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Interaction between bass and drums

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Mikewl, Dec 25, 2004.

  1. I've always heard about the interaction between the bassist and drummer in a band. How Scott La faro and Paul Motian "interacted" and "communicated" and "cooperated" more effectively than any other drum/bass combo.
    Admittedly, I'm new to the whole jazz thing, but I don't really understand: assuming all professional rhythm section players can play in time and play lines of similar standard, what makes one rhythm section better than the next? What is the "interaction" that I've always heard about, but never understood? (till now, hopefully) Thanks in advance.
  2. Mike, please take a minute to complete your profile. It's much easier to help solve a players problem or to even just answer a question when you know a few things such as age, maybe something about your bass and location....thanks.
    I thinks most jazz bassists and drummers will agree that the first thing you need to address in terms of rhythm section playing, along with the pianist or guitarist or whatever 'chordal voice' you have in the band....if, indeed, you do, is establishing the 'POCKET' or groove or whatever you wanna call that getting together so you're all in it with a similar feel or vibe.Once you get in the pocket, you'll know it and from there is where most of the fun begins....interplay with all the other instruments starts.
    This is overly simplified, but if the drummer and the bassist aren't in the pocket....forget the rest. Nuthin' feels better than that groove and interplay is iceing on the cake!
    The next lesson would be learning how not to trash it out!
  3. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    The thing that makes a player desirable to hire is that players ability to adapt to many situations. I have played with many drummers and there are certain ones that I am excited to hear are on the gig, but the ultimate goal is to swing/groove regardless. Often a pairing of guys with a similar conception of time and groove and roles etc. helps.

    Also remember that the Motian/LaFaro combo was one of those that falls into the magical category. There have been many great bass/drum combos, but only certain ones that fall into that magical category in my opinion. What they had is beyond explanation, or we all would be able to do it.
  4. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    For me, in simple terms, it's when everything feels "right and tight" and neither myself or the drummer is having to work at it...it's just happening naturally because we think alike (as Paul and Fingers alluded to earlier).
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Once you get to the point that you are able to communicate effectively, there really isn't any "better than the rest". There's just players that communicate to you more or less than other players. And it's not even that carved in stone, what speaks to you deeply on one occasion may not on another and vice versa.
    And then there are those players who seem to speak about truth and beauty every time they put their horn in their mouth (or whatever).

    Just about every good rhythm section has "interaction", even ones playing straight ahead four on the floor. We'll come back to that; what Scotty and Paul had was the ability to really break the time up but maintain the groove/forward momentum of the music. There's a great line from SNOWCRASH - the ability to distill meaning from the vapor of nuance. And those guys could make you hear the structure without rigidly defining the structure, either harmonically or rhythmically. Defining meaning from nuance. And for a bassist who just heard himself in that space, the first one really there in that space and there so strongly, well it was really affecting to hear that. I'm sure that everybody has their story of either hearing them live or hearing those Vanguard records for the first time and how that just opened a door on a new world. That's why they are "important" historically and musically. Personally it's inspiring to hear somebody with that strong a voice following their conviction and intent into such a beautiful space.

    But like I said, all GOOD musicians have "interaction". Just like there isn't any "better", once you get to a certain point it's not "play in time and play lines of similar standard", what you are playing is a "mixture" of your internal conception of the tune AND how you are hearing the "mixture" of the other players. Your "melody" and the drummer's "melody" and the pianist's "melody" and the tenor player's "melody" etc. all have to be there because of what you are HEARING (both internally and externally)not because of what dots are on a page or what symbols are on a page or what changes you learned from the last guitar player you worked with. What are you hearing NOW?

    If you think about playing jazz as a conversation, you will always find people who bring more to the conversation - deeper insight, more beautiful language, the ability to cut complex ideas to their essence, the ability to speak in such a way that you not only know what they feel but that you feel some aspect of it yourself and still acknowledge the weight and beauty of the language in which they express themselves.

    But as long as you can express yourself, the ideas and thoughts and feelings that you have, in clear and precise language that expresses those things with as much specificity and feeling as you can, you get to take part in the conversation too.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Well put as usual by the expatriate from Bum****. In addition, I also notice that every once in a while, if you're very lucky, you can run into what I think of as musical "soulmates". When you find these folks, as with such a mate if you're lucky enough to find and land one, the best course of action is TREAT 'EM RIGHT. The longer I live, the more I come to appreciate these folks and how much better of a musician they seem to make me every time I play with them.

    Just recently, I've had the pleasure of playing with a great drummer up in Cincy by the name of Tony Franklin. He's got some kind of voodoo going whereby he can instantly hear what I'm playing AND what the pianist (or guitarist) is playing in a trio setting and play just the right thing instantly at all times to make it all work at a higher level. The first time I played with him, I couldn't believe how easy it was. If anybody out there gets a chance to check this guy out or play with him, jump on it. He's one damn fine player, and he's got a set of ears on him that would make an elephant proud.
  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Here's an effort at a "nuts-and-bolts" approach.

    As Chris and Ed have said so poetically, jazz is a conversation. You think you hear where somebody's going and you do your part to get them there, or to get them to somewhere else that you think makes beauty and sense.

    If the folks you're working with have big ears, they will hear that you are trying to do something and they'll leave you musical space to do it. Not that the bottom will drop out and the spotlight will come on, but more that they won't try to steer in a different direction at the same time. Obviously you have to leave them musical space as well. Sometimes they will actually go in the same direction at the same time and that's always a smiling moment.

    All this can take place in a wide variety of environments. You could be in a wild setting, pointing your saxophonist toward the appropriate quadrant of the galaxy while your guitarist sets off noises instead of playing power-chords that compete with yours. You could be in a LaFaro-esque moment and you're launching off, implying chords and time while your drummer hits the brushes for a moment and stops Tonying the high-hat. It could be that you're in a Chambers-esque place and dropping that propulsive triplet at the right moment and that's the very moment the drummer cuts back to quarters instead of "pop pop pop" on the snare. It could be that it's Eddie Jones time and your straight quarters are pushing that big band along, leaving room for the drummer to drop the bombs.

    You can't plan it. You can't force it. People can tell when you do. If they can't, you need a better audience.

    Hope this helps.