The RAY BROWN Solo

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by pdbass, Jan 4, 2021.


  1. pdbass

    pdbass

    Jan 2, 2007
    Pittsburgh
    Some of you might know what I'm talking about, but if not please check this out. You should know about it!

     
  2. I'm also a big fan of Ray Brown. Studying his stuff really is enlightening. You must have spent weeks transcribing and learning that stuff.
    What strikes me most however is that he played the same solo almost note by note over a decade. That would mean he'd have to write it down, polish it, learn it, and remember it. I'll have to think about what this means. I kind of thought that a true jazz player would create his solos on a spot every time. Wrong, obviously.
     
  3. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Yes, you have a few misconceptions. Mr Brown has been playing solo bass pieces like that since the Jazz at the Philharmonic days. What would happen is they’d have these long jams where Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Bird, Ben Webster, etc etc etc would all play solos, and after 15 or 20 minutes, they’d turn to him: “Bass solo!” Mr Brown said, “What am I gonna play after all these guys?” So he asked Norman Granz if instead he could have a little solo spot by himself.

    Over the years he had various favorite tunes he developed solo pieces around. Tenderly, Sophisticated Lady, and Black Orpheus were all well-worn. You can hear Sophisticated Lady on 3 Dimensional, and Black Orpheus on Live at the Concord Jazz Festival. Also one built around a blues, which can be heard used here as an intro:

    The basic concept was to play a bit of the melody, and intersperse solo lines that outline the chord changes. These aren’t the kind of things that are improvised completely new every night, it’s more something built up. Lots of solo guitarists and pianists take the same approach.

    When talking about practicing and how to practice, Mr Brown once said to me “You don’t think I play anything out there that I haven’t practiced 100 times in private first, do you?” He practiced intensely to have a big vocabulary of stuff he could pull off at just the right time, and sound really, really good. There are lots of players like this. Guys who are really playing different stuff every night are few and far between, and if you listen to a player many many nights, you can usually hear them evolving, building things up, developing their ideas. That’s how someone gets a style.

    So I hope you won’t be disappointed that he’s not reinventing the tune every night. These are more like set pieces.
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    @pdbass - great job on this video!

    As for the rest, I agree with @Brent Nussey . A lot of great players use this approach not only WRT set pieces, but also beyond in the general realm of general improvisation. Stan Getz is one who comes immediately to mind, but there are many others.

    It’s tempting to make a value judgement about this, or to put players in an either/or camp - i.e. either you play a bunch of worked out stuff strung together, or you create everything anew each night over the same familiar vehicles - but I think it’s more like a continuum. I was lucky enough to see Ray play a number of times in person, including several times with his trio with Gene Harris and Jeff Hamilton. One of the features of their set was always a slow burn blues version of Summertime that started with a rubato intro by Gene that dovetailed into an arrangement of the tune. You can hear the basic arrangement here:



    Both times I saw the trio play, they played this arrangement, starting with with the same dominant trill pedal point and cadenza, and leading into the same arrangement. The basic layout was always the same, but the details were different each time. And I can't state strongly enough that having heard the arrangement before didn't detract from the experience of hearing it live at all; rather, having the original stuck in my head and being able to hear the improvised differences leading to the inevitable arrival points of the arrangement made me think more of each of the players as improvisors rather than less.
     
  5. jkumnick

    jkumnick Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2009
    Southern Maine
    Steve Swallow and Carla Bley talking about composing and improvising and how solos are developed over time. He refers to Miles Davis around 4:20.

     
  6. Nice video! Thanks for posting great content. Keep up the good work!

    FWIW-Learn more about Paul here:
     
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  7. pdbass

    pdbass

    Jan 2, 2007
    Pittsburgh
    Thanks so much for checking it out everyone--and thanks for the shout-out there @Michael Drost!

    It's an amazing piece of music however you want to look at it. Honestly, it's fun to listen to how different the two versions are, especially with how he added a drummer to the "Afterthoughts" section. I think, like all the great jazz players, he played his language with subtle differences each night. It's very similar to listening to Jaco play "Slang"--it was basically the same "bones" every night. I've loved "the solo" for years and finally sat down and transcribed it last year and starting sharing it with my students--not just learning it, but filling in chord changes, dynamics, expressions, etc. This music is too good not to share!
     
  8. lurk

    lurk

    Dec 2, 2009
    NYC
    A guitarist friend wrote a paper for a class where he compared Miles' solos on Bye Bye Blackbird years apart with different bands and at different tempi, and came up with lots of the same stuff in the same spots. I'll contact him and see if I can get a copy to post here. This kind of thing is very much a part of the jazz tradition. I heard Duke's band a bunch and Hodges and Cootie played certain solos exactly years apart.
     
