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The Evolving Role of the Electric Bass in Jazz: History and Pedagogy

University of Miami Scholarly Repository Open Access Dissertations Electronic Theses and Dissertations The Evolving Role of the Electric Bass in Jazz: History and Pedagogy Dave Schroeder University
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University of Miami Scholarly Repository Open Access Dissertations Electronic Theses and Dissertations The Evolving Role of the Electric Bass in Jazz: History and Pedagogy Dave Schroeder University of Miami, Follow this and additional works at: Recommended Citation Schroeder, Dave, The Evolving Role of the Electric Bass in Jazz: History and Pedagogy (2011). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 575. This Open access is brought to you for free and open access by the Electronic Theses and Dissertations at Scholarly Repository. It has been accepted for inclusion in Open Access Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Scholarly Repository. For more information, please contact UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI THE EVOLVING ROLE OF THE ELECTRIC BASS IN JAZZ: HISTORY AND PEDAGOGY By Dave Schroeder A DOCTORAL ESSAY Submitted to the Faculty of the University of Miami in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts Coral Gables, Florida June 2011 2011 Dave C. Schroeder All Rights Reserved UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI A doctoral essay submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts THE EVOLVING ROLE OF THE ELECTRIC BASS IN JAZZ: HISTORY AND PEDAGOGY Dave Schroeder Approved: Don Coffman, M.M. Associate Chair of Studio Music And Jazz Gary Lindsay, M.M. Professor of Jazz Composition Terri A. Scandura, Ph.D. Dean of the Graduate School Charles Bergeron, M.M. Professor of Jazz Performance John Olah, M.M. Associate Professor of Performance SCHROEDER, DAVE (DMA, Jazz Performance) The Evolving Role of the (June 2011) Electric Bass in Jazz: History and Pedagogy Abstract of a doctoral essay at the University of Miami. Doctoral essay supervised by Professor Don Coffman Ninety-nine pages (99) The advent and development of the electric bass as an instrument was examined in relation to its application to the genre of jazz and related styles. The evolving role of the bass in the early stages of the development of the jazz genre was considered. The work of pioneering acoustic bassists such as Jimmy Blanton emancipated the bass from its traditional, subordinate and supportive function. Bassists began to explore harmonically elaborate solos in a similar fashion to horn players. Electric bassists are able to expand on the harmonic aspects of the instrument partly due to the playability afforded by the electric bass as opposed to the acoustic bass. Leo Fender s 1951 Precision bass was a significant development, though it was preceded by earlier attempts to create various electric amplified basses. Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke were key figures in the history of the electric bass, and were influenced by traditional jazz music. In turn, they influenced the development of jazz and related styles such as fusion. Modern electric bass virtuosos such as Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten have effectively incorporated traditional jazz influences into their compositions and performances. Jazz and related styles of music continue to evolve, influenced by pedagogical practices and electric bass instruction in academic settings. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF EXAMPLES... vi Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION... 1 Key Figures in Electric Bass History... 2 Documentation of the Electric Bass in Jazz REVIEW OF RELATED SOURCES... 6 Interviews... 7 The Jazz Bass Book... 7 The Jaco Book... 8 S.M.V Acoustic Bass. 11 Electric Bass-Specific Resources 13 Additional Jazz-Related Resources METHODOLOGY THE EVOLVING ROLE OF THE BASS IN JAZZ 22 Duke Ellington Bassists Jimmy Blanton Influence on the Electric Bass iii 5. THE ADVENT AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE ELECTRIC BASS Lloyd Loar and Gibson.. 29 Rickenbacker.. 30 Paul Tutmarc Leo Fender and the Precision Bass THE PLAYERS 36 Monk Montgomery Steve Swallow 37 Bob Cranshaw 39 Figures Peripheral to Jazz.. 40 Jaco Pastorius. 42 Stanley Clarke 46 Marcus Miller. 47 Victor Wooten 50 Steve Bailey 55 Richard Bona.. 57 Avishai Cohen 60 Christian McBride.. 62 John Patitucci.. 62 Other Important Figures JAZZ AND ELECTRIC BASS PEDAGOGY Modern Technology 66 Pedagogical Resources for Bass. 67 iv Classical Acoustic Bass Method Books. 67 Jazz Bass Method Books 67 Electric Bass Material. 70 Adapting Jazz Material to the Electric Bass Paul Chambers Transcriptions 76 Teaching Students About Jaco Pastorius Teaching Slap Bass 83 Physical Aspects of Slap Bass.. 83 Advanced Right Hand Techniques.. 85 Pedagogical Issues. 