A couple years ago I learned Israel Crosby’s bassline from Ahmad Jamal’s classic recording of “Poinciana”. That masterpiece of arranging is what most would call the definitive version of that song, so I got to wondering who else had recorded it and how their takes differed. One of them, from a Tony Williams album, I’ve already shared on the site. This one is from Booker Ervin’s 1961 album That’s It!
I’ve always enjoyed George Tucker’s strong, clear gut string sound, but I never learned any of his lines before this one. I was surprised how often he uses open strings in this line. Even in the open-string friendly key of G major, where the I, vi, ii and V chords are all open bass strings, George often plays an open A or D on a C minor chord as a way of implying a ii/V back to G major. Also, every time he plays a passage that goes beyond a D above the staff, he ends it by abruptly jumping down to an open string rather than walking down stepwise.
Another interesting note is that the walking bassline is full of pretty similar shapes for the first few minutes, but when pianist Horace Parlan plays a funky lick at the end of his first piano chorus, George’s accompaniment takes on a different feel. He starts sliding into the major third and fifth of the G chords, giving a much bluesier sound to the line, and he brings that idea back for much of the bass solo. It’s a nice example of a bassist taking up a simple thematic idea from a soloist and running with it. A good bass player should always be listening for clues from a soloist about how they would like to be accompanied.