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James Jamerson

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by gweimer, Jan 8, 2002.

  1. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    Like so many of us, I grew up playing rock/metal, but I always got drawn into Motown because of the bass. For years, I did not know who James Jamerson was. I just got Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and have been listening to the CDs included. It's more obvious to me than ever how much Jamerson had an impact on my playing - probably everyone's playing.

    The thing that I see in his playing that never gets mentioned is:

    1. He is extremely introverted in his style. There is a place he goes that has a link to the real world, but he seems to be playing in another plane of thought.

    2. His technique walks between the drums and the structure of the song. He uses notes and rests to connect the other instruments and parts in a way so delicate that it's hard to define. He had a knack for understanding the intangible qualities of a soing.

    I have learned over the years that in my own playing that I sometimes disconnect from the song and follow an odd pattern - even a geometric playing pattern - to accomplish what I think the song needs. If it weren't for listening to what Jamerson did, I don't think I would have ever developed my approach to writing bass lines.

    My favorite part of the CD, FWIW, was the part where Jack Bruce told of when Jamerson came into one of his sessions, and showed Jack how to approach a Stevie Wonder kind of sound.
  2. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [My favorite part of the CD, FWIW, was the part where Jack Bruce told of when Jamerson came into one of his sessions, and showed Jack how to approach a Stevie Wonder kind of sound.

    LOL!! Can you imagine the self confidence of walking into the studio uninvited to tell Jack Bruce he wasn't doing it right?

    I agree entirely with you about Jamerson. He could do almost anything. His basslines always seemed to echo parts of the harmony and melody. He may not be my favorite bassist but he's in the top three or four. He is the most unexpected bassist I've ever heard. Whenever you think he's going to play busy he rest. When you think he's going to play simple he's all over the place. When you think he'll go up he goes down, etc. He was an amazing musician.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    A gifted musician that left too soon...

    I'm not sure I get your "introverted" comment, though, Gweim.
    IMHO, Jamerson is, for the most part, very aggressive in both his note & rhythmic choices.
    He's not playing 'a part' by rote, either. He's got the changes under his fingers & a certain feel inside his head. Maybe "introverted" in that JJ's bass is not totally 'in your face'...sometimes, it's very subtle, but, to me, it's still an almost no-holds-barred approach.
  4. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    What I meant by introverted is that my impression of his parts is that he played them more for himself than anyone else. The variations and improvs on a theme that he does do often, and so well, lead me to believe that he was completely surrounded by the moment when he played. He was so good at it, that there are songs where you can distinctly hear the other instruments stepping aside to let the bass handle the brunt of the definition of the song.
  5. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    i really really like what he did. i'm planning to buy that book too. he's a major influence for me. with duck dunn he is my favorite bass player.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I really think Jim hit the nail on the head regarding his style. There are so many of his lines that I'll read through and just wonder why a certain note was chosen. I don't know, maybe every single note choice wasn't intentional and I'm looking at it from a hindsight point of view, but there are so many chromaticisms that he uses that I will never understand. But then again, Jamerson is a hard cat to understand, and I guess everything in life doesn't have to be open to easy analysis.

    His aggressive style took some time for me to get comfortable with. For the longest time, I thought his lines to the J5's "Darling Dear" or JR Walker's "Home Cookin'" were way too busy. It took a lot of time, listening to them over and over, for me to see how they really did work so well in the song. I think my opinion is sometimes tainted by the overly simplistic, often from a lack of ability, lines that predominate popular music.

    It is my opinion that no bass player has been more influential to popular music. You have to remember what was being played at the time that he came onto the scene. The only cats coming close to his virtuosoistic (is that a word?) style in technique, melody, and rhythm, were jazz bassists. Think that JJ influenced people like McCartney, and how many people have been influenced by him?

    (Okay, maybe Carol Kaye was more crucial to pop music! :D ;) :D)
  7. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Yep, it does seem that he set a definition for a feel, his own style. I agree with the introverted comment too, gweimer, you mean he was so err...enveloped in the music that he was functionally in a separate place from the everyday perception of the world? Something like that? I think I know what your saying. Carol Kaye was actually most important to the jingle industry. :D
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...what's sad is, "Once about a time, THAT was Pop(ular) music". Even some of the more schmaltzy stuff USUALLY had a decent rhythm section playing in the background. ;)
    We finally got our "Oldies" station back; when all else fails(like when I forget to bring my Free Jazz s*** with me)...flip on the "Oldies"! ;)
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    ...but then they figured out how to replace live musicians with electronics. Drummer, gone. Bassplayer, unnecessary. Melody, welcome to my world, my name's Casio.

    The live, organic, breathing music became stagnant, repetitive loops. Turns out you didn't need harmonic structure anymore.

    I still blame Elvis. Jerk.

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