Tag Archives: solo

Beatrice (Ron Carter bassline & solo)

Ron Carter has turned in a treasure trove of memorable performances during his long career, but one of my favorites is this one from Joe Henderson’s The State of the Tenor album.  The trio setting of sax, bass and drums gives each player room to shine, and Ron has the spotlight on the opening track, leading the band through Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice”.  There’s plenty of space here for the bass to provide interesting counterpoint; the melody is spare and drummer Al Foster keeps a soft, simple beat throughout.  Ron uses double and triple stops to fill in the harmony, and he pushes and pulls the beat to build tension and relax it, without ever losing that swinging feel.  It’s obvious that many great bassists have studied this record, and I encourage anyone to learn at least the first few choruses of this song.

Beatrice (RCarter complete)

Beatrice (RCarter complete)

Notes on a page can’t do justice to Ron Carter’s style.  For one thing, his sense of rhythm is unquantifiable.  Listen to the descending line in bar 32.  What could I write here that would elicit such a phrase from someone playing through this chart?  My choice of a triplet over beats 2 & 3 here is just an approximation.  Then, Ron plays almost the same thing in bar 48, but not quite.  I wrote it differently there, but neither of these rhythms could possibly be correct.  It’s imperative that you try to play along with the recording if you really want to see what makes Ron Carter a great bassist.

Another aspect of his playing that’s impossible to convey on paper is the way he slides into certain notes to get a throaty, growling sound.  Check out bars 55, 71 and 86 especially to hear the kinds of things that are left out of this chart.

If there’s one other thing I recommend taking away from this performance, it’s the tenths Ron employs from bars 133-152.  Learning how to play these comfortably is a powerful tool bass players can use to add variety and style to their sonic palette.

As usual, the º symbol indicates a string harmonic rather than a fingered note.

Have fun studying this recording!

The Stroller (Paul Chambers solo)

I really like this bass solo by Paul Chambers.  It’s not just an inspiring display of bowing prowess, it’s also a lesson in blues soloing.

Even at 300 beats per minute, PC manages to build interest and intensity over the course of his solo.  After picking up the bow, Paul takes a couple choruses to warm up; he starts with mostly longer notes and bowstrokes.  By the third chorus Paul is ready to take it to a higher gear, and here he sets the tone for the rest of the solo by utilizing one the key elements of the blues, the “call and response”.  The first 8 bars of the form feature a repeated rhythmic or melodic idea, followed by a counterpoint, or “answer”, in the last 4 bars.  Pay attention to the answer here: every chorus after this will end with a slight variation on this same idea, and this helps the solo feel like one continuous unfolding of a theme.

Each chorus after this will find PC expanding on the idea of call and response, adding energy and complexity until chorus 7 is just an unbroken string of 8th notes.  After this, he raises the stakes again by shortening the length of his call phrase to 3 beats, squeezing even more repetitions into the first 8 bars.  Finally, in chorus 9, the chromatic fall from Bb to Eb hints that the solo is winding down, and Paul provides a satisfying denouement by giving us that familiar answer phrase one last time.

The Stroller (PChambers solo)

When Will the Blues Leave

It used to be said about March that it comes “in like a lion and out like a lamb”.  But more often than not this time of year finds us stuck with more blustery cold weather, and March seems to be a lion through and through.  Today, as we wait for the winter blues to leave, I’m featuring a long blues solo by one of the so-called “young lions” of jazz.

On Kenny Kirkland’s eponymous 1991 album, the pianist pays tribute to some of the great musicians who influenced his style, including Ornette Coleman.  Like some of Ornette’s best sidemen, Kenny lays out for much of the sax solo, letting the alto player meander through blues riffs in many different keys, unencumbered by any harmonic “suggestion” from the piano.

But who is that alto player?  The liner notes say his name is Roderick Ward, but it’s telling that such a talented player only appears on one album.  Astute listeners may suspect that Mr. Ward is none other than Branford Marsalis, already mentioned in the liner notes as playing tenor and soprano saxes.  Why his “alto alter ego” gets an album credit is anyone’s guess, but Roderick Ward can be proud of his tiny body of work.

When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) concertWhen Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) concert

When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) – Alto Sax