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Jaco for Dummies

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by kiwlm, May 10, 2004.

  1. If there is such a book, how would you write it? What are the chapters that you are going to put down? Well, Dummies in this sense might just point to casual listeners or just rock fans (like myself) who just do not "get" jazz.

    I own 3 albums, Heavy Weather, This is Jazz (Weather Report, The Jaco Years), and the Debut Album.

    I just don't get Donna Lee. I soon realized that I am not musically sound enough to appreciate a lot of jazzy stuffs. The album that I can enjoy most is the Heavy Weather.

    But I have got a listen to what jaco have played in the Live in New York City Vol 2 Album, especially his covers of Wipe Out, Cissy Strut and Dear Prudence. I felt that Wipe Out is a good show of his speed. And Cissy Strut and Dear Prudence is a good show of his musical ability. And the two songs are easier to the ear of a rock fan compared to the tunes of Punk Jazz or River People.

    I am still pretty much amazed (especially after listening to the orignal version), that how much Jaco can play in the two covers, he basically hold down the root, and play some harmony and play some melody, while not getting in the way of the guitar solo. I mean, giving the bass roles, I would have expected a normal bass players to just create some 1-2 bar grooves, and just repeat and repeat it over again, but Jaco, no, he seems to be able to come up with something new every 1-2 bars.

    Well, as much as I still do not fully "get" jaco yet. I felt that every Bass Player should be introduced to him, and should understand him. Such a book would be a very nice thing to have!

  2. I view it all in the spirit of Zen. One doesn't have to "get" the Tao to benefit from it's teaching. It simply "is". A Jaco song could be likened to a painting. If you hang it all alone, on a wall, by itself...it will speak to you one way. If you hang it on a wall next to others, the colors will then take on different hues and tell you something completely different. And it will always appear in different ways through different eyes. When we stop trying to understand what a piece of art is supposed to be, only then will we see it for what it truly is.
    I suppose I would title my chapter: Jaco-San - Show me "Spank-the-Plank"! Hahaha!
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So - you have spotted a couple of things here and there are a few things that make Jazz a bit "impenetrable" to outsiders - I would recommend a book like "Jazz Bass" by Ed Friedland - which is kind of like : "Playing Jazz Bass for Dummies"!! ;)

    But the more you listen to Jazz and get into it, the more you realise that Jaco was not doing anything unique - just unique for bass guitar!
    So - to take Donna Lee - many Jazz instrumentalists had done things like this before and continue to do it.

    So - many Sax players will take a tune and play it unaccompanied or just with congas/percussion, then solo over the chord changes - and many Jazz pianists play solo gigs.

    So - Donna Lee is a pretty standard bebop tune, with a 32 bar "form". Jaco plays the head - the actual tune (written by Charlie Parker or Miles Davis depending on who you believe) and then he plays a solo over 3 "choruses" - that is, 3 times round the same chord sequence.

    This is that way all Jazz works and was nothing new at the time - so how does Jaco come up with something new every 1-2 bars? The same way any Jazz Sax or trumpet player would - he chooses different scales to play over the chords - like diminished scales - he chooses patterns or motifs to shift around with the shifting chord sequence, he varies the ryhthm etc. etc.

    All the kinds of things any Jazz soloist would do at the time and still do on every Jazz performance. Of course, Jaco has his own musical preference and character, like any Jazz horn player - but I suppose his innovation was to put himself "up there" with the horn players - rather than playing a supporting role all the time.

    Of course many Double Bass players had done this - so Ray Brown had realeased solo albums where he was the featured soloist - but Jaco had all the serious musical theory chops and the excitement of an instrument that could cut through and grab your attention !!
  4. Could u give me the full title of that book? I ran a search on Amazon, can't seem to find that book that you mentioned. :meh:

    Yeah, I figured out one of the thing in Jazz is soloing over the chord changes, and the audience actually have to know the chord changes to appreciate what the jazz musician is playing.

    Again, much homework have to be done to appreciate a simple 2 minute tune!!

    I think such a book (Jaco for Dummies if you have forgotten :p ) would have chapters that introduce Jaco's songs from beginner level (are there any??) to advanced. Together with some jazz theory that is utilized in the songs, so the reader (that's me!) could actually learn the theory practically (so often missed out in my past music education).

    I have heard lots of praises about Jaco's work in Donna Lee, Portrait of Tracy, and Havona, but is there a list of Beginner Jaco songs?? :D Or is all his songs so hard?? Well, come to think of it, I can think of the song "Come On, Come Over" from his Debut Album, the riff is pretty smooth, not sure about the chorus part though.

    Yeah, it would be nice if someone can introduce some simpler Jaco tunes, and also state all the theories that is involved in it! That would make learning Jazz more fun!! :bassist:
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Like most music instruction books yiou won't find it on Amazon but there are lots of other online retailers that sell it.



    Not necessarily - although it may help to appreciate what's going on - like that they have taken an existing tune, reharmonised it and added their own parts etc. etc.

    But I've been to many Jazz gigs, where I have had no idea what the changes were exactly, but have enjoyed it a lot - in fact, when things suprise you, it can be the most enjoyable part of the whole experience. So - there is a UK electric bass player who leads his own Jazz quintet and some of his tunes really surprised me with unexpected changes and this was very exciting live! :)

    Well, although Jazz tunes can be short on record - this is almost never the case at any live Jazz gigs I have attended. So, the point about choosing interesting chord changes is that you can get a lot out of them and a good soloist will get more out of them than anybody else!

