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Ahmad Jamal’s Album: At the Pershing But Not For Me

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Meet Alex Wilkerson –

Poinciana – Ahmad Jamal

This month’s transcription is Israel Crosby’s bass line from Poinciana off Ahmad Jamal’s album: At the Pershing But Not For Me.  Before reading through the piece, take a listen to the track.  The lesson to take home from this recording is the use of themes and arranging techniques within a jazz bass line.  Listen for the themes in the track and take note of how often it switches to a new theme.  Listening once before you play will give you a better idea on when a theme is temporarily interrupted, or when the theme actually changes.  At first glance at the notation, it could seem like there are too many changes in themes, or that repeating one theme too often will make the song boring, but listening to the track once before playing it will answer all those questions.

It’s important to keep in mind that Israel Crosby is a heavy cat.  If you listen to the rest of the album, you will find that he can play incredibly melodic and interesting walking lines even during blazing tempos.  He is capable of walking through a song without having the same idea happen twice.  If he wanted to, he could play devoid of all themes or motifs.  Remember that a lot of thought went into this song before it was performed, and Israel specifically thought this bass line was best.

Poinciana is filled with extremely strong motifs, not only in bass but in all the instruments.  Imagine for a moment what the song might sound like without such distinct and specialized parts.  Imagine a standard jazz drum groove and a walking line where no two measures are the same.  The tune would definitely lose most of its flavor and appeal.  When listening or working on a tune, ask yourself how often the audience could sing parts from the piece once the song is over.  How much should they be able to sing?  Some melodies can be very corny, but the fact that it can be buzzing in our heads long enough for us to be able to sing them later, proves that we were able to identify with it on some level.  Isn’t that what music is all about?

Onto the analysis.  When I analyze a piece, I want to find out why the bass player chose his or her approach.  This piece has the most thematic bass line of any other jazz song I have ever heard.  It’s not like some tunes where the bass line plays the exact same pattern for the entire tune.  I am a fan of that too, but that’s a different approach than what we’re seeing here.  This tune has at least 16 different themes.  That’s a ton for a single song.  A theme gives the listener something that they can hold onto and identify with.  An audience needs to have something to identify with from a song or they will lose interest.  This is why some jazz tunes appeal only to jazz musicians.  It means that the only identifiable elements are elements that can only be recognized if you have studied jazz.  The only other reason people might appear to identify with such a tune is when they pretend to appreciate it in order to look hip.  It’s funny, but true.

Now that we know that themes were very important to either Ahmad or Israel (most likely both), and that the idea of using such strong themes was clearly intentional, let’s take a look at when the themes change and why.  Take a look through the sheet music and circle the theme (usually one measure long) and note how long it takes before the theme stops repeating.  Remember that a fill or slight variation doesn’t mean the theme has been abandoned unless the change keeps repeating.  A good example of this difference is measures 59-66.  Measure 59 is the theme.  You’ll notice that 61-62, and 65-66 depart from this theme, but a new theme doesn’t start until measure 67.  It’s basically a call and response.  The main theme at measures 59-60 and 63-64 are the call, and the parts that occur in the opposite measures are the responses.

When I went through the song, I circled each measure that introduced a theme and assigned it a letter.  This helped me to see where the same theme reoccurs and identify it quickly later on.  After you mark the themes, make a note about how long each theme repeats.  Once you are done, your analysis will tell you how often themes reoccur, how many themes exist total, and any trends in how long themes repeat.  I personally want to learn about what Israel and Ahmad think are the strongest musical choices, and I analyze a tune to try to find this information.

16 major themes occur in this tune.  Each theme is a measure long, and they are introduced at these measures: 1, 17, 27, 43, 59, 67, 75, 91, 99, 107, 115, 123, 139, 147, 155, and 163.  Most themes last only 8 measures.  The exceptions to this usually have a reason.  The intro and outro have themes that last longer, but this makes sense.  Both sections use the same theme and serve to relay the feel of the song.  The intro is just that, in introduces you to the song by giving you a little idea on what you are about to get into.  The outro for this song gives you one last reminder to the feel of the piece.  Another place that a theme lasts longer than eight measures is when the introduction ends and the tune actually begins at measure 17.  This is a common arranging technique.  Keep the top of the song simple.  When a song begins, the audience might be exposed to it for the first time in their life, even if it is a standard.  Keeping the beginning of the tune simple teaches the audience the foundation of the song.  With this foundation, the audience will have an easier time relating and identifying variation and improv later.  Being confident in the foundation of the tune, they can more readily recognize what the performer did to vary or embellish it.  If you come right out of the gate with tons of improv and variation it can sound like a mess to someone in the audience.

