I have a bass student starting to learn acro technique (i.e., using the bow), so I decided to put together a brief playlist of classic jazz recordings with arco bass. This is just scratching the surface and hopefully I’ll create additional playlists in the future.
Note: What will hopefully be my final dissertation draft is due in a little over a month, so I’m taking a break from my regular blogging. Stay tuned!
Jimmy Blanton, “Body and Soul”
There were several takes of this song recorded by bassist Jimmy Blanton and Duke Ellington around 1940. The video above is of a higher quality recording. This video has the take transcribed in Todd Coolman’s The Bass Tradition, but is poorer quality. Blanton combines a melodic soloing concept, an almost classical-sounding tone, and enviable intonation.
Slam Stewart, “I Got Rhythm”
This is a well-known recording of Don Byas (saxophone) and bassist Slam Stewart doing an impromptu duet (I forget the full story, but the rest of the band hadn’t shown up for the gig yet). The arco solo starts at 02:09 and features blazing fast riffs (and some double-stops halfway through) with voice in unison.
Paul Chambers, “The Theme”
Paul Chambers recorded many arco bass solos throughout his career, but in this recording, he is the featured artist. Chambers used bebop-style solo ideas in both his pizzicato and arco playing. This solo is also transcribed in Coolman’s book.
Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride, “I Loves You Porgy”
Bassists Ray Brown, John Clayton, and Christian McBride made two recordings under the group name Super Bass (this is from Super Bass 2). While all of their music features amazing arrangements and displays of musicianship, this is one of the few tracks to feature arco playing. While it’s much more subdued than some of their other tracks, this showcases both the arco melody and pizzicato accompaniment.