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Role of the jazz bass

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by moped10, Apr 14, 2004.


  1. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    I know there're a busload of differing opinions on this forum, and I'm curious on your views on bass as a solo instrument vs. sticking to its role as the foundation holder. In my case, when I got good enough TO solo, that's all I wanted do and my walking lines were so full of skips and drops it sounded like I was soloing even when I was not- Of course then (mid 80's) I was of the opinion that the bass was MADE to be a solo instrument and the wilder the better- My first reality check came from the trumpeter Roy Hargrove with whom I was playing in our school's small and large combo with- One day he gave me a cassette and told me to check out the bass work on it- When I popped it in, all I heard was a mix of old bebop and standards- The bass solos were few and far between so 90% of the playing throughout the tape was straight walking- Obviously he was hinting for me to chill out- But it's taken me years for that to really sink in- In my opinion we are there to give the soloist such a solid enough ground to play on, they can blow beyond the best of their ability- But that's just my opinion NOW, who knows, in 10 years I'll have probably morphed back into megalicks mode- Where do YOU guys stand?
     
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Mostly by the ride cymbal.
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sigh.
    Honey, you KNOW I hate it when you talk like it's all one thing or the other. Cause it's not. It's everything, all at the same time. The same sense of musicality that informs your solo line, informs your walking line, informs your two beat line, informs your breaking up the time line, informs your counterpointing the melody line. YOU HAVE TO BE MUSICAL ALL THE TIME.

    Cause then you aren't just playing s**t, you are playing something you hear in relation to something else. Roy laid that tape on you because you weren't laying it down while other people were playing. NOT because he didn't want you to take solos. Bass solos were the farthest thing from his mind, he just wanted to be able to get to a groove in the tune. Gerald Cannon spent a lot of time playing with Roy, and Gerald solos his ass off. His solos make sense, communicate how he is hearing the tune and are not just a bunch of notes and chord/scales blasted out at random in the vain hopes of having something stick.

    Now I ain't heard you play. But my experience with cats who I have heard play is this - the guys that can't keep a quarter note line interesting can't really play a solo that's interesting either. They can play a bunch of mess, they may got 16th notes out the wazzoo, but they aren't saying anything. There is no meaning. And if you asked them to sing back whatever they were trying to play, you get a blank look.

    Roy has Peter Washington on the gig, he ain't handing him a tape of thumpers to check out. And Peter solos a LOT.


    I try to play what I hear. I try to have something meaningful to say as an accompanist. I try to have something meaningful to say as a soloist.

    I try not to say things like "mega licks" cause it makes me sound like a 14 year old.
     
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Well, it all depends on whether you want to develop as a musican who plays jazz on the bass, or you want to be "A Jazz Bassist." (And that's not for anyone but you to decide.) You can certainly go a long way in the jazz world without having any deep story to tell as a bass soloist.

    But to paraphrase Ray Parker, if support is all you're aiming for, that's all you're likely to get to do. And if you're saying (bogus Sargent-Schultz accent on) I VILL shupport ALVAYS!! then you might not be playing the right music for that Bill-Evans-Trio-Kinda call that you get next week, or the Metheny-esque guitarist at the next jam, or whatever. (Ed already said that, better.) Y'know, sometimes it's not clear who is supporting who, and how -- the moment just makes some people playing and listening together. And that moment could just as easily happen on Just Friends as it does on Conference of the Birds.

    So for me, it's about aiming to provide what the moment calls for. And FWIW I bet that tonight the moment will call for a couple of bass-solos which will not be as good as my heroes, but they'll be what they can be.
     
  5. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    ow- I guess I should clarify myself- I DO solo and enjoy the hell out of it , but right now I'm enjoying the feeling of establishing a strong and interesting rhythm that makes you want to keep the song going chorus after chorus after chorus- There's no tattoo on my ass saying "bass in the back", I'm just trying to let the joy of holding it down be known! I was 16-18 when I was playing with Roy and had some musical maturing to do- In defense from Ed, I could "lay it down" (I try not to use that phrase cause it makes me sound like a 13 year old) and earned a nice little Down Beat performance award in '88 for just doing that, but all the attitude, infighting, and drug use going on with jazz then spooked me and I said no to my scholarship and moved to Athens, Ga to try my hand at rock (lo and behold, more drugs, attitude and infighting) for a while before coming back to jazz, except this time with a wife and now 2 kids- Anyway, I'm digressing terribly here- I guess I need to stick to technical questions on this forum, since I always get misread...
     
  6. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Thanks Sam for the input- I get where you're coming from- And you alluded to a good point, maybe when I solo I shouldn't think in the back of my mind how it compares to my heroes, and just do my own thing (which'll probably clear the club, ha ha) ;)
     
  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Naw, it's a perfectly good question and you said your piece. No problem. Stick with it -- I hope people will explore the point.