89 Student Motivation 89 Instructor Idiosyncrasies 91 Music Instruction in Popular Genres 91 Teaching Electric Bass in Universities and Colleges SUMMARY 94 BIBLIOGRAPHY v LIST OF EXAMPLES Examples Page 7.1 Carol Kaye, Days of Wine and Roses, bass solo mm Paul Chambers, The Theme, bass solo mm Charlie Parker, Au Privave, saxophone solo mm Jaco Pastorius, Teen Town, melody mm Jaco Pastorius, Teen Town, mm Jaco Pastorius, River People, first thematic statement mm Basic Slap Exercise Victor Wooten, Classical Thump, mm Victor Wooten, Sometimes I Laugh, melody mm vi Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION In the process of examining the role of the electric bass in jazz, certain other aesthetic and artistic aspects of that genre must be considered. Jazz is the first important art form to develop within the United States. The genre of jazz is still relatively young; the first documented jazz recording was released in The electric bass was ultimately developed in 1951 by Leo Fender, primarily for the purposes of better amplification, portability and ease of performance, but also to provide an improvement over the intonation issues of the acoustic bass. The musical environment of the 1950 s facilitated the creation and application of the instrument. The electric bass as an instrument is in its infancy, and the body of work addressing the historically significant aspects of the instrument is still relatively small. A great deal of potential for original research exists in electric bass studies within the context of contemporary music. Present day technology facilitates the instantaneous transmission of knowledge in every aspect of daily life including the arts. The term telescoping has been applied in recent years in reference to the faster rate of development in virtually every field. Instantaneous information sharing informs and influences the arts in a profound way, leading to a rate of change that did not exist in previous time periods. Therefore although! Mervyn Cooke, Jazz. (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998), 31. 1 2 the jazz genre is relatively young, and the electric bass is a recent development, there is already a wealth of music to explore. There are many stylistic and artistic developments related to the role of the electric bass in jazz that have not been investigated. The potential benefits of an academic paper on this subject are significant. It can lead to a deeper understanding of the art form of jazz and the ways in which it is observed and appreciated, while at the same time focusing on the role of the electric bass. Many jazz purists are adamantly opposed to the inclusion of the electric bass in any music that could be categorized as true or real jazz. The examination of the instrument s relationship to the genre could help to offer insight and clarification regarding the defining parameters of that genre. Since jazz is a true original American art form, there is value in investigating the issues as to what constitutes legitimate jazz. The essence of jazz is extremely subjective, but it is worth considering the general consensus of the jazz community. Dissent from mainstream thought will always be present, and should not be ignored if we are to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of the art form. Key Figures in Electric Bass History Bassist Monk Montgomery used the electric bass in Lionel Hampton s touring band shortly after its invention. Montgomery replaced Roy Johnson, and became one of the first notable figures to popularize the instrument. The use of the electric bass attracted some degree of attention partly owing to the novelty of the instrument. Downbeat magazine published an article regarding Johnson s use of the bass in July The article featured a picture of Hampton posing with the new bass. 2 Many important figures in the history of the electric bass emerged in various musical genres. Larry Graham, Jim Fielder and Carol Kaye contributed to the field of 2 Leonard Feather, Lionel Hampton. Downbeat, July, 1952. 3 electric bass playing in popular styles outside of the jazz idiom, while reflecting some of the inflections of the jazz style. Graham played electric bass with Sly and the Family Stone, and is known for developing the thumb technique used in right hand slapping. Fielder s work with Blood Sweat and Tears fused jazz elements with rock music. Carol Kaye was a ubiquitous musical figure in Los Angeles, working extensively in the studio. Kaye also authored several pedagogical electric bass books that advanced the technical aspects of the instrument. More recent electric bassists such as Steve Bailey and Will Lee have studied jazz music extensively and worked with jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, while contributing significantly to the development of electric bass performance in many musical styles. Although the impact of the electric bass was significant, its ultimate success was more the result of individual efforts. An important figure in changing the way the electric bass was perceived was Jaco Pastorius. Jazz aficionados and bassists worldwide generally acknowledge Pastorius as the most significant figure in the history of the electric bass. 3 He was an innovator in terms of the sound of the instrument as well as performance practices. His unique tone on the fender fretless bass as well as his use of harmonics significantly altered the course of the instrument s musical development and continues to influence the role of the electric bass in a wide variety of contexts. Another important individual in fusion and mainstream jazz is upright and electric bassist Stanley Clarke. Clarke was a contemporary of Pastorius and one of the first prominent bassist band leaders. There has not been extensive writing about Clarke, as is the case with Pastorius, and further investigation of his work would be merited. Clarke is 3 Bill Milkowski, Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius. (San Francisco, Backstreet Books, 1995), 10. 