So Many Bass Guitars in Jazz?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Jun 27, 2022.

  1. A whole slew of disclaimers before I start:

    1. I am not a jazz/upright bass elitist. I don’t even have an upright (though I do want one).

    2. I do think an upright sounds and works better for jazz music… Traditional jazz anyway, if you’re talking funk-jazz or fusion kind of stuff than a BG may be more suitable/better.

    3. This isn’t a complaint, I’m just curious…

    Toronto’s Jazz Festival is currently running, along with some other jazz festivals around the world that I’m following on Twitter, and I’ve noticed that in a LOT of pictures the bassist is playing a fretted bass guitar roughly 90% of the time. This seems to be higher percentage than I recall from previous years but maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention before.

    Anyone have any theories why that is? Is it because BGs are easier to transport, and/or amplify? Is it because more bassists have a BG instead of a DB? Is a BG actually preferred for sonic/tonal reasons? Intonation? Etc.

    I should also mention that I haven’t heard a lot of these shows and don’t know what they’re actually playing. Sonically speaking, I can definitely see a BG being a better fit for really fast/busy music.

    Again, I’m just kinda curious if this a trend that other people are noticing as well, and if so, if they have any theories why.

    murphy likes this.
  2. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012


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  3. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    I have a Fretless Godin, personally it's the best of both worlds.

    I'm not an elistist I think objectively, a fretted bass doesn't work with jazz instruments.

    I could be wrong, but the intonation issues are a real thing when playing with saxes etc.

    But if I had to guess it's entirely a covid thing.

    Keeping in mind you're talking about Toronto the international capital of lock downs, combined with garbage airline service(for a major city) and it's no shock people aren't committing to uprights.

    It seems like an upright is something you need stability and predictability for if you want it to actually work.
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  4. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    Toronto’s International Jazz Festival - Celebrating 35 Years

    I think I went in 2013/14, don't remember a lot of jazz, just some bluegrass.

    Looking at the list I'm guess more than half of these groups aren't jazz, and half of the half actually playing jazz are non traditional groups.
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  5. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    That doesn't make any sense. There are dozens and dozens of examples that show the opposite.

    As for the OP, I took a quick look at the artists featuring the Toronto Festival, and a lot of those are not Jazz artists, or bands. The festival is huge, I just looked at some of the biggest names. We have a festival like that in Portugal. EDP Cool Jazz. The only Jazz is in the name.

    A lot of players don't carry their DBs around, when playing abroad. They play a local bass, usually.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Other than those playing traditional jazz, not many bands use upright bassists, and not many bassists play upright (this opinion is coming from someone who plays a lot of jazz, and sees a lot of live jazz shows).
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  7. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    I don't think jazz electric bass guitar is anything really new; I was playing (fretted) electric bass in University jazz orchestra back in 1978 and only ever hauled out a borrowed double bass for one show (it was the annual well-paid fundraiser gig doing Glen Miller charts) :bassist:
  8. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario

    Yeah as someone who lived in Toronto, I'm not even sure if it could crack the top 10 of annual events in Toronto.

    Regardless it looks like whoever is running that festival is running on an agenda basis.

    I can only assume they're grasping at straws and are trying to completely rip off Toronto's Carribean Carabana festival, it's absolutely insane if you don't know how massive it has been..

    There's this really odd thing that floats around in Toronto, where because it is deemed multi racial, that somehow it's part of Black America. When only like 2% of the non white population has any connection to the states.

    Toronto has a massive Caribbean community, but it sure as hell isn't American. Even with that community they're still less than 10% of the population.

    It's really really weird though, because you get people who don't know the math, who think it's some conspiracy that there isn't more music pouring in from black America.

    Point of this ramble isn't to get political, my point is this festival is so far off base it isn't a jazz festival, and it didn't grow into a more expansive festival but instead has sunken away from the mission statement. In short this festival is a really poor barometer for a jazz festival.

    If you want to see real jazz in Toronto goto the Rex Hotel.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022
  9. Guitalia


    Jun 7, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    By that reasoning, fretted guitars don't work with "jazz instruments." Or pianos.

