Here’s a rough transcription of Steve Swallow, one my favourite bassists, playing on the album Three Guys with Lee Konitz and Paul Motian. (Dreamy band or what?). It’s a Konitz composition over It’s You Or No One. So far, I can’t find it online (tiny sample in this article) but I’m reliably informed it exists on youtube.
Anyway, here is the unison line that ends the tune:
It’s You unison line transcription
It’s You unison line (Eb)
And here it is played in somewhat Swallow-y style — very light roundwounds with a pick and loads of tone rolled off:
Connoisseurs will know that the pick should really be copper, and the bass a semi-acoustic with a piezo somewhere, strung E-C, etc.
A few weeks ago I did my second-to-last gig in the UK, for a change leading a project and so being able to choose some tunes I’d always wanted to play but hadn’t. It was lovely to have some great friends in the audience, and in the band. George Millard kindly came up from London, and he and Ben brought some nice songs along too. There were lots of contrafacts, lots of bop and a few lovely ballads. I’ve uploaded a selection to a Soundcloud set and am making the PDFs available too. I just zipped up the folder containing the charts but it’s pretty easy to see how they fit together. Hopefully they’ll save people having to transcribe some of the less well-known ones themselves. Do tell me if you end up using them, it’d be nice to know.
I’ll shortly be moving away from Leeds (more about that in another post). It’s been a great place to spend the last 4 years in so many ways, none more so than in the wonderful people I’ve played music with here. It all started with the Leeds University Union Big Band, then local jam nights bumping into students and alumni of Leeds College of Music, and countless weekends driving between the weddings of people I don’t know, accompanied by the best musicians and nicest people I could hope to meet. Lots of love to everyone involved.
My last “public” gig in Leeds for quite a while is coming up this Saturday at the HEART venue in Headingley. It’s a project I’ve put together for a couple of one-off gigs. That gives me as a bassist the rare chance to choose and arrange a lot of the tunes, bringing back fond memories of leading the considerably bigger but no less enjoyable Uni Big Band. The band features some great friends and top players:
— Steve Hanley (drums)
— Martin Longhawn (piano)
— Ben Lowman (sax)
— George Millard (sax)
We’ll be doing a selection broadly covering west coast, bop, hard bop, beautiful ballads and a few odds and ends. The idea is to focus on great melodies, in tunes that might even be reasonably well-known but for whatever reason aren’t performed very often. It’s involved lots of transcribing and lots of trying to recall the names of half-remembered lines. Konitz, Nelson, Powell, Corea, Vangelis, etc etc. It’s going to be great fun, pretty accessible and hopefully provide a lot of interest and variety for jazzers in the audience too. Tickets are available through HEART.
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.
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:
Here’s a quick video of what I’m mostly practising at the moment. It’s from Nigel Hitchcock’s ‘Snakeranch Sessions’ album (on which Laurence Cottle plays), which is downloadable here, and if you listen carefully you can hear that it’s an introduction to Cherokee. The album is full of very fast bass and alto sax unison lines, which is a sound I really like — the poppy attack of bass gives a bit more definition and the smoother, fuller notes on sax sort of make sure that you can actually hear what the note is at that speed. Really good.
Anyway, George Millard has transcribed (and pretty much nailed) this introduction for his recital, which is at 5pm on the 31st of May at Leeds University’s School of Music, and features Steve Hanley, Aron Kyne, Ben Lowman and Matt Yardley, and me. Possibly someone else too.
Here’s a video of practice in progress — I’m not sure if I’ll actually play the unison line next week but in any case it’s been horrible and annoying to practice, which is probably a good thing. Below that, there’s a clip of Laurence Cottle and Nigel Hitchcock playing it even faster than they do on the CD. Madness.