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The Gig: Low End Theory

If you have spent a good amount of time with a Miles Davis box set called The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965-and if you haven’t, Godspeed: Columbia/Legacy issued it more than a decade ago, and it can be hard to come by today-you may have noticed some audience interference during an especially incendiary “Milestones.” It occurs during the solo handoff between tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock, not quite six minutes into the track. (It’s track 3, disc 2b, FYI.)

“Thank the bass player,” a patron urges, as Shorter winds down his brilliant exegesis and the rhythm section artfully dissolves behind him. “Thank your bass player,” the guy insists, again, during Hancock’s first rippling phrases. He sounds belligerent, and probably inebriated. (The heckler, not Hancock.) But wisdom can come from the mouths of fools, and there’s a point behind his intrusion. The bassist on the bandstand that night was Ron Carter, and if you train an ear on his exertions, you’ll agree that he deserves some gratitude.

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Originally Published
Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen is the director of editorial content for WBGO and a longtime contributor to JazzTimes, which published 125 installments of his column “The Gig” between 2004 and 2017. For 12 years, he was a critic for The New York Times; prior to that, he wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, the Philadelphia City Paper, and several other publications. He is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) and the co-author of George Wein’s autobiography Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (2003).