3

Jerome Harris: Guitar and Bass Doubler

George Colligan By

Sign in to view read count
JH: Well I'll tell how I think of it and things that I would say to a student grow out of how I think of this stuff. I think about a lot of stuff in continuums. So we're talking about this kind of thing, a funk groove—maybe towards one end of the continuum you've got some bass figure that repeats (sings repetitive bass line) and other things are happening but it's pretty much a static phrase that's repeated. Towards the other end of the continuum, you could say it's a melody, just a stream of ideas and a lot of change. I try to choose—and this, again, is partially conscious and partially unconscious— to pick where I think the music needs to be along that continuum. How much to repeat, what to repeat, and how much to not repeat? So instead of playing some figure, like a 2 bar long figure that's repeating, maybe think in terms of like a four bar or an eight bar thing. That might be just enough repetition just to give a sense of the bass part supporting the groove and establishing some cycle feeling but to not be stuck in that "every bar must be the same" thing. And it could be different pitches but a similar number of notes. If I repeat it, you could hear that it's a cycle, but it's this four bar thing. And you can take that principle and say, "Okay, instead of the repetition being at the one bar level, it could be at the two, four, or eight bar," and you could have all kinds of variation in the elements that do repeat so you're approaching more [of] the melody type structure of having less repetition and more new material or variation happening. On that tune "Miles," I definitely try to find what feels good right now. I'll play something, and if what everyone else is doing is such that I feel like it needs some anchor, then I'll repeat something. It might be the rhythmic figure, it might be pitches, it might be register, because the bass functions differently in its lowest octave than it does two octaves above that. So I might drop down and play some root stuff down low, and then go back up high and then come back down— that kind of repetition can set up enough feeling of anchoredness and rootedness that it feels like a groove in the way that we normally think of groove. And so that's a lot of what I do and choosing to do some interacting, jumping into the conversation, and then throwing some gravy in the mashed potatoes—something to give some anchor to it. And it's really how much I do the anchor thing versus the melody thing really varies from moment to moment over the course of the tune, what section of the tune. Certainly when we're playing the melody, that's kind of a composed thing so I reel it in there because that's the way that section functions in the whole span of the tune, it's a refrain. So I make that refrain feel like I refrain. Sometimes I'll come up with some other little figure but I do keep it more typically supportive for that section because it seems like that's part of what that section is about, is laying that signature figure down.

GC: You are known as a bassist and a guitarist, it's a rare double. It's almost like if you had someone who ran the 200 meters and also did the mile. It's so different. How do you separate the two, or how do you see yourself in that sense? When you're a bassist, do you just play the bass? How do you negotiate that?

Shop

More Articles

Read Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames! Interviews Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames!
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Fred Anderson: On the Run Interviews Fred Anderson: On the Run
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Dave Holland: Consummate Bassist Interviews Dave Holland: Consummate Bassist
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Walter Smith III: Jazz Explorer Interviews Walter Smith III: Jazz Explorer
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: April 19, 2017
Read Remembering Art Farmer Interviews Remembering Art Farmer
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 19, 2017
Read "How to Listen to Jazz: A Q&A with Ted Gioia" Interviews How to Listen to Jazz: A Q&A with Ted Gioia
by Steve Provizer
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Jim Ridl: Opening Doors in the Big Apple" Interviews Jim Ridl: Opening Doors in the Big Apple
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "Fábio Torres: The Making of Modern Brazilian Jazz" Interviews Fábio Torres: The Making of Modern Brazilian Jazz
by Samuel Quinto
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom" Interviews Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom
by Barbara Ina Frenz
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames!" Interviews Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames!
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: April 25, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!