Late Nights With the Low End

I’ve just been working on walking a bass line through Tadd Dameron’s tune, Ladybird. I’ve never really learned about creating bass lines, and after a recent encounter with a professional left me dumbfounded, I decided there would have to be some changes made(unintentional late night pun: counted).

Since I know nothing of good bass line manufacturing, I did what I always do and lifted a Curley Russell line from one of the tune’s original recordings with Tadd Dameron himself on piano, and his hand picked army of Fats Navarro, Wardell Gray and Kenny Clarke.  The line is great, it shows it’s age(not a single altered ninth in the whole thing.  No #5s on major chords either.) in terms of a modern context, but that doesn’t bother me at all.  I always like to go far back when learning either a key component of the music or something I really dig(both in this case).  I’m sure that in a few weeks I will be posting a Walter Page or Jimmy Blanton line for all to see.

The reason that I’m doing this line is that the tune was dropped on me and I felt like fixing it before doing anything else.  Interestingly, Ladybird is not a very present tune in my library.  I have only two historic bass players playing it, Doug Watkins and Curley Russell.  Strange that such an oft-called tune(at least in Cleveland) has such little representation from me.  Surprisingly, I don’t even have the Miles Davis version, which I think is the reason people know that tune(could be wrong there).

The other interesting thing about this process is the angle at which I am approaching bass lines.  Unlike when I was first trying to solo or voice chords, I’m attacking it as a learned student who is making the move very carefully.  I’d be curious how this would differ from a relatively new bassist who is just learning by either being on the bandstand or noodling around and playing what he or she is hearing.  For my money, one of the only reasons I have any skill at all on the piano was because I got the chance to be on the bandstand early and often.  Hopefully learning bass lines will benefit from that experience.  If not, I’m going to have to trick some poor fool into getting into a room with me and letting me walk bass lines for them.

All hail to the ‘Hoss!

-Martin

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~ by Martin Porter on November 17, 2010.

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