Monday, April 20, 2009

Bass Photo of the Week (April 20th)

Here's one of my favorite photos of Scott Lafaro. It a great photo of him, and his famous Prescott bass.

The bass currently resides at Kolstein's where it was repaired after being in the same crash that killed Lafaro. A photo of the bass as it stands at Kolstein's is below.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bass Photo of the Week (April 14th)

I don't know what this is a photo of. I've done my share of damage to basses, but I've never used duct tape.

Miles and Me (Quincy Troupe)

I've always been a big Miles Davis fan. The first record I actually wore out (literally to the point it would no longer play) was Miles' album Tutu. I also wore out (although a few tracks still play fine) Cookin' and 'Round Midnight. I saw Miles Davis live three times in the late 80's and early 90's.In each case, I was completely drawn into his playing and that of his band. I've also read his autobiography (with Quincy Troupe) a handful of times.

Over the weekend I read Quincy Troupe's follow up book Miles and Me. I've had it for years, but had never read it. Let me say that this is a great book. Its an excellent story of the story behind the writing of the autobiography. I loved the stories of Miles and those of Quincy's own development as a poet/artist. I was particularly struck by his use of jazz players to develop the cadences and tone of his writing and poetic voice.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jeff Bradetich Videos

I recently came across a couple of great pedagogical videos by Jeff Bradetich, one of my favorites. While there are several videos of Mr. Bradetich performing on YouTube, I found these videos from University of North Texas very useful. Plus, both videos highlight his great technique and musicality. The first video is about left-hand techniques; the second is on practice methods.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bass photo of the week (April 6)

Here's a great photo of Paul Chambers playing with the Miles Davis group (of whom he was a member from 1955 to 1963). The photo is from the Life Magazine archives. Chambers has always been one of my favorite bassists and I love his bowed solos (many of which are transcribed by Jim Stinnett).

A couple of interesting things about the photo. First, note the carved scroll on the bass he is playing. I'm not sure what type of bass he played (he probably had several over his career; cf. Scott Lafaro and his Prescott bass). Secondly, notice there is a second bass in the corner. On my last trip home I visited my grandmother who lives in an assisted-living community. There I met a friend of hers, Julius Gill, who played piano for some really biggies on the West Coast in the 50's and 60's. When I told him I was thinking about tuning my bass in fifths (more on this in another post) he mentioned that there was a time when many jazz players were experimenting with alternate tunings. I wonder if the second bass in the corner is a spare, someone else's or perhaps an alternate tuning. One can only conjecture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feeling/Finding the Pulse

I came across this nice article on the importance of pulse in bringing musicians together as an effective ensemble. I recently played at a rehearsal for an ensemble. I'm sure I won't get a call back as the band (maybe more precisely, the rhythm section) never gelled in such a way as to find a unique and binding pulse. I'm not sure if it was my sight reading or that of the others, a bad vibe between us, or just ne of those days. In the end, it never clicked.

I got me thinking about how an effective rhythm section operates. One of the groups I play with (a trio) has a great pulse. I'm always amazed at how we click when playing together and how we anticipate one anothers' fills and rhythmic changes.

I think one important part of developing a pulse is having one yourself. This is more than just being alive with your instrument. It takes practice. For this, I think a metronome and the ability to sight read rhythms are essential. Myself, I try to spend some time during each practice session sight reading rhythms. One tool I use is This site has lots of rhythms that you can just pull up and read. I also like grabbing books of latin music or atonal etudes as each has its own rhythmic perculiarities. Reading this music (or at least the rhythms) not only improvies your sight reading but also your musical knowledge base.

Another important aspect of having your own pulse is using a metronome. Many people I know eschew a metronome when practicing as they feel it will interfere with there sense of "musical flow" or "swinging". I believe that all music requires a pulse and that training yourself to play with a pulse means using a metronome in the background to, at a minimum, remind you of the need for a pulse. Here's a nice article on the use of a metronome. Personally, I think too many peoiple believe that using a metronome means hearing a click on beats 1, 2, 3, and 4. These people forget the flexibility of using a metronome: putting the clicks only on beats 2 and 4; putting the click only on beat 1 or beat 4. Using a metronome in a more creative fashion can only improve your musical flow and ability to swing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Peter Tambroni's edition of Bottessini's Elegy

To celebrate his 100th post on, Peter Tambroni has made his edition of Bottessini's Elegy available free for download. This offer expires on April 3rd so you better move fast.

the R-Word

As a parent of someone with special needs, I always have some trouble with the use of the word retard or retarded, regardless of the context. My friends know this and avoid use of the word.
The Special Olympics has launched a campaign to eliminate the use of the word. I encourage everyone to pledge on their website: