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Jerome Harris: Guitar and Bass Doubler

George Colligan By

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JH: It's funny, some of it is really easy and some of it is really hard. Even though I started on guitar before I started playing bass, playing guitar has a bunch of different challenges that I find physically daunting and part of me feels like, "Man, I should only be play guitar" to have a shot of doing that stuff well. And part of it is if you're playing in different styles, [and] different genre language. They're all so specific and call for really different skills if you're going to do them at the level of people who do them professionally. I mean, just playing chords on the guitar in the way I'd like, being able to have flexibility and spontaneously and accuracy in voicings and harmonic material—I mean, that alone is like a lifetime. You know, you've got Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, Alan Holdsworth, it's like, what the hell! So I do what I can. The easy part I guess is that I kind of think of it all as just music. Okay, so you're soloing, you play single lines on the guitar, you pay single lines on the bass, there's some physical difference of course. I play guitar with a pick mostly, bass guitar I almost never play the pick unless it's some metal gig or something, which nobody ever calls me for that. I like the sound of fingers. So there's physical difference, but you're still trying to construct melodies. I think about what a pianist plays. Pianists, particularly if they have some experience playing solo, know how to comp for themselves, how to play supportive stuff in the bass register while they're playing melody and chords, so when I'm playing bass I'm thinking about playing bass. I'm not playing the guitar, I'm not in the guitar's register, and there's role stuff in the ensemble that is fun to do and I enjoy doing that so I play the bass. And when I'm playing guitar, you're doing more chordal stuff and often soloing more, although in a way the bassist is soloing all the time. So I'm doing that. And certainly they inform each other. Experience of playing with inner voicings moving, voice leading that you deal with when you're playing a chordal instrument certainly informs how I play bass. You know, melodic thinking and such. And certainly when I'm playing guitar I like to hear and feel the bass player. Part of my ear is just kind of drawn to the low registers because I do that, I spend a lot of time doing that.

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