Less is more.... or so they say?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Spectorphile, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. Compress

    12 vote(s)
  2. Expand

    25 vote(s)
  1. Spectorphile


    Mar 8, 2005
    After seeing my brother's jazz teacher solo unrelentlessly through several varying pieces I was left wondering - Which is truly greater, a bass solo that is better that in sounds (e.g. Jeff Berlin ) or a bass solo that sounds better than it's content (e.g. Gary Willis' un-paralleled lyrical solos)?

    You don’t have to be genius to discern the brain power and wealth of study pouring onto Jeff Berlin’s bass during his solos. Neither do you have to be a genius to tell that the Gary Willis' solos are largely governed by his ears (and pentatonics).

    Gary Willis' approach seems to consist of squashing his crazy harmony down to an "easy to deal with" level, exactly the opposite of what Jeff seems to be doing.

    So I put the question to you - is it better to compress the musical content and float through solos on a few great sounding notes or to expand the musical content, and make something new, diverse and complex?

    I realize this is opinioned based so please discuss! :D
  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    "If 'less' is more...just think how much more 'more' will be"-
    Frasier Crane

    It's almost as though you're saying Berlin's solos are mapped out beforehand...is that right? Back in the day, I thought Berlin's solos on "Marabi" & "Water On The Brain, Pt 2" were "the ****"(IIRC, they still are). Neither impressed me as pre-conceived; I have not heard Berlin's latest album or two.
    I would hope BOTH players are using their ears.

    I can't answer your question as to which is 'better'-
    Solos are a personal thing...the player gets a chance to build a story, in the moment, from his past experiences. It doesn't work every time, nor should it.
    Personally, I like those who try to expand the barriers with soul/feel.
    Then again, there are Blues players who employ the same solo night-after-night...and it works. There's the story of Wah-Wah Watson playing guitar in one of Herbie Hancock's electric jazz-Funk bands...one of the other players(Buster Williams?) said Watson played the same exact solo night after night after night...although each & every time he played it, it was like the FIRST time he had ever played it!
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with Jim that both Willis and Berlin would be using their ears and improvising depending on the situation - I haven't heard that much of either - but I don't think either relies on Pentatonics exclusively and would solo, based on the tune, situation and interaction with fellow musicians?

    Good Jazz soloists can do both of what you seem to be describing (not that clearly...?) - in that they can make a simple melodic statement or introduce more and more dissonant note choices based on different chords/scales/chromaticism etc.

    So I go along to my local Jazz club each week and on a slow ballad a soloist might well play a very simple melodic statement. But then they might play a 10 minute-long solo which "tells a story" by contrasting simple melodic or rhythmic statements with passages of more complex/dissonant material.

    If you are going to be taken seriously as Jazz soloist - than you have to be able to do it all!! ;)

    There's no either/or about it - that's for "semi-literate" musicians - like hair metal guitarists, for example!!! :D
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Oh, man...that reminds me. When I get home, I will dig out an old Guitar Player mag with Sonny Sharrock's thoughts & wisdom on soloing.
    IIRC, he has 4 categories...
    Cat 1 is the highest level, a 'storyteller'...reserved for the best of the best.
    Cat 2 is next(Knows all the patterns/scales/modes & knows when to insert them 'correctly').
    Cat 3 is "The Juggler"(where most Rock soloists fit in).
    Cat 4 is "The Fool"(Fool + Noiz = Bull****)

    I post some excerpts/highlights...it's pretty funny.
  5. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    jeff berlin's solos that i've heard him play were completely improvised. he had a thing he used to do in clinics where he would ask the audience for four notes, and then he would solo using just those four notes. hard thing to prepare for.
  6. You are asking for a debate between two musical tendencies.

    Some will say K.I.S.S. ("Keep it simple stupid" or even, "Keep it simple, STUPID"), while other will appreciate very complex and studied stuff.

    Flea is a genius who probably doesn't know what he is even doing, what he plays is great and simple. I also enjoy Paganini... Both tendendies can be great, as well as many intermediate positions between these extremes.