4 still active, and among his most recent projects is an electric bass trio with fellow bass legends and innovators Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller. This group released a recording in 2008 and toured extensively in 2008 and Other significant electric bass figures in the contemporary jazz field include Steve Swallow, Bob Cranshaw, Christian McBride, Avishai Cohen, Richard Bona, John Patitucci, Gary Willis, Jeff Andrews, Jeff Berlin, and Mark Egan. Many prominent modern bassists play acoustic and electric bass with great fluency. These musicians have adapted the traditional stylistic inflections of the jazz idiom to the electric bass. Documentation of the Electric Bass in Jazz Contemporary writings relating to the subject of electric bass and jazz are abundant in magazines but are often lacking with regards to in depth study. Jazz-related publications such as Downbeat, Jazziz and Jazz Times provide a significant amount of information pertaining to the subject. Bass Player magazine has evolved into an industry standard for professional bassists in almost every style. A synthesis of the articles and segments of books on the subject would prove useful in supporting academic research in this area. While questions regarding the instrument and the genre have certainly been raised, available research and academic writings have been limited. Consideration of the historical development of jazz and related genres will provide a foundation from which to explore the subject matter as it relates to the arts, music and specifically jazz. The rate of development in recent years in the jazz idiom and jazz bass has provided an abundance of research material, but in depth examination of this topic has been limited. With the array of contemporary and accessible electric bassists currently 4 Philip Booth, Thunder: CD review. Downbeat, November, 2008. 5 active, the subject can be explored and examined more thoroughly in order to reveal many various aspects of the genre and the instrument. The purpose of this study is to examine the evolving roles of the electric bass in jazz. The history of the instrument and its effect on the jazz idiom will also be considered. Research questions related to the purpose include: how the role of electric bass has developed, how the instrument has influenced the genre of jazz, and how the instrument functions in the contemporary setting. The influence of modern pedagogical practices in jazz and the electric bass will also be considered Chapter 2 REVIEW OF RELATED SOURCES Books focusing on jazz topics have become more numerous in recent years, with many biographies and general historical publications now available. Many jazz history books use a survey approach in documenting the development of the genre, and general information can be synthesized from these sources. More specific information can be extracted from biographical accounts of historically significant figures. A considerable but not exhaustive amount of information is available pertaining to the major figures in the history of the acoustic bass in jazz. Significant academic sources that specifically address the electric bass in relation to jazz are less common. Popular publications provide numerous articles that can be accessed for the purposes of this paper. Downbeat magazine remains the foremost authoritative source in jazz for contemporary writing and criticism, and has been in publication for over 75 years. Bass Player magazine has been in publication since 1989 and has emerged as the most prominent and respected source for working professionals in the industry. More coverage is designated to the electric bass than the acoustic bass in this publication, perhaps in part because of the magazine s appeal to younger readers. Jazz music is not the focus of Bass Player magazine, but many of the musicians profiled in the publication 6 7 are jazz musicians or at least have had experience and training in the field. These two magazines provide valuable contemporary information regarding the most influential and prominent electric bassists working in the jazz genre today. Historical accounts are also featured in many articles. Interviews Prominent contemporary jazz bassists do not generally experience the type of adulation that a successful pop-rock artist may receive from the general public; even many of the most significant jazz artists are easily accessible and accommodating to anyone who wishes to speak with them. Personal interviews have been a valuable primary source of information for jazz researchers. Discussions with some of the most historically significant electric bassists have provided insights that will be reflected in this paper. Steve Bailey, Victor Wooten and Bob Cranshaw among others have provided useful information The Jazz Bass Book John Goldsby has long been established as a writer for Bass Player magazine, the most credible and authoritative publication for professional electric bassists as well as for acoustic bassists working outside the classical genre. In his The Jazz Bass Book: Technique and Tradition, he attempts to address the historical development of the bass and its role in a comprehensive manner. 