Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Jazz Bass Technique Evolution-Pt. 2

The question inspiring these bass posts is: Has the playing on this instrument progressed farther technically than on any other jazz instrument?

In Part One, we listened to foundational tuba and bass players from the 20's and 30's. We'll pick up now starting with Jimmy Blanton who, if not the first "modern" player, has as good a claim to that title as anyone.
Jimmy Blanton
Blanton's strong regional reputation led him to Duke Ellington's band in 1939, where he played until he died in 1942, at age 23, from TB.

Slam Stewart had the technique of the walking bass line down, but was also unique in his ability to bow solos and sing/hum along with them (see my previous post on arco-bowed-bass playing.


Oscar Pettiford was one of the first bass players to master the harmonic language of Bop. He broke his arm while playing baseball with the Woody Herman band, took up the cello and made it a viable solo and accompanying instrument in jazz. He was a fleet, nimble and creative soloist. The pianist on this 1955 Stardust is Don Abney.

This A Train has Pettiford on cello, Ellington on Piano and Strayhorn on celeste.


Charles Mingus was a master of the bass, although his greatest contributions weren't to bass technique, they were to arranging, composing and band-leading. Still, he was a convincing soloist and accompanist.

Paul Chambers was a VIP of later bop and hard bop. He updated Slam Stewart's bowing technique to work with post-swing harmony. 

Jimmy Garrison is most well-known for his part in the classic John Coltrane Quartet. In that context, he continued to walk, but he also was able to play solos alone and out of tempo, using multi-stops and strumming; in effect, moving the art of bass soloing into a freer space.

Next time:
Post-modern acoustic and electric bass players

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