Bassic Training: Christian McBride Picks 5 Formative Tracks

From Bootsy to Jaco, the bassist knows his bassists

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Bootsy Collins at North Sea Jazz 2011
By Stephen Hotsma
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Ray Brown

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“PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE”
HE TEMPTATIONS (Motown, 1972)
Bassist: Either James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt or Eddie Watkins
“According to Bob Babbitt’s website, he’s not really sure who played on that track because producer Norman Whitfield recorded the track multiple times with different players, but it doesn’t matter. I chose this track for sentimental reasons. It was the first song I ever learned how to play.”

“SOUL POWER”
JAMES BROWN (King, 1971)
Bassist: William “Bootsy” Collins
“By age 10, I was already a big James Brown connoisseur, so I knew the feel of JB’s ’60s bassists like Bernard Odum and Charles Sherrell. Listening to ‘Soul Power,’ I knew this particular bass player was a virtuoso. I could tell it was the same bass player on ‘Super Bad,’ ‘Sex Machine’ and ‘Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing.’ Not surprised to find out later that it was Bootsy Collins.”

“THE STROLLER”
BENNY GOLSON (from Groovin’ With Golson; New Jazz, 1959)
Bassist: Paul Chambers
“Even now, this may be my all-time favorite Paul Chambers solo. It’s a breakneck-speed 12-bar blues with P.C. taking the most incredible arco solo I’ve ever heard. I’d never heard anyone get around the bass with such fluidity. Amazing!”

“KILLER JOE”
QUINCY JONES (from Walking in Space; A&M, 1969)
Bassist: Ray Brown
“One of Ray Brown’s many legendary performances. Quincy Jones claims that he built this entire arrangement around Ray Brown’s propulsive walking. All you have to do is listen and you can hear why. Ray Brown and [drummer] Grady Tate cure any sort of arrhythmia with their swinging on this!”

“PORTRAIT OF TRACY”
JACO PASTORIUS (from Jaco Pastorius; Epic, 1976)
“I can’t possibly further describe the genius exemplified on this track. This track has been talked about and analyzed ad nauseam over the years. At first listen, like everyone else, I assumed that Jaco was playing an electric piano. I had no idea an electric bass could sound like that. I only wish I could have seen him perform live at his peak.”

AS TOLD TO NATE CHINEN

Originally published in April 2013

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