8 Goldsby displays a readily apparent bias towards the acoustic bass over the electric instrument in his coverage, although this may be partially due to the space limitations of a single book. Perhaps the references to jazz 5 Steve Bailey, interview by author, Miami, FL, September 26, Victor Wooten, interview by author, Ottawa, ON, Canada, June 30, Bob Cranshaw, interview by author, Ottawa, ON, Canada, June 28, John Goldsby, The Jazz Bass Book: Technique and Tradition. (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2002). 8 and to tradition in the title of the book suggest Goldsby s opinion of the acoustic bass as being the more authentic instrument for the jazz genre. The inception of jazz occurred many years before Leo Fender conceived of the electric bass in 1951, so the upright bass and tuba were the sole vehicles for expression of the bassist role at that time. While matters of inclusion are greatly subjective, Goldsby carefully chooses key figures in bass history to write about, providing concise biographical information as well as information regarding musically significant contributions. A major portion of the book is devoted to the players, and features photographs to buttress images conjured up by the readings. Goldsby is an accomplished professional bassist, and is therefore qualified to speak to the technical and aesthetic aspects of bass performance with insight and authority. There are transcribed solos for bassists to reference as well, though the book is much more of a historical documentation than an instructional method book. Goldsby s experience working for Bass Player magazine affords him access to and contact with the elite figures in the field. His extensive knowledge and experience as a musician and a writer allow him to reflect intelligently on various aspects of the bass and its evolution in jazz. The Jaco Book Bill Mikowski s biography of Jaco Pastorius was originally published in 1995, and later revised and released as an anniversary edition in 2005 with additional material and interviews. 9 Although its credibility has been questioned by Jaco Pastorius s first wife, as well as long time friend and musical collaborator Pat Metheny, it does contain many interviews with detailed firsthand accounts of various personal and professional 9 Bill Milkowski, Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius (San Francisco, Backstreet Books, 1995). 9 experiences with the bassist. Pastorius is universally acknowledged as having been one of the most influential figures in the history of the electric bass, and Milkowski s biography is the most prominent investigation of his life and work. An enigmatic figure, Pastorius suffered from bipolar disorder as well as substance abuse issues. With such a rich source of musical contributions from which to draw, and with such an intriguing personal legacy to examine, Milkowski seized the opportunity to create a compelling read for those interested in jazz and especially with the electric bass. While some of the details may be questionable in terms of accuracy, discussions of Pastorius, his life and work, are presented in a variety of contexts. The section devoted to interviews and quotes from contemporaries of Pastorius is the most valuable and robust source of information provided by this provocative publication. S.M.V. The release of the Thunder recording by SMV in 2008 stands as a representative work that reflects the state of the art of bass playing. 10 SMV is made up of three of the most significant iconic figures in the history of the electric bass. The eldest of the three bassists is the legendary Stanley Clarke, a contemporary of Jaco Pastorius in the 1970 s and one of the first prominent electric bassists to emerge as a band leader. His technical proficiency continues to astound audiences today just as it did over thirty years ago. Marcus Miller is known for his work with Miles Davis later in the trumpeter s career. The slap funk technique he utilizes, with his 1977 Fender Jazz bass, is very familiar to other bassists in the field. Miller is also an accomplished producer with numerous credits, and is proficient on several instruments. Victor Wooten first came to prominence in the early 1990 s as the bassist for fusion pioneers Bela Fleck and the 10 SMV, Thunder, Heads Up, CD B001BP4U50, 2008. 10 Flecktones. His most notable technical advances involve the right hand attack; he modifies t
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