Last Saturday on our weekly Saturday Soundtrack post, we were all about the acoustic bass in roots and traditional music. This week, we’re taking a look at the incredible chops of the jazz cats. Hang on to your hats…these guys will blow you away!
Two quick confessions. First, I can’t play a lick of jazz. Second, my idea of great jazz is clicking on the Oscar Peterson playlist and sitting in amazement as I take it all in. The bassists highlighted in this Soundtrack primarily come out of that tradition, swinging with style, verve, and technique.
Ray Brown (1926-2002) is the bass player I most associate with Oscar Peterson and the swing rhythm section. Brown played 15 years with Peterson who once said, “I don’t think another group has achieved that closeness, that ‘breathe together’ bond that we had.” But Brown and his warm mellow tone supported countless incredible musicians throughout his stellar career. Since we ended last week’s post with Christian McBride playing a bass duet with Edgar Meyer, we’ll start this one with McBride and Brown kicking off Now’s The Time. Oh, and did I mention that Herbie Hancock and Hank Jones are playing piano, Kenny Burrell is on the guitar, the rest of the band is equally accomplished…and then Betty Carter joins in on vocals!
At the 1977 Montreux festival, Peterson and Brown played a concert together with another giant on the acoustic bass, Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen (1946-2005). NHOP as he was known is my favorite acoustic bassist in jazz and many consider him among the best on the instrument. His technique was incredible and those in the know point to the ways he elevated others around him. Just listen to these three masters play off each other, first in You Look Good to Me and then in No Greater Love.
Rick Beato has an informative video on the “insane playing of NHOP.” Go to the 4:10 mark and watch the Joe Pass/NHOP duet. Caution: when they take off on the melody your head might explode! As Oscar Peterson says, “Niels didn’t play the bass, he was the bass.”
I listen to Christian McBride more than any current jazz bassist through his Conversations with Christian show each Saturday morning on the SiriusXM Real Jazz channel. Take in his opening solo on Steps with the late Chick Corea on piano, Kenny Garrett on saxophone and the ageless Roy Haynes — at 85 years old, mind you — on drums. Music is the fountain of youth!
Charles Mingus (1922-1979), another of my favorites, is among the most influential bassists in jazz history. I love this version of Take The A Train. As one commentator noted, only Mingus can have a band with a stride piano break followed by the most progressive Free Jazz bass clarinet solo you’ll ever want to hear. It is like a history of jazz in one performance.
Ron Carter is the most recorded jazz bassist in history. “After playing with Chico Hamilton, Jaki Byard and Milt Jackson in the early 60s, Carter joined Miles Davis’ quintet in 1963, and stayed for five years, playing on classic albums such as ESP and Miles Smiles.” For some great Ron Carter, give a listen to Third Plane.
Another jazz bassist who has grabbed my attention through the years is Dave Holland. He replaced Carter in Miles Davis’ band and has had a remarkable and lengthy career. Enjoy the warm tone he gets out of this solo blues piece.
I know I’ve left out so many talented jazz bass players. (Where’s Jimmy Blanton you might ask). But perhaps this sampling will whet your appetite to jump in and hear some yourself. And because I simply cannot get enough of Peterson, Brown, and NHOP, let’s have them take us out with a spirited Reunion Blues.
More to come…