way....then you start to think - well then why not just play a DB?

    Of course it is hard though to develop your own style that is still "Jazz" but something different - this is exactly why I have asked questions before on here about how to develop a style that involves non-repetitive lines that are not just walking lines!

    But if you are just going to play walking lines, then why not use the instrument that this style was developed on?

    I still think that even if I do go over to "proper" DB ful time that I will always prefer playing solos on Bass Guitar - you can do so much more that is actually hard by your audience. And there are some things I really want to do that I can only do on BG.

    I think the ideal is to play both and choose the instrument for the style you are playing. So - if it is a small acoustic group, playing 60s style bop - then a DB fits in like nothing else. EUB does well in large Latin-style groups and if you are thinking of Jazz with funk/fusion elements and a "loud" tricky drummer, then bass guitar is probably the weapon of choice! ;)

    I suppose you have to know what you want to do and then work towards that - trouble is - most of us just want to play and think about that sort of thing after!! :D
  17. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I hear people talking about Jaco, Jaco was great a fantastic musician that influenced a generation, lots of kids today play things sort of like Jaco and they don't even know where it comes from they got it from someone else that may have learned from Jaco, but keep in mind that with all that Jaco was never a straight ahead bassist, and that was not his goal, I would guess that he respected music for what it is, but he didn't claim to be a musician of any sort, he thought in his mind that he could play all kinds of music; now talking about straight ahead jazz is something totally different, Jazz has a lot to do with tradition and besides the guitar the instruments on jazz are pretty much of acoustic nature and that is something absolute beautiful, most people these days believe that we are in fact playing the cello, how many times have you been asked that?, I can hardly think of any electric bass player that can really swing playing walking bass, it does not mean I don't like their approach but I truly believe that each instrument has it's place in music, so when a listen to jazz I wanna hear that beautiful natural woody sound because nothin come close to that.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Doh! Can't believe I missed this one. I don't have time to reply at length to this at the moment, but just wanted to mention that NOSEBLOW is temporarily forbidden to enter the Castle until further notice. The moat monsters are hungry and ready should he attempt to crash our little elitist party now that he's declared that he has no immediate intention to buy a DB. Please don't talk to jazzbo any more until or unless he changes his mind.

    Jeez, some people... :rolleyes:
  19. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    We can still talk to him, Chris. Simply exercise your prowess in monosyllabic verbage.
  20. mcbosler


    May 12, 2000
    Plano, TX
    This is how it seems to me: Playing bass is like any other general profession out there; If you're good at what you do, you'll be able to find employment. If you take the time to "expand your horizons" and become more "well-rounded" by picking up a new instrument, you'll get more jobs to choose from. But you don't really even have to confine this to whether or not you pick up DB. You could just as easily learn to play guitar, drums, or even give singing and keyboards a try. If you're a musician, you're a musician. Just because the instruments are shaped differently doesn't mean you can't learn to play them all through practice and determination, just as you have learned to play EBG. This hit me just the other night - I'm in a hard rock trio that's looking for a singer. A guy I knew from another rehearsal place I was at was walking around in the building. I brought him in and told him our situation. He auditioned and did great. After my drummer and guitarist left, the guy that tried out for vocals jammed with me on drums, then guitar. He was amazing on both (his vocals were quite impressive as well). I asked him which of these he considered to be "his instrument." He replied, "Oh, none of these; I play the electric bass." My jaw's still on the floor; kind of sore from dragging it around like this for a day and a half...
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