Good arranging is all about texture.  A song needs changes in texture to keep it interesting.  Texture changes can appear as changes in volume, tempo, motifs and themes, space, being busy, energy, instrumentation, playing more or less notes, key centers and modulations, ride vs. high hat, etc.  A commonly accepted rule of thumb for arranging is that there must be a texture change about every 8 bars.  When you start thinking about texture changes, it makes some parts of the song make more sense.  It now makes sense to keep a theme going for 16 bars at the beginning of the tune, because it will make it more apparent later when a change in texture occurs.  Also keep in mind, that if everything is crazy in a song and if no two measures are alike in any instrument, this is an example of only ONE type of texture.  If you keep this going throughout the entire song, it’s not an overload of texture, it’s actually a song with NO change in texture.  Boring!!  Take a listen to Ahmad Jamal’s song “What’s New” on the album (you guessed it) At the Pershing But Not For Me.  Listen to it from the beginning.  What happens at 1:38?  A huge texture change occurs in all instruments. The song goes from an open “two feel” to a looped rhythmic motif that stays strong for a little over 60 seconds.  Now that’s what I call giving your song some serious flavor and personality.  Without this element, it would still be a great jazz ballad, but not very different or special compared to any other jazz ballad.  This kind of arranging device is what can keep people thinking and talking about your performance for a long time.

So how does all this apply to Poinciana?  It tells us that it is important to note when the motif changes because this is a texture change.  These guys are pros.  The have a lot of experience and knowledge in what works and what doesn’t concerning texture changes and arranging techniques.  When I look at this tune, I take away the knowledge that a texture change about every 8 bars is important after the song has been established.

Think of the last time you saw a jam session where each soloist played the exact same amount of notes continuously at one constant volume.  It’s so boring!!  Even if they are good players.  But if there are obvious differences in amount of notes, space, volume, or intensity in a solo, it makes every one listen and relate.  I think a lot of us can get in the mind space that every measure has to be its own amazing idea and can never be repeated in jazz.  This piece definitely disproves that.  I hope that for some this analysis will open up some freedom and new ideas.

Thinking from an arranger’s perspective forces us to think “big picture.”  What’s good for the song?  What makes the song stronger and helps the audience to identify with it?  This kind of thinking will develop a much different song when compared to playing with the mindset of “let me impress everyone with my vast and varied catalogue of walking licks.”  That’s cool too, but nothing trumps the perspective of making the song stronger.  Hope you enjoyed this month’s tune.

Poinciana – Ahmad Jamal

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Behind the Strings: D’Addario’s Story Comes to Life in “Jim’s Corner” YouTube Series

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Behind the Strings: D'Addario's Story Comes to Life in "Jim's Corner" YouTube Series

Behind the Strings – Jim’s Corner…

D’Addario & Co. proudly announces the launch of “Jim’s Corner,” a captivating new YouTube series telling the 400-year-old story of the D’Addario family creating the world’s largest music accessories company. This series features Jim D’Addario, Founder and Director of Innovation at D’Addario and Co., sharing his family’s remarkable journey from 17th century Italy to a 21st century global enterprise. 

In the first four episodes now available, Jim D’Addario takes viewers back to the beginning, making strings from animal guts and knotting ukulele wire as a family around the television. Countless generations carried the passion forward until the 1970s when the company made it official and never looked back. Jim recounts the creation of strings that inspired legendary riffs, including one by The Who, the launch of Darco strings, the merger with Martin Guitars and the company’s humble beginnings with his wife, Janet and brother, John. Jim D’Addario’s firsthand accounts provide an intimate and personal perspective on the milestones and challenges that shaped D’Addario into the revered brand it is today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Episode 1: The Early Days in Italy and the Move to America
  • Episode 2: Inspiring Iconic Riffs and Legendary Partnerships
  • Episode 3: Launching Darco Strings and Merging with Martin Guitars
  • Episode 4: Building the D’Addario and Co. Legacy

Watch & Subscribe Now:

Join us in celebrating this incredible legacy by watching the first four episodes of “Jim’s Corner” on YouTube. New episodes will drop every month so please subscribe to our channel to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes and exclusive content from D’Addario & Co.: www.youtube.com/@daddarioandco

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

Aguilar Amplification announces the release of the Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp pedal. Hand serialized 1-100, this exclusive edition celebrates Aguilar’s deep roots in New York City with a tribute to its iconic landmarks and vibrant spirit.

