I came across something really cool this morning. It’s a ‘build thread’ (i.e. a forum thread detailing the process of building a bass) by an Israeli builder named Gil Yaron, who hand-builds replicas of what he calls ‘Golden Era’ guitars and basses. I hadn’t seen one of these threads before so it was pretty interesting, and the guy’s attention to detail is just astounding, both as a builder and as a photo-documentarian. On page 5 he even provides a nice interlude detailing the ‘building’ of his breakfast, having just finished hand-winding a pair of pickups.
The end result looks pretty great, but the main value of this is the microscopic level of detail that goes into the building process. Amazing. Here’s the thread.
Blues Armada is a function/jazz/blues band I play for, fronted by Luke Cannon, which recently recorded some demos at Soundworks in Leeds with our friend Ollie Norman. They’re being mixed and stuff at the moment, but here’s a preview of a couple of small band tunes. I used my Nordy VJ-4 strung with Thomastik-Infeld Jazz flatwounds — wonderful strings to play, not quite as hollow in the midrange as some flats, and I think they record very nicely. Loads of the fundamental, not many overtones and no string noise, so very good for supporting a band. Have a listen!
Joe Cox drums, Martin Longhawn pianos and organs, George Miller guitars.
The stats on my site tell me a few things. One is that, particularly on Fridays, my visitors are predominantly Gardener’s World fans who have arrived here through the TV show’s ‘Community’ page on the BBC website, thanks to a pretty nothingy post I wrote about it one time. It has 33 comments.
Another thing is that quite a few people get here by searching for ‘Laurence Cottle transcription’ (brave souls), which is the kind of visit I’d prefer to encourage. So…
Here’s a transcription — the hideously fiddly yet actually quite listenable bass part from Laurence Cottle’s ‘Quite Firm’. There’s a few versions of the track on his website, a couple on the big band album and a small band one from ‘Live!’. I’ve used the Live! version as a template and transcribed the head. It’s really good writing, fits in brilliantly with the horn lines and in a perverse sort of way falls quite nicely under the fingers — definitely a bass player’s line. Here’s the PDF:
Quite Firm – Bass Guitar
And here’s a clip of me just about getting through the A and B sections (playing along to the ‘Bonus’ version from big band album, because the Live! one is out of tune with A=440Hz):
I went down to The Grove in Leeds to see my friend Martin Longhawn playing in Eirik Svela‘s organ trio (with John Arnesen drumming). When I play with Martin he’s normally doing keys/piano stuff but he’s a pretty expert organ player too, so it was great to see him with a two-banked Nord organ and a real-life Leslie rotating speaker.
It’s a format that guitarists love to play in and you can see why — the walking bass lines have a really mellow ‘blooming’ quality to them and organ’s comping can be really rich and shimmery without too much attack, which provides a really nice background for the more percussive sound of the guitar to sit in. Martin’s left-hand bass playing was very authentic and he and John kept a great feel which Eirik took full advantage of with some really thoughtful playing. Good selection of charts and as usual for the Grove a nice atmosphere. Cool! I’ve put a video of the last tune below.
Tonight at Sela bar there’s another organ trio, again featuring Martin Longhawn, this time with Steve Hanley and led by Aubin Vanns. Definitely worth going.
I recently re-watched the excellent Blade Runner, starring Indiana Jones (Han Solo, actually). It’s pretty brilliant and has an amazing soundtrack by Vangelis. My favourite tune in the soundtrack is Memories of green, which occurs in a scene where Rachael is realising she’s a replicant, not a human, and that all her childhood memories are just implanted.
It’s a very ambient and poignant piano piece in its original form, but when the main tune comes in at 1:10, there’s a brilliant B minor to D7 motif, and then a really nice tritone substitution a bit afterwards. Very jazz, so I decided to arrange it for small band.
I’ve put together a chart in Sibelius and stuck in some basic piano voicings, bass and cymbals. It’s about 4 minutes long, and only gets back to D major right at the end (having started in B minor and then spent a long time in D minor/F major), so I put an extra F#7 at the end to allow going back to letter A. Here’s an export of it:
Great weekend — a day after my lesson with Geoff Chalmers, I went for one with another Leeds-based player, Scott Devine who by all accounts is one of the very best electric bassists in the UK. His website and free video lessons are extremely popular, so when I found out he was based in Leeds I had to go for a lesson in person. We focused on building a consistent technique, listened to a lot of cool stuff and went over some soloing approaches and a few clever tricks. Most of all, it was great to meet someone with so much experience who is still head over heels in love with playing and talking about bass.
The important thing about Scott and Geoff is that neither of them have a dogmatic approach to either technique or theory, so there was no prospect of any overloading or confusion despite having the two lessons back to back. It’s very true that, (paraphrasing George Millard), ‘there are some things you have to be able to do and that’s how it is’, but my two teachers were well aware that the details of how you approach doing those things can vary dramatically to suit each person.
Whether you prefer to think of a G altered scale or an Ab harmonic minor, they’re both good ways to pull off wicked-cool altered licks and impress your friends. It’s important to be able to get the fat, punchy sound that Geoff in particular emphasised to me, but whether you descend by raking or strict finger alternation is down to comfort. Both Geoff and Scott had rock solid technique and focused on giving me ways to develop my own, rather than sticking religiously to the particular details of their techniques. These two are highly recommended!
I’ve just got back from a lesson with Leeds-based double and electric bassist Geoff Chalmers. We did a bit of playing and he very quickly picked up on some fundamental and really helpful things to work on, and managed to cover loads of ground in a really clear and positive way — especially impressive since I’ve come at bass from a not completely orthodox background. He’s a sick player with a really varied portfolio, and I can’t recommend him enough as a teacher. Thanks Geoff!