    So - I go along to my local Jazz club each week and the typical length of a tune is about 12 - 15 minutes - even if the tune is only based on a 32-bar sequence, or even 16, 12 etc.

    So it is expected that a Sax player for example will build a solo over many choruses - liek telling a story - maybe over 10 choruses. Bass players tend to play less - usually only two - but the principal soloist in the group will be able to keep teh audience's interest over long periods of time!

    There are quite a few books out there - like "Portrait of Jaco : The Solos" by Sean Malone, which analyses what he is doing and explaining it. Although most of these explanations are pretty complicated an assume a knowledge of music theory.

    I can think of two fairly simple tunes that Jaco does/arranges - but weren't written by him : The Chicken and Dry Cleaner from De Moines - both are based on the Blues and are fairly straight forward structures.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...not sure I agree.

    ...there's Bobbing's Jaco box, A Portrait Of Jaco.
    The Little Beaver tune is manageable & has that distinct Jaco-1/16th note gurgling groove(used in many of his tunes).

    ...that intro lick is a killer.
  7. mishi_ono


    May 7, 2004
    Oakland, CA
    that's a horrible generalization of an entire culture's music.
    the audiance doesn't have to understand the production of a movie to enjoy its cinematography. louis armstrong couldn't even read music.

    as for chord changes:

    the period of black nationalism and free jazz ignores these unnecessary road blocks.
    and i firmly believe this music is the most honest, real sound ever recorded...

    in my music, i came up with a music that didn't require european laws applied to it. this was a revolutionary breaking though... -ornette coleman

    because jazz is a music itself born out of oppression, born out of the enslavement of my people. - archie shepp

    what about coltrane? archie shepp? albert ayler? pharoah sanders? eric dolphy? ornette coleman? bobby hutcherson? tony williams? don cherry?

    jazz is so much more than what people are willing to give it.
  8. slugworth

    slugworth Banned

    Jun 12, 2003
    So. Calif.

    >>>> Read the book "Jaco" by Bill Milkowski.
  9. Bass of Galt

    Bass of Galt Guest

    Mar 25, 2004
    Scrotillia Falls
    You need to hear the original Charlie Parker version. Then you'll get it.

    And even if you don't - no harm. The magic of Jaco was that he was the guy largely responsible for bringing virtuosity to electric bass. You don't need to appreciate jazz to appreciate that.
  10. Sorry for bringing this thread to the "Help me get Jazz" type of thread.

    Would just like to say that they are probably more rock fans that would like to learn Jaco than they want to learn Jazz (just my guess, correct me if wrong).

    And that some of the stuffs Jaco does can be appreciated by Rock Fans (like stuffs in NYC, or maybe songs like Come On Come Over). I still remember the first time I heard of the song Donna Lee, which is praised by so many people, I was like, "This guy can play fast, but its not musical at all!", well that's before I slowly realize all the stuffs about Charlie Parker's version, and about Jazz Improvisation.

    I remembered the time when I was so proud of Jaco, that I sent Donna Lee to my guitarist friend, and he is not impressed at all! He had the same opnion as me, "what the heck is he playing??".

    :p Well... I think now I kind of have the idea of how to differentiate people who get jazz and people who don't, let them listen to Donna Lee! :D
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But that's not going to tell you anything about the musical concepts that Jaco was applying - it is just a biography and doesn't attempt to analyse any musical theory or Jaco's music's relationship to existing Jazz - e.g. : how much was innovation and how much just applying what others were doing on different instruments.
  12. Bruce made a significant explanation of what Jaco's have done to the Electric Bass for Donna Lee for the previous few posts. That is the sort of stuffs that I want to learn. Eg, Why Donna Lee is so popular? 1. the stuffs are hard to play on bass, 2. the stuffs are never played on bass. :)

    Was shopping in a local bookstore, preview-ed the book "Portrait of Jaco", but did not buy it. Like what Bruce mentioned, the book still needs some musical background. Well, I guess I am better of learning some simple jazz standards first... :p
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I'm not sure it is that popular - well no more popular than any other Charlie Parker tune? I played it as a Jazz standard, just once in 5 or 6 years of going to Jazz workshops and there are far more popular standards and Jazz tunes written or played by Charlie Parker or Miles Davis.

    It's quite hard for horn players, as is most Bebop - it was meant to be hard, stretching music - very fast tempos, extended chords/scales and fairly dissonant sounds.

    But the thing is, most Sax players love bebop and practice it all the time, so they play this kind of stuff as their "show-off " riffs - like electric bass players do some fast slap - it's "music store chops" for sax players!! ;)
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Just an afterthought - what I was trying to say is that Donna Lee might have been a very hard tune to play when if was first about - but now there are many more tunes that I find harder to play and get right - although I'm not saying that I could play like Jaco - but I could get through a small band version of Donna Lee pretty easily and it is the sort of thing that is very familiar to Jazz players and sax players in particular!! ;)

    I would find it infinitely harder to play one of Dave Holland's recent tunes in odd-time signatures, for example....?