    I'm not The Music Judge. Tell your tale like you want to, and sod-off for me.
     
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Really? Walter Booker doesn't sound like a 13 year old when he says it. Maybe you're doing it wrong.

    Congrats on the DB award. I have to imagine that by the time you won it you had gotten away from the "walking lines (that)were so full of skips and drops it sounded like I was soloing even when I was not" and were concentrating on "laying it down" a little more.

    As far as being "misread", what got misread? You asked an either/or question, got two responses to the effect that it isn't an either/or situation. Maybe, if you don't want to stick to technical questions, you could post the answers you are looking for before hand and save us all a little time posting what we think.

    Or, when you ask people what they think, you understand that people are going to do just that, tell you what they think.

    You don't want to know, don't ask the question.
     
  9. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Sorry Sam, you posted your initial reply the same time I posted my reply to Ed, but yours came up first- My comments weren't directed towards you-
     
  10. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Yep Ed, you're right- I don't run into the blunt style of opinion giving down here in lazy NC- there's nothing wrong with being direct, of course, it's just that down here everything's a little watered down- Give me a few weeks up there and I'd be dishing out the verbal goods with the rest of them-
    Thanks for the time- Hey it's 5, let's go play!
     
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There ya go. Just like playing with a new group of folks, you got some adjustment to everybody's conversational style. But everybody wants to make music, so you respond to the conversation at hand, that is actually occurring, rather than the one you thought might happen.


    Wilmington, hunh? You ever run into a bone player named Tyrone Jefferson? Or Ron Brendle?
     
  12. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Tyrone Jefferson? No, but I have had the pleasure of playing with another of JB's associates, Leroy Harper (although I was playing guitar so I guess that doesn't count on this forum)- I'd love to run into Ron Brendle; he's from here?? Percy Heath comes around every now and then- There's a great little jazz club dedicated to him called Percy's- I got to meet him twice (the first time he was a little bit tipsy so the second conversation, we started over from the beginning)- Come on down Ed, we'll throw you a pig pickin'!
     
  13. I saw a Ron Carter quote from an interview by Dan Ouellette in the May issue of Strings the speaks eloquently to this very point:

     
  14. Guys - this comes from one without the prowess of yourselves. All I can say is that as a listener it is often the bass lines with real emotion that get to me. I recall the bassist from John Lee Hooker's band saying that as guitarists and bassists become competent they learn to pay faster and faster, whereas John Lee could make more of an impression with the feeling he played through his notes.

    Some of the simplist bass lines motivate me, whereas some of the solos are really dull. At the age of 16 I wanted to be the greatest rock bassist in the world (never got there :0)) and all I wanted to do was to play fast with plenty of fliddly bits. Now at 40 I listen back at the lines I used to hate playing and I now get them, slow and groovey and with soul. I can see the critiscm that many bassists are frustrated guitar players, now I'm just happy to play something that has a lot of emotion.

    For what it's worth.
     
  15. Ok, like everyone else I can spot a BG stray over here (I think?) , but lets not dismiss this out of hand. There are some super-fast DB players out there, tremendous musicians, who I wonder what their ambitions were. I admire Henri Texier and Avishi Cohen (I can't spell the name but you know who I mean) who amongst other would fit the quote by Ray Brown "great chops, but would you buy a bass that sounded like that".

    What's this got to do with role - well do you choose to play bass because you like the role (meaning you have a pre-conception of it), or you like the sound of the basses you've heard or you decide yeah, I can do xyz on a bass?

    In practise, and what Dave and Moped seem to be saying is you constantly evolve or they have at any rate. Me to. So the question to ask on this journey of discovery, is where do you want to go and how can I get there? Mike's Ron Carter quote says it all for me - but do that in the wrong setting and you won't be very popular, just like Charlie Haden says he wasn't when he stopped outlining the changes clearly.

    So whilst Ron says it for me, like any accompaniest, I'll try and make sugestions but in the end as an accompanying bass player I got to be a team player. And to this end, I go along with Mr Fuqua who talked (some where else on TB - there's so damn many to plough through ;) - eloquent as he is) about the sound you're playing to being the total sound of the band. If the band play dixie and you fancy yourself as Gary Peacock in an abstract mood, well - you just gotta compromise and think dixie.

    What is the role of the bass player then? It depends on who you're with and the amount of respect, time and listening and talking to get on the same wavelength. It would be nice to choose who I play with and what - not good enough yet :D

    And a beef to finish - too much band in box and Aebersolds causes foghorn players to expect the expected and or just not listen.
     
  16. moped10

    moped10

    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Good points guys- and thanks for getting this back on the subject