The bassist performs the most critical function in any ensemble. They are a bridge between the rhythm section and the rest of the band. Recent music documentaries have featured the bass players who played on many of our favorite records. James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt, Carol Kaye, Duck Dunn along with many others are finally getting their due.
When I think back to my best nights as a musician. I must admit that the bass player had a great deal to do with it. The indefinable connection between bass and drums is what makes a successful gig. A good groove is only part of the picture, Note selection is another. Jazz players like Paul Chambers, Percy Heath and Ron Carter (pictured) have turned note selection into an art form.
Creating a bass line is no easy task, it requires musical sense, big ears and most of all; humility. Remember, the bass permeates the tune from the bottom not from the top. It really isn't an instrument for glory hounds.
Jimmy Blanton was one of the greatest bassists of his time who set the standard for melodic playing. His work with Duke Ellington is still highly relevant. Blanton changed the role of the bass from the usual "boom, Boom" to a more melodically involved instrument. There would be no Scott La Faro or Jaco Pastorious without him.
Jimmy Blanton was a young man when he died in 1942. The amplification did not yet exist where he could be really heard. Amplifiers, the electric bass and acoustic pickups would come later and allow the bassist to be heard rather than felt.
Paul McCartney would bring lyricism to Rock and Roll, his rich bass lines freed rock players from strict time keeping. The Sixties was a "Golden Age" for music and for bass players whose role was greatly expanded. Bass players like Bootsie Collins, Sting and Christian McBride have become stars in their own right
What makes these players so good is their understanding of and absolute commitment to the role of their instrument. Hopefully, younger players will continue that tradition.
The groove continues...