This transcription comes from the same album I wrote about last week, Bill Evans’ Interplay. Percy Heath gives us a lesson here on how to create a bass line that flows smoothly and logically through a set of chord changes. His melodious thud keeps great time, and he outlines the harmonic sequence using variations on a simple theme.
When written out with 8 measures per line, we can see how similar each 8-bar section is. Most sections start with the same three-note ascending line, and this pattern keeps reappearing throughout. See how often Percy starts a measure by walking from the root up to the third or from the fifth down to third. It’s about half the time! Beats 2 and 4 usually step up or down into a strong chord tone on a strong beat, and many chords are approached from a half step below. Upward chromatic motion gives a strong sense of resolution, as we can hear in bar 170, where the target note of Ab justifies Percy playing an E natural and F# on the strong beats while his bandmates comp a G altered chord.
This doesn’t mean he’s not listening to the band. In bar 130 he plays an A natural on beat 4 but cuts it short when he hears Bill Evans play an Ab, and the same happens in bar 180 when Freddie Hubbard plays a C over his B natural.
I wrote out the first six choruses, enough to get the idea of how this works.
You and the Night and the Music (PHeath bassline)
I only wrote in the most basic version of the chord changes for reference here – of course Percy adds more nuance and motion to keep it interesting. For example, he treats almost every bar of G7 as a minor ii-V, playing a D on beat 1 and a G or B on beat 3.
In 1962, Bill Evans recorded seven albums with five different rhythm sections. He had spent most of the prior two years playing exclusively with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, but when LaFaro died in the summer of ’61, Bill took a break from working for the rest of that year. When he returned to the studio, he was matched with a variety of players and formats, but his most frequent collaborator at that time was guitarist Jim Hall.
Interplay finds Hall and Evans joined by Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones and Freddie Hubbard, at that time known best for his fiery playing in Art Blakey’s band. Freddie is unusually subdued here, maybe because he’s playing older material with older musicians, but everyone puts in swinging performances.
I’ll Never Smile Again (BEvans arr)
Sometimes it only takes a subtle change to breathe new life into something old and familiar. Dayna Stephens treats Joe Henderson’s “Black Narcissus” very gently; he doesn’t change the melody or the form, he just adds a few more colors to the song’s harmonic palette, almost like he’s holding the original up to the light and turning it.
Black Narcissus (DStephens arr)
As a side note, this song was released on Criss Cross album #1345. Just down the line on Criss Cross #1349, violinist Zach Brock plays the song in 5/4 with the original chord changes.
Speaking of Tony Williams, here’s an interesting arrangement from his Story of Neptune album. Ahmad Jamal’s rendition of Poinciana is so well-constructed and iconic that many great musicians have been reluctant to put their fingerprints on it.
Poinciana (TWilliams arr)
More about this song coming soon on the Bass Resources page…