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BassicFunk: Gerald Veasley’s Personal History of Jazz-Funk Bass

Marcus Miller
Stanley Clarke

There was a time when you had to be careful about the word “funk.” In that respect, funk shares humble roots with the word “jazz.” Both terms suggest a barefaced comfort with the bodily functions. Today, neither jazz nor funk is a bad word. That’s progress.

Jazz and funk reflect freedom in all facets of culture, and if there’s one instrument that contributed mightily to the freeing of funky minds, it’s the electric bass. In many ways, the role of the bass in jazz and jazz-funk is similar: Providing a low-end sonic counterweight, establishing the harmony and moving the music along rhythmically. The obvious difference is in the rhythmic setting for jazz-funk bass. While the straight-ahead bass line dances around the ride cymbal and grounds the airy groove of the jazz drummer, the jazz-funk bass groove is typically locked in with a drummer who is firmly earthbound. But these are guidelines, not rules. Straight-ahead walking bass can be downright funky and funk bass can have a jazzy elegance.

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