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Revisiting the Legends of Upright Bass

by:XuQiu     2020-06-02
Electric bass guitar is a young instrument-- with the commercial production of P-Bass back in '61. Before the age of pick-ups and other high-tech features, legendary players only play the upright bass. While we are deeply enamored with the bass guitar prowess of James Jamerson, John Entwistle, Cliff Burton and Jack Bruce; it's a must to go back and appreciate the players who mastered the upright bass. In an era when guitars and piano was the star of the night, these bass players put up their own show as if saying, 'Enough is enough; you people need to listen because we have our own good licks here.' Perceived to be too heavy, too sloppy and soft for large halls-much like the fat guy in school who always gets bullied-these maestros put upright bass into a whole new light. Scott LaFaro Great things-or person for this matter-- just don't stay for so long. Died in the age of 25, Scott was perceived to be a true inspiration for jazz bassists. He was the bassist for the super trio jazz ensemble called Bill Evans Trio. Along with guitarist Bill Evans and Paul Motian, LaFaro released some memorable jazz pieces such as: Portrait in Jazz, Waltz for Debby and Explorations. Jimmy Blanton Before Jimmy, bass is just the band's designated time-keeper; exclusively playing within the framework set by the melody of the piano and other horned-instrument. But when Jimmy teamed-up with Duke Ellington in 1939, he showed that there is more to bass than just maintaining the band's harmony and pulse. Jimmy's virtuoso style of playing prompted Duke to write bass solos and duets for him. He died at the age of 23. He left behind great bass pieces such as: Sophisticated Lady, Pitter Panther Patter and Body and Soul. Oscar Pettiford Oscar was an expert bassist and cellist. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, he led the pioneering movement for bebop. Early in his career, he performed in New York's jazz clubs with Max Roach, Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge. He also worked for Duke Ellington from 1945 to 1948. He is the first bassist to incorporate cello into jazz music, which became his secondary instrument for the rest of his career. His style is known for having clear and clean notes-something which bassist Christian Mcbride admires. Listen to 'Oscalypso' and 'Perdido', his 1950 collaborations with Duke Ellington where he played cello. Charles Mingus Pioneer of American jazz and was dubbed Duke Ellington's heir because of his unparalleled musical genius. He is a bassist, pianist, composer, band leader and most of all a revolutionary. He did not hesitate to take unknown musical talents under his wing. He recorded his first major work 'Pithecanthropus Erectus' in 1956. He received numerous awards and honors such as 'The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,' a Guggenheim Fellowship for Music Composition, a stamp issued by The United States Postal Service in his honor and a grant given by The National Endowment for the Arts for his non-profit group 'Let My Children Hear Music.' A simple instrument when handed to a gifted artist can make wonderful music and change the course of history. These men put an effort to hone their craft using an instrument most casual fans perceived to be indispensable. Not only did they succeed, but they assured that the humble upright bass will have its place as one of the most important instrument in the modern music history.
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