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Oscar Pettiford

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by The_Reverend, Mar 27, 2009.


  1. The_Reverend

    The_Reverend

    Dec 3, 2008
    Hi all. I'm studying jazz in Ireland at the minute and as part of my couyrse I've decided to study Oscar Pettiford. Anyway I thought one interesting aspect of his playing I could write about (considering he's most famous as a bebop bassist) would be his swung 8th's. They weren't quite triplets, nor were they straight. And so i'm looking for articles on this subject, or better yet to start a discussion amongst the others on this board who may have studied him in the past.
     
  2. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    You can get an idea of Oscar's hand movement here, from one of his few video appearances in the movie The Crimson Canary.
     
  3. AndreasH

    AndreasH

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sweden
    Listen to his album "Another one" if you haven't already heard it.
     
  4. Buogon

    Buogon

    Feb 2, 2009
    New Jersey
    If you are studying him check out his cello playing, also learn the way he play this
    instrument you will find this exciting also.
     
  5. AndreasH

    AndreasH

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sweden
    Well, he didn't play the cello with cello tuning (fifths; C, G, D, A.). He tuned it like a bass one octave higher. So he kind of played bass on a cello. But he sure swings on that cello!
     
  6. The_Reverend

    The_Reverend

    Dec 3, 2008
    Thanks for all the suggestions guys. What i'm really talking about here is the rhythmic quality to his swung 8th notes. They're not quite triplets or 16ths and for me it made his playing sound very distinguished. Check out his solo on Green Haze by Miles Davis on Musings of Miles and you'll get me
     
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    I hear exactly what you're saying... but it's hard to quantify in print, like so many issues involving the musical characteristics of individual players.

    Do you have the book "The Music Of Oscar Pettiford, Vol 1- 80 Solos"? I have a copy (inherited it) that I haven't even checked out to any degree. Bunch of transcriptions in there, but it doesn't really address what you're asking.
     
  8. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Right—the sound of his eighth-note lines (or do you call them quavers there in Ireland?) comes from the way he attacks the string with his right hand. Look at the video and you will see that. The movement determines the sound.
     
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Jeez, that's a great clip... when giants walked the earth.
     
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    O.P. fans should also check out Charlie Christian.. I just picked up "After Hours" and it's really cool to listen to one of the sources of O.P.'s feel.. and Charlie plays some mean guitar!
     
  11. bassnutj

    bassnutj

    Dec 26, 2007

    John-
    I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that OP was "playing for the camera" in that clip, if you know what I mean. I never saw him live, or any other videos for that matter, so I could be wrong.
    It's just the exaggerated attacking of the strings doesn't jive with me for the sound he got on record. Plus, he's got the whole cigarette hanging out of mouth thing happening. I think the director of the film had something to do with his "performance".
    Just a hunch.....
     
  12. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Hi Bassnutj, I am sure O.P. was miming for the camera, and hamming it up as well. Almost all movie clips then (and now) are mimed. Even so, I think that is his typical r.h. movement. Ray Brown once talked about how he could not understand why Oscar played with that stiff r.h., but I guess Oscar had an idea of the type of feel he wanted.

    There is evidence that it is not O.P. playing on the soundtrack though! In the youtube comments, a person with the handle penalcolony says this:

    "There's an article in the April 1945 issue of Music and Rhythm magazine that describes the filming of this scene and the separate (as always in those days) recording of the music. Hawkins, McGhee, Thompson, and Best are all on the soundtrack. Pettiford, however, had an injured hand and could only mime playing; John Simmons took his place on the soundtrack, and on Hawkins's other gigs for several weeks."

    I don't know if that is true, but it could be -- sounds like pretty adventurous bass playing for John Simmons. I am checking it out.

    Another Ray Brown story about Oscar: The first time Ray met Oscar was on 52nd street -- he went up to Oscar and said he was a bass player. Oscar immediately said "Great, come with me," and started leading Ray through the club out the back door. When they got outside, there were some thugs there, and Ray realized that O.P. was having an argument with them and just needed Ray as extra muscle in case there was a fight.
     
  13. AndreasH

    AndreasH

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sweden
    I love this pic and I've been wondering... Who is the other guy with a 5-string? And at what occasion? It seems like they're playing at the same time.

    02441v.
     
    SteSte likes this.
  14. OP's young here... My guess w. Duke's band as he used 2 bassists sometimes. Maybe Junior Raglin....
     
  15. bassbuddie

    bassbuddie

    Jan 8, 2003
    Montreal
    I found some information on this photo. it's says: Portrait of Oscar Pettiford and Junior Raglin, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946. Gottlieb, William P. 1917- photographer. Duke Ellington Ochestra.
     
  16. AndreasH

    AndreasH

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sweden
    They play a song together called "Basso Profundo" on "Carnegie Hall Concert december 1947" with Duke. You can clearly hear Junior Raglin's high C-string. Thanks! :D
     
  17. Holy crap I just picked up a Duke Ellington album, The 1953 Pasadena Concert... Wendell Marshall plays bass throughout, but Oscar Pettiford plays pizzicato cello on a version of "Perdido" .... Jesus christ, he just solos pretty much for the whole song and sounds amazing, he just keeps going and going and you think, OK when's he going to get tired? But he doesn't.
     
  18. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    I love O.P.'s tie in that picture . . . :)
     
  19. Pretty close I think, John. At least the mime part. I don't know who actually did the playing, but I can't imagine him miming to any other player.
    EDIT: Your quoted paragraph may be a bit off, IMO. I didn't start playing until about 1957, so I doubt that I had access to a Downbeat mag from 45 as I state below. It may be that there were two movies. But the hand injury statement makes me wonder if there might be confusion. O took up the jazz cello because of a bike accident, as you know.....he was bed ridden for a while and took the cello up to practice in bed. At least, that's what I always heard. Lucky Thomson told me that here in Denver in the 60's when he came in to hear Jim Hall at the Senate Lounge. This accident involved his leg, Lucky said. I remember that because I was on that gig with Jim. May be two accidents and two movies?

    I remember an article with a few pictures of a movie shoot in a Downbeat Magazine in about 1958 or so. The title of the article was "Hassle". The movie company had a bass there for O.P to mime on but he refused to even mime without his own bass. It was far enough away that they had some time constraits in going to get it for him.
    So O did the most normal (in his mind). thing. He crawled under the grand piano and refused to continue the shoot without his baby. There were at least two pictures of this whole thing. I remember because he had a whacky smile on his face from under the piano.
     
  20. alavakian

    alavakian

    Mar 12, 2002
    SF Bay area
    Oscar Pettiford was one of my idols when I put the violin to sleep and picked up my Juzek. I've seen him many times when he was with Dizzy mostly at the Spotlight on 52nd St. His solo
    on "The Man I Love" (with Coleman Hawkins, Shelley Manne and Eddie Hayward) was the best bass solo ever!! at that time and we all tried to imitate it. You can hear what the Reverand is talking about (triplets against eighths against etc. )
     

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