What Cha Gonna Do For Me was R&B singer Chaka Khan’s third solo album released in 1981. Produced by Arif Mardin the album’s personnel is veritable who’s who of the music world. In addition the great Anthony Jackson who’s bass part is transcribed here, the album also included the Brecker Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Hiram Bullock, Dizzie Gillespie and many others.
In 1981 Anthony Jackson was just beginning his search for a luthier brave enough to help him realize his concept of what he termed a ‘contrabass guitar’ better known to you and I as a six string bass. Pretty much everybody in the music industry told Anthony that it couldn’t be built. Well as we all know Anthony finally DID succeed in realizing his dream of getting various luthiers ( Ken Smith and later his protege Vinnie Fodera most notably) to build a bass with six strings tuned in fourths (B-E-A-D-G-C). But that was still years off in the future when Anthony put this masterpiece of economy, groove, and his trademark fills on tape. It was during this period ( 1980-’81 ) that Anthony took the drastic measure of permanently altering his only instrument at the time, a four string Fender Jazz Bass, by permanently de-tuning the E string down to a low C. So as you read through this bass part remember that it is being played NOT on a six string bass but a FOUR string! In a Bass Player interview Anthony points to this album and another Chaka Khan album called ‘Naughty’ as “the first time I could hear a definite, mature style coming through the speakers. My playing on these two Chaka Khan albums represent the height of my playing ability up until that point.” It should be noted that after recording the entire album, Anthony was not all pleased with what he had played and was given an unprecedented three months alone in the studio to re-record his parts on every song all at the expense of Warner Bros Records. Today, no matter how esteemed a sideman, he/she would never be given three months to re-record their parts just because they personally thought they could do better. In the case of ‘What Cha Gonna Do For Me’ and ‘Naughty’ however, the ends most definitely justified the means.
I recommend playing along with this transcription on a regular five or six string bass. You can do it on a four string like Anthony did, but to do that is to miss the point a little bit in my opinion. Since five and even six string basses are common place today, why not play this transcription on an instrument with a low B as Anthony envisioned. Listen for two absolutely killing fills that Anthony plays towards the end of the song. Wow! And if for some reason you’re not hip to Anthony Jackson’s playing, this is as good an example of his playing as any. Good luck and have fun.
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(special thanks to Steve Glasgow)