    A related debate would be are we making music for musicians or for everyone ?
  7. I think both approaches are valid and I think that if a player has a tendency to do one, he or she should occasionally try the other.

    for me soloing is all about being in the moment and reflecting whatever I am just then, while remembering that the song dictates the overall vibe.

    as long as the solo says something more than 'I've got really bitchin' chops" I think it's valid.

    from the lows,

  8. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    I think it depends on the context and content of the song and the situation at the time.
  9. Muzique Fann

    Muzique Fann Howzit brah

    Dec 8, 2003
    Kauai, HI
    No, I think it's Lesh is more ;)
  10. Spectorphile


    Mar 8, 2005
    I don’t know who you’ve been listening to but I’ve never EVER heard any soloist approach either extreme as effectively as theses players do, sure they can do both very well (that’s why they are good soloists!) just not THAT well. Also what im getting at is not as simple as dissonance vs. consonance or how simple/complex your rhythms are...

    Ok so I was gona carry on try and explain myself there for a sec, but alas I confuzzeld my self. I know what I mean even if no one else does. If you've studied these players' solos I'm sure you will get what I mean, otherwise, sorry just try and bear with me. :rolleyes:
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    "There are three basic types of improvisers, the foremost being the creator, who has an insatiable need to tell his story. For him, improvisation is only a tool. He plays each solo as it it were his last. He will not be compromised, nor will he be stopped.
    Next is the juggler, for whom the skill of improvisation is just as important as his need to tell his story. The juggler gathers around him all the things he has heard, & one by one tosses them into the air . With his skillful hands, he cleverly keepes them aloft. He seldom drops an idea, because he knows them all so well. Rock instrumental solos fall mainly into the juggler category.
    Finally, there is the tinker, whose improvisations are based on formulas & the instrument itself. His scientific manipulation of sound is laboratory-created & laboratory-bound forever.
    Making up a sub-category, if you will, is the fool. He claims he is bored with music, so he has decided to make noise. Noise + Fool = Bull****".

    Then Sharrock goes onto say his influences are horn players & drummers.

    "There are 5 main starting point for improvisation: melody, chords, scales/modes, tonal centers, & freedom. Most improvisers use a combination of these to obtain a particular sound. Throughout any improvisation, it helps to have a clear vision of the melody".

    "...the technique for improvising on chord cahnges is fairly simple: You apply the appropriate scales & arpeggios to the chords. The hard part is to turn this into music".

    About playing 'free'-
    "A critic once remarked to me that it takes a great amount of taste to play 'free'. He was wrong. Artists cannot be hampered by the restiction of taste.
    Jugglers, tinkers, & fools try to play 'free', however, they never succeed. It is reserved only for the masters".

    Regarding 'swing'-
    "Swing is based in confidence. It is the grace that you acquire after years of paying dues. Technically, it could be the emphasis placed on a note or part of a phrase that gives it movement. Swing is the dividing line between those who can play & those who can't...all music can swing in its own way, it simply depends on who's playing it. Music can be played at breakneck tempos or as slow as the most painful Blues. It can be improvised or composed, but swing it must.
    God****it, you can't really play without it"!
  12. C-Money


    Mar 21, 2005
    I like some fast solos like a lot Jaco's, but Jaco wasn't noodling when he would solo. He knew exactly what he was doing and thats why his solos are so beautiful. There are a lot of bassists and guitarists who just shred and it sounds stupid or immature. Thats why I don't like Steve Vai as a guitarist, he does have a very good ear though. Clapton has been called God not because of speed, but because of his ability to touch our hearts with what he plays. :crying:
  13. willgroove2


    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    as i mature as a person and a musician i find myself changing the way i aproach solo's,kind of like i worked for years to get the chop's and now i know where and when to use them.using jeff berlin and gary willis as examples,i feel like they are two branch's of the same tree.jeff's style is playing off of each chord while gary play's more THRU chords.this involvs serious time in the woodshed and a ton of talent for both.i don't work out solo's but i do approach certain chord changes (2-5 1's,1-6-3-2-5-1's ect)with some general thing's i like to do.one of the thing's i do to shed is record a jazz standard like giant steps or scrapple from the apple in logic audio and for one week lay a walking bassline and 2-3 chorus's of solo's every day,save them and go back to listen to see where im repeting myself,developing new thing's or struggling.but on a gig i try to play in the moment im in and react to what the other people im playing with play.
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Jaco falls under the creator umbrella.
    These are the jugglers & tinkers. ;)