What do Bassists listen to Jazz?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Mikewl, Sep 25, 2004.

  1. This has recently been something I've wondered. My best friend plays Alto, and I know when he's at a gig, or listening to a record, he focuses almost 100% on what the Sax/trumpet/other solo instrument is playing, and pays little attention to the rhythm section and harmony.

    And so, when you guys, the bassists, listen to jazz, what do you really listen out for? Naturally you'd pay more attention to the bassline, but is that what draws you to the music, and gets you listening to a record over and over again? Do you appreciate the horn solos as much as a horn player might? I think you get my drift.

    So basically what I'm asking is: What do you appreciate most about jazz music?

    EDIT: Just realised I screwed up the thread title... Oh well.
  2. I'm listening to how they sound together. If it's a "standard", I'm listening to how they interpret the head, and what they do, and what ideas they have in the solos. I'm listening to how they interact with each other. One of the great things about jazz is that it can be (and usually is) different each time.

    - Wil
  3. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    From a very, very beginning jazz player who mostly plays classical and rock: I hear the overall sound of the band the same way I would look at a piano score of the tune - as a stack of notes. Or a tone color. But the drum part sticks in my head and I see it as a linear string of notes, very bright and silver in color, and the pattern is easy to remember. I don't actually pick out much of the bass part until I sit down to study a tune. I can figure out what key the tune is in by listening for the open-string tones from the bass, before trying to sit down and analyze the notes.

    Kind of like looking at a constellation through a telescope, each individual part slowly comes into focus after several plays.
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The melody line generally grabs the lion's share of my focus initally.
  5. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    I listen for how well they swing. Whether it's hard-swinging straight ahead Ray Brown-type stuff or more open, lighter stuff like Bill Evans w/ Gomez or Lafaro etc.. It's all about how they're working together, for me anyway. Anyone can play notes. The real magic is when you can hear creative interplay among the musicians executed with flawless attention to time and swing.
  6. I enjoy the interplay of smaller piano/guitar led trios like Jim Hall and Bill Evans.
    And of course me being me, I can't let the above statement of Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro being "lighter stuff" as compared to Ray Brown go by without saying I think you got it a little backwards Larry.....
  7. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Personally, I feel that one of the biggest mistakes young newcomers to jazz can make is just listening and paying attention to what their own instrument is doing. They should be listening to not only what their own instrument is doing, but what all the others are doing around it. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't pay attention to what your instrument is doing, because obviously, you're trying to learn more about what you can do, but if you're not aware of what the rest of your group is doing, you won't be able to pull off what you're wanting to do. I think great jazz is about communication. Between every instrument, no matter what the combination. The moment you forget about that is the moment that you should probably put down your instrument...or start booking a lot of solo gigs.
  8. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA
    I also play tenor horn, so I seem to usually listen to the song as a whole, especially how all the parts fits together. The beauty of jazz is there are interactions between all the players and their parts that isn't found in any other form of music, IMHO.

  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I would have to say it depends at each gig - so different Jazz groups are trying to do different things and have different strengths/weaknesses.

    So - some are into grooves, some are into "free-ish" group interaction, some are into great melodies played beautifully, some are into experimentation etc. etc.

    Some players grab your attention and some are happier supporting, grooving or swinging away in the background.

    I've heard all types of players and groups at Jazz gigs I've attended.

    So - there are players who I know will grab my attention - but they may well be Sax Players, Trumpeters, Drummers, Pianists etc. etc. - as much as bass players.

    I've been to gigs where the drummer has blown me away and the bass player has made no impression at all - others where the horn player is so good that they just demand your attention.....

    Jazz is also one of the most 'democratic' types of music - so a lot of bands I've seen - each member has been a true virtuoso and has provided an equal contribution towards the overall sound and has been equally interesting.

    It all depends.....
  10. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    With all due respect, give me a break. Maybe ask for clarification before busting my chops. I meant lighter in terms of feel, and being more open compared to the other. I'm thinking of examples like "You Must Believe In Spring" (I mentioned Gomez too) and the Vangaurd live albums vs. Ray Brown w/ Oscar stuff.

    How would you describe the differences?
  11. Larry, I had no intention of "busting your chops" I just can't get with the terms "lighter" when comparing Bill Evans and/or any of his trios to anyone including O.P. Did you ever hear Bill play in person? He wasn't a "light" player in terms of any use of the word!
    The difference beween a Bill trio and an OP trio are many. I, like you i'm sure, love the trios with Ray, but there isn't alot of interplay. Ya got the head...with more times than not, an arrangement with a bass part (all written out) that few of us could play without some serious shedding! Then, a couple choruses in two to build the tension so they can knock the house down with that intense Ray Brown four on the floor. Whether it's a trio with Herb Ellis on guitar, or a drum edition with Ed Thigpen, the name of the game is arrangement and cookin'. But interplay? Not IMHO.
    That's my description of an O.P. trio....Larry, how about your description of a Bill Evans trio?
  12. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    This is a silly discussion.

    You said yourself: "the intense Ray Brown four on the floor". I would describe that as "heavier" than the more open, airy (lighter) style of much of the Bill Evans Trio stuff, regardless of the amount of interplay (there is always some, even in the Ray Brown trios). I'm not refering to the complexity of the arrangement, but the overall feel. Was Bill a "light" player? Of course not. Was Lafaro or Gomez a "light" player? Hell no. But as a unit (we were originally discussing what we each listen for in Jazz), the Evans trios has a "lighter" (open, airy, breathing) quality to them that the Brown Trios did not have (though they all swing their asses off) . If you would like me to use a different adjective, then fine. I'll remember to do that next time I post about them.

    Again, this is a silly discussion.
  13. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004

    My last post may have seemed a bit heated, sorry for that.
    I recognize that you have played with Bill Evans, and as such you certainly have a perspective that I don't. I felt a bit challenged over what seemed like an unimportant choice of words. We both take music very seriously, so it's easy to get emotional. Sorry again.

    I guess I'm still getting used to "talking" over the internet. It's more of a challenge when you can't hear the tone of someone's voice and fully understand their intent.

  14. You're right....plus i'm a little protective about Bill.