Today, we’ll continue our discussion of the rhythm section. Previously we talked about the upright bass; now we’ll talk about the bass guitar. It’s a stringed instrument that is played by the fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, strumming, tapping, thumping or picking with a plectrum. It’s similar in appearance to an electric guitar but has a longer neck and scale length. It can have four, five, or even six strings, and some varieties come without frets. Since the 1960s, it has largely replaced the double bass, though for many in jazz the upright instrument will always remain a staple.
There have been many great jazz bass guitar players such as Marcus Miller and Marcus Johnson, Christian McBride, John Patitucci, and Victor Wooten, but perhaps the most significant (according to many) is Jaco Pastorius. Originally he wanted to be a drummer like his father, but due to a wrist injury, he switched over to the bass guitar. From the very beginning, he had an exceptional talent on the instrument. His career was ascending. He played in some R&B bands and was heavily influenced by Funk and Latin jazz styles. He traveled extensively on tour, and in 1978, Down Beat Magazine’s readers voted him their number one electric bass player.
At one time he was featured at Boston’s Berkley School of Music, and he was even an adjunct instructor at the University of Miami’s jazz department. During his career, he played with Pat Metheny, Ira Sullivan, Paul Bley, Sam and Dave, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, even Joni Mitchell. But perhaps his career reached its zenith while he performed with Weather Report. “Birdland” and “Teen Town” are two classics from the album ‘Heavy Weather’ that feature him on the bass guitar.
Jaco will always be remembered as one of the best. At one time he was a member of the Pat Metheny Group, and a song on the Pat Metheny Group album was named after him. Even Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues” would have liked him.
JassOdyssey Question of the Day
Today we’ve mentioned a number of jazz bass guitar players. Name a modern-day jazz bass guitar player/organist/vocalist who has written music for movies (e.g., Boyz n the Hood, Passenger 57, Poetic Justice) and television (e.g., Soul Food, Pee Wee’s Playhouse).
Hint-He’s played extensively with George Duke.
As Always-Take the Test, Take the Journey!