1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Who Keeps Time? Bassist or Drummer?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Kneehimiah, Sep 11, 2005.

  1. This is one sticky subject. I've always thought it that the bass player keeps time in the jazz group, but seemingly as time progresses, drummers seem to find less to do with themselves. I think that to some extent that each of the instruments in the jazz trio (piano, bass, and drums, of course) play interchangeable roles, even with the drums playing harmonies. But primarily speaking, who keeps time? My upbringing says bass all the way.

    Ramon Pooser
  2. Sounds like the predictable answer but I think its really the true one, everyone keeps time. I think the only time a group sounds its full potential is when everyone is keepin time. Just my .02
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I heard James Brown this summer. Do you know who keeps time in that band? Each and every one of the 27 guys on that stage. One of the tightest bands I have ever heard.

    In my own experience I can be the sole timekeeper if necessary but it's no fun. It's like dragging around a ball and chain. The good gigs are when the drummer and I are locked in. It's awfully hard for anyone else to mess up the time when the bass and drums are laying it down.
  5. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski Supporting Member

    May 13, 2005
    During a Coaching a few summers ago Andrew Rathburn (a NYC Sax player) told me that any jazz musician should be able to play completely solo, in time, in tune, streching the harmony and building intensity.

    It makes sense to say the a group can only play so well if people are using each other as crutches. If everyone is independent of one another that all the rythm instruments are doing is building more intensity and adding to the music, instead of doing all they can to make it so-so.
  6. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Let's try a different slant. If things fall apart, who does the band fall back to for time?

    In the band's I am in, they will fall back to me. I believe mainly because I not only provide the time but the chord.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The answer is they shouldn't fall apart!! ;)
  8. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Whoever has the biggest ego! If there is more than one then the it will be the one who is most stubborn.
  9. Futurebass


    Jun 22, 2005
    That's like saying "who should be loudest in the mix". Obvious answer is "whoever's better".

    Regrettably in my primary band I have much better time than the drummer, so it's my burden. The other musicians look to me for time. It's literally a drag.

    Other times when the drummer is my equal we share the task.

    I've only had a few experiences playing with a drummer who could really lay down the law and let me, the bassist, coast and enjoy the ride. Not coincidentally, I suppose, they were also top session cats.
  10. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    In the greatest big band of all time it was the guitarist. In Monk's groups it was Monk. It should always be the person with the best time regardless of the instrument. Unfortunately those with weak time often lack awareness, and ego plays a role in this too.
  11. Nah - what's ego gotta do with it? When it hits an iceberg someones gotta throw out a lifebelt before it all sinks. You can be assertive without having an ego.

    ...and I can't agree this one either. If the sax players got better time and you're in the rythm section looking to her or him for clues you really should think about doin' somethin' else. After all, if you're the sax player and the rythm section looks to you for time waddaya think - lets geddoutahere I sugest. The sax player might have super dooper time, but you still gotta stick with your role and if you pay attention to his or her superior time and learn somethin' - great - but you still gotta try and lay it down.

    I take it you were referring to Freddy Green BTW.

    Am I turnign into an inveterate dissenter :confused:
  12. 4x4Given


    Jul 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Neal Peart. :p
  13. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I agree with you... except for that exact example. I also dabble in sax. When I play sax I *am* the rhythm section :D
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Nobody should "have to" keep time. Sure I want to play with enough "gravitational pull" that everybody wants to get with me cause it feels so good when they do. But I want the sax player to play like that too.
    But the Rathbun quote is a good one: everybody in the band (including the drummer) should be able to play by themselves with the same degree of creativity that they play with other musicians. If ANYBODY is leaning on somebody else for ANYTHING- time, changes, ideas- then you're not playing with any kind of meaning or intent.
  15. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    ****'ch yeah you've got that right jallenbass! :bassist:

    To be more modest, that's the rhythm style I've always admired...where the bass and drums are locked in agreement and start at exactly the same time. It's almost as if the drummer gets to be the cannon and I get to be the cannon ball. Boom boom boom

    A haw haw haw

    Anything else to me is simply poor rhythm work...as bad as a singer who always sings flat (ouch).
  16. Freddy Green is a great player, he added hugely to the drive in Basie's rhythm section, but the band still woulda swung like mad without him. Everybody's gotta be on that job.
  17. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Mike - It was a joke. I meant to be funny.
  18. You were - I had a sense of humour bypass whilst remembering times past and tantrums in the band room with everybody blaming the other for things falling appart. Like all the best jokes, it had a ring of truth about it. :D :D
  19. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Interesting I didn't see this as only a joke but I did chuckle.

    I've experienced times where musicians or singers have come in on the wrong beat and a mad scrambling occurs to get us all back together in a performance. Usually it's the member/singer who is unable to adjust or unwilling to adjust that everyone else falls back in sync with...and if it takes very long to find out who the most stubborn member is I pity that performance it's a miserable experience!
  20. And so Mike, we come full circle, to the reason why I posted the thread in the first place. I have been a part of the bass forum for a short time, and my interest is in seeing what other bass players are going through. Sometimes it's tough out there, other times it makes no sense, and then of course there are times when it's all magic. Fortunately there's enough magic to go around for all of us.