    Intonation issues? There's a reason Leo Fender used the name "Precision" for his first electric bass model. A brilliant marketing move, since he must have known - or been told by bandleaders - that there were lots of upright players with consistently iffy intonation.

    Early example: when Wes's brother Monk Montgomery was hired to play bass for Lionel Hampton's big band in 1952, he wanted to play his upright, but Hampton insisted that he play the then-new Precision electric bass.
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  10. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    A piano's intonation in relative terms is already pretty good, and jazz guitar has a lot of bending going on.

    And those fellas ain't playing jazz music.

    I donno, maybe I can barely play bass and am musically gifted, or maybe I'm just an ordinary can't play the instrument but sure as hell can hear the difference in intonations.

    That would have more to do with projecting the sounds of an upright bass.

    That being said, it's not automatically about being more precise, not every note has to be dead on, but when the big notes are a bit off they really change the sound of things.
  11. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I can't agree on that.

    Listen to Joe Pass (with Oscar Peterson and NHOP, for example), or Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, John Scofield, etc..

    Piano is always present.

    Listen to Milt Jackson, or Gary Burton, on Vibrafone.

    For bass, Jaco played a lot of fretted. A lot! Anthony Jackson, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Alphonso Johnson, Paul Jackson, Stanley Clarke, Steve Swallow, there are so many.
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  12. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I have to disagree on that, too.

    Modern Jazz is full of upright players.
    I have the opposite experience. I go to a lot of Jazz concerts, it's very rare to see the bassist not playing a DB.

    Some of my favorites, just to name a few:

    Christian McBride, Larry Grenadier, Jorge Roeder, Linda Oh, Russel Hall, Avishai Cohen, etc..
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022
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  13. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    I'm not sure what your point is?

    Jaco may of played a lot of fretted, but he didn't play in a traditional jazz band.

    I'm not against fretted bass, I just think it isn't well suited for traditional jazz. Specifically when played with brass and reed instruments.
  14. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I don't understand what you guys call traditional jazz.

    But I can agree with you sonically. Intonation wise, I don't see the relevance.
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  15. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    This is modern jazz:

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  16. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    If the Piano is playing C# and your trumpet is soloing over it, you being slightly out on your C# will hurt the overall sound of the group.

    If the bass isn't competing against the piano, everything else can ride on top of that more smoothly.

    Not every note has to be perfectly in tune, but there are notes where it really matters.

    It's the same with singing, you can be a bit off some of the time, but there are lines where you have to be in for the song to work.
  17. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Why would the bass be slightly out?
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  18. FryFunk


    May 31, 2022
    London Ontario
    Imperfections of a straight frets on an instrument where string sizes vary, or something to that affect.

    Some notes are fine, some are a good bit out, depending on how you combine the notes.

    It doesn't matter in a lot of songs, but when you're playing root notes alongside a piano, I believe it's a bigger deal.

    In rock music it's part of the formula, but I think it breaks down in other genres.
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  19. J Wilson

    J Wilson

    Apr 22, 2022
    An Undisclosed Location
    I don't know enough about upright to comment.

    But pianos. Yes.

    Pianos require an experienced technician to perform properly in tune. And there are lots of piano tuners who aren't there yet.

    You can't sit down at a piano with a BOSS tuner, the wrench, and the dampening felts and have at it. You do NOT want to hear how that turns out.

    A piano has to be tempered via tuning. Look at chart of tuning a piano, and the ONLY note that's tuned to 'A440' . . . is the A just below Middle C, which is, you guessed it, A440. Every note heading down is progressively flatter by a pinch, and every note heading North is progressively sharper . . . . for the piano to play 'in tune' with other instruments.

    Here in Nashville, with pianos in studios and elsewhere, a really, no BS tuned piano is both an absolute and a given, it's no problem. Elsewhere in the country, you may be on your own.

    People don't buy 'living room pianos' as they once did. And honestly, as demanding as I am about pianos, the latest sampled pianos are so good and have a lot of advantages for home or less than critical use. I NEVER thought I'd say that, but that's how good they've gotten. I can't imagine how many nerves were never riled up by breaking out the Sennheisers and using that Headphone Jack.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022
  20. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I'll just leave some examples. What better way than to listen? If you have some, please share.

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022

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