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Modal Bass Solos

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Enienai, Jun 10, 2017.

  1. Hello all.

    I'm working a jazz camp for my teacher, and we're playing Milestones, and he wants me to solo. I love the song so much, but I don't have an idea of how to start. Only today I made some walking lines that were inventive and actually beautiful for a bit. I also actually intentionally played on top of the beat for the first time! It was amazing. But he wants me to solo, so I will.

    I'm looking for any modal bass solos any one here knows, the only two I can think of are Scott Lafaro's on Milestones and the Art Davis/Reggie Workman duet on Olé. I'm learning Miles' solo on the track, but the bass does some things better than others. I always feel like Miles' spareness works best on trumpet, because of how emotional it is.

    I would also love any help anyone has for me on modal solos(I can always use help with modal accompaniment too). I've never made music like this. Of course, one chord was here before four, but this is just harder to not sound like I'm running scales.

    Thanks to anyone that responds.
  2. Bring everything to a dead stop and play a flamenco solo with triple stops, biting you lower lip.
    SamuelHarris likes this.
  3. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Kind of Blue is probably a good album example with a ton of modal playing over static harmony. Tons of walking bass ideas can be had on that album. While there is not much bass soloing on the album, you can feel free to examine what the horns/saxes/piano do over static harmony. Their ideas are just as valid for us bass players. At the end of the day you have to listen to alot of the material to get the sounds in your head, and experiment on the instrument over long harmonic stretches.

    Being a good blues player helps as well, since blues progressions can be a bit static too.

    Strangely enough i learned modal soloing not through jazz, but hippy jam bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead where they would solo for extremely long periods of time over a fairly static harmony(sometimes to the displeasure of the audience, haha). But i learned a lot about tension/release over long stretches in a solo. Playing "outside" is a good way to build tension, then you release it by going back into something melodic.

    But anyways, yeah listen to Kind of Blue ad nauseum over the next month, until you can practically sing the solos along with the recording.
    Groove Doctor and Enienai like this.
  4. I wish that I had the power and command of Jimmy Garrison. :rollno: He's the main reason I switched to steel though, I'd love to be able to do his flamenco sound.
  5. I was sort of joking, but obviously, it worked for him! Giving a pause can help. You can move things into more and more abstract and chromatic territory as long as you return to the key in modal playing. If it is just you and drummer you can really do whatever you want and just bring it back to the key of the tune. It is often a good place for arco playing. A good place to start is to morph the solo into an area you have a lot of material in then return to the key.
    This isn't modal but it is a more extreme example of claiming your own space for the bass solo:
  6. Thank you, I will do this. I have never listened to Kind of Blue as much as I have Milestones. I'm only learning to craft solos like a story, the jam band thing sounds good, and kind of funny. I'm working on Paul's Milestones bassline, I should get his So What one too. Some of the same modes in there. Thank you for your help.
  7. As much as I consult other art forms, I wouldn't be too literal with the story metaphor. The "conversation" metaphor is much worse, though.
    Music can get us to places words cannot and vice versa that is why they are both important.
    Other art forms are a great jumping off point but ultimately music is what needs to happen.
    Make a great piece of music!
  8. P
    Yeah it did! Sometimes I listen to Crescent in Japan just for the bass solo.

    I don't know how much space he wants me to take, but I'll see, that might be possible. Thank you, and thank you for the Peter Kowald song, I've heard his name but never him. This is great. I'd probably be able to have everyone drop out if I wanted. I would love to take a solo like that.

    You're right! I use that to think about solos that feel really excellent in their pacing. Maybe it's not the best word for it, but the way Herbie Hancock paces his solos makes me think of them as pictures or stories. Thank you.
  9. Experiment with chord variations on iReal Pro & practise them on loop. Learn to use the new notes to create tension-release in context of the progression. It'll help you start to hear interesting lines thru the most static of progressions. (Piano & Guitar Charts in Big Band arrangements are often given these flourishes).

    ||: Dm | Dm9 | G/D | Dm |

    Dm | DmM7 Dm7 | Dm6 | Dm |

    Dm7 | G/D | Bb/D | Dm :||
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
    Seanto likes this.
  10. As @Seanto brought up, essentially what we're working with as musicians is tension and release. Growing up around Western oriented music, we naturally come to think of tension and release as harmony since it's so normal to us. When we encounter things like "modal" music, we get thrown because it's just not normal to us. So it's up to us as musicians to make this normal for us and find the ways to explore tension and release in this approach to music making.

    Philosophizing aside, music wise spending time with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Garrison's playing on these "modal" jazz albums will be deeply helpful. Also, I'd suggest really paying attention to how the rest of the rhythm section on these albums helps solidly outline the form. On Kind of Blue, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, and Jimmy Cobb are all clearly outlining the form together. For me, it was always helpful for me to think in 2 or 4 bar phrase basslines to keep track of the form on tunes like So What and Milestones, so resolving your bassline after what phrase length you decide. Note choice wise, don't be afraid to throw in chromatics (but make sure they mean something and resolve) and pedal tones.

    For soloing, I dig that idea of playing in a jam band. I'd also suggest spending sometime with Indian Classical Music. I'm not suggesting studying it and playing it on bass (that's a whole other beast), but just listening to it to hear how musicians from that tradition shape their improvisations over one mode and how they'll expand from that one mode. Also, a lot of tension and release in Indian Classical Music comes from rhythmic tension, so there's another way you can think of creating tension and release in "modal" jazz.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
    Seanto likes this.
  11. That's right, that makes sense. Thank you. Soon it will sound as natural to me as everything else.

    I actually have been learning raga music for months on my bass and voice! You're right, the way they think about melody is wonderful. I know Eric Dolphy was inspired by that, with things like Red Planet. I think he and Coltrane are the first guys I see playing modal songs that actually only have one mode.
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