  9. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    First of all, as usual Paul you did a fantastic job with this, this might be my favorite one yet. In terms of the other issue, I’ll just add a little. One classic example of a person who worked on a solo over a long period is Coltrane on My Favorite Things. There are certain things he always played (particularly in the McCoy/Elvin era) that delineated form, to both the band and the listener. What happened in between those delineation points was up to his inventiveness on any given night. Sonny Rollins talks about this in his interview with Ralph Gleason on Jazz Casual. Ralph asks the question at around the 8:37 mark



    That phrase “Landmarks Along the Way”, Lovano loved it so much he named a tune that
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
  10. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Seattle
    Another good example is Oscar Pettiford playing Stardust. I have 3 or 4 versions of it and he played much of the same stuff every time. I think some musicians get too hung up on everything having to be fresh and new every time. If you have an idea that worked in the past, and this idea seems like a good response in your current musical situation, why not play it again?

    In the days when you had the same band working together night after night for long stretches I think it was more common for ad hoc arrangements to form over time. Nowadays, when it seems more common to be playing with a different group every night, it makes sense that solos will tend to vary more in response to the different musicians.

    Obviously, when you are playing an unaccompanied solo, the band is the same every time, so it is logical that you can more easily develop an arrangement and mold the improvisation around it. Also, if you are playing for an audience, having a well thought out arrangement is likely to make your solo piece much more interesting.

    As a final thought, I have found that coming up with solo bass arrangements has helped me to think much more deeply about what it means to craft a well-shaped and satisfying musical performance from beginning to end. This is helpful when playing in the context of an ensemble, both when playing as an accompanist, as well as during our (usually brief) solos as bassists.
     
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  11. Papageno

    Papageno

    Nov 16, 2015
    France
    Yes indeed, Paul did some wonderful job on this, once more! Many thanks to you.

    Furthermore, the various posts on this threads are really extremely instructive and eye (or rather, ear) opening.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
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  12. I only play BG and am starting to try to play jazz seriously, and Paul this video is great, as well as your whole channel looks very informative. i watched your first three jazz lesson videos and learned a lot already. I’m looking forward to digging into more of it

    Edit: didn’t mean to post yet, but my thumb slipped lol. Regarding the current conversation, frankly i’m glad to hear that sometimes solos and performances evolve over time and not everything is improvised every single time. Right now, I’m finding myself getting overwhelmed by all of the possibilities when walking, but it’s much more comforting to know i can keep expanding my vocabulary over time and pull different lines out of my head to fit the current conversation rather than having to make up something new every single time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
  13. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    Ray does “the solo” in this as well, though he pairs it with Work Song in E. He also plays Round Midnight arco, in A minor with Cedar Walton accompanying. And re the Nature Boy thread, Bags plays that tune solo

     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2021
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  14. KohanMike

    KohanMike Gold Supporting Member

    In the early 1970s I was a production assistant and road manager for the Johnny Mann Singers TV show for three years. Every week we would be in the recording studio with many of the Wrecking Crew, including Ray Brown. There were times when they would jam while waiting around, Tommy Tedesco, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Tommy Vig, Frankie Capp, Paul Smith. Sometimes Monty Budwig and Chick Corea would sub. Ray was very gracious and kind. It was an incredible experience in my early 20s watching that week after week.
     
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  15. pdbass

    pdbass

    Jan 2, 2007
    Pittsburgh
    Unicorn sighting! Yes! This an amazing concert as well. "The solo" starts at 39:12. Hope you don't mind if I pin this. I've been looking for more examples.
     
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  16. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    Pin away Paul! And here’s another one, not completely solo as George Fludas gets in on the second section but it still qualifies as “the solo”

     
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  17. Thanks everyone and especially @pdbass for starting this wonderful thread. To educate me further, how do today's bass heroes deal with this improvised/composed solo idea? Say Larry Grenadier. Does he improvise, does he compose his solos and plays them over and over, or does he combine these approaches? Is this 'amount of free improvisation in jazz' developing somewhere?
     
  18. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Seattle
    If you check out Larry's album The Gleaners, and then some of his live performances of tunes from the album you will notice that some of the pieces seem to have more improvisation, and some less. The arco pieces especially seem to be largely through-composed with a little variation in form and content. Is it jazz? Does it matter?
     
  19. hhalt

    hhalt Hans Halt Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2010
    Reno, Nv
    The Very Thought of You solo starts around 6minutes.



    This is one of very first bass solos that I transcribed. The version I transcribed is with Milt Jackson on a 3 record set called "The Bass" (a much better recorded version). Notice the strumming Asus-A7 Amin chords-exactly the same as in Black Orpheus. What's interesting is that even though the arrangement is essentially the same, the fills are definitely improvised, not worked out since they are very different from the version I learned.
     
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  20. pdbass

    pdbass

    Jan 2, 2007
    Pittsburgh
    More Ray is never a bad thing, IMHO

     
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