Born in the heart of NYC and raised on the road, the Tone Hammer Preamp DI has been an indispensable tool for bassists seeking inspiring tone and versatility. The new Limited Edition Gold NYC builds on this legacy with striking custom graphics encapsulating the essence of New York City. Featuring iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building, this pedal is not just a tool, but a piece of art embodying the soul of the city. Each unit features a sharp platinum silkscreen over a stunning matte gold sparkle finish, that is as visually captivating as it is sonically powerful.

The Tone Hammer is an essential preamp/direct box for every bassist’s toolbox. The Tone Hammer features fully sweepable midrange frequencies in addition to bass and treble controls. With the Tone Hammer’s pristine D.I. players are set for either studio or stage. To give this tone shaping unit the ultimate flexibility we introduce our proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry (AGS). AGS allows the player to kick in an additional gain structure and EQ with the “stomp” of a button. You can go from modern slap sounds to vintage or overdriven. 18-volt operation gives the Tone Hammer plenty of headroom to reproduce the most dynamic playing styles. Separate gain and master controls allow players to dial in just the right gain structure for any instrument.

Aguilar Amplification’s Jordan Cortese adds, “With only 100 hand-numbered units available, this third iteration of our NYC edition Tone Hammer is a collector’s dream. “It’s a homage to our city’s monumental influence on music and culture and celebrates the craftsmanship and the story of Aguilar”. 

Street price: $299.99 For more information, please visit www.aguilaramp.com

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

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Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

Spector, a leading authority in bass guitar design, unveils new additions to its product line: Euro CST, Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt On basses.

Euro CST:
The Euro CST introduces all-new tonewoods, electronics, and finish combinations never seen in the Euro Series, drawing inspiration from Spector’s Woodstock, NY-based Custom Shop. Each Euro CST instrument is meticulously crafted using premium materials, featuring a striking, highly figured Poplar Burl top, a resonant European Ash body, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck paired with an Ebony fingerboard adorned with laminated Abalone Crown inlays.

Euro CST basses are equipped with a lightweight aluminum bridge for precise and reliable intonation. Premium active EMG X Series pickups deliver the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that defines the Spector sound. These basses also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp. Developed in collaboration with Darkglass Electronics, this preamp captures the classic “Spector growl,” heard on countless iconic recordings, with added versatility.

Euro CST basses are available in 4- and 5-string models in four distinct high gloss finishes: Natural, Natural Black Burst, Natural Red Burst, and Natural Violet Burst.

Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt-On:
The Euro LX offers all the features that have made the Spector name famous around the globe. Inspired by the iconic NS-2, Euro LX basses feature a fully carved and contoured body, high-grade tonewoods, and professional-grade electronics and hardware. For the first time ever, players can now choose between neck-thru and bolt-on construction in the Euro LX range.  

Each Euro LX bass, regardless of construction, is crafted using premium materials, including a European Alder body, figured European Maple top, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck combined with a Rosewood fingerboard for strength, stability, and sustain. Euro LX basses are then outfitted with a lightweight, aluminum bridge for spot-on, reliable intonation. Premium active pickups from EMG provide the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that Spector is known for. Like the Euro CST basses, these instruments also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp.

The newly revised Euro LX range is available in four distinct, hand-rubbed stains, including Transparent Black, Natural Sunburst, Haunted Moss, and Nightshade. Each of these colors features a durable and comfortable matte finish.  

John Stippell, Director, Korg Bass Division, remarks, “I’m thrilled to announce the latest additions to the renowned Euro Range. The CST Series, our new premium offering, features new and unique wood combinations and unprecedented features. The beloved LX Series is now better than ever with the introduction of Bolt-On models, vibrant new color options, and the all-new Spector Legacy Preamp, delivering the classic Spector tone with unmatched precision.”

For more information, visit spectorbass.com.

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Luthier Spotlight: Garry Beers, GGB Basses

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Luthier Spotlight - Garry Beers, GGB Basses

Meet Garry Beers, Luthier and owner of GGB Basses…

Bass Musician Magazine: How did you get your start in music?

Garry Beers: I played acoustic guitar as a kid with my mates at school. We decided that one of us should play bass, so we had a contest where the one who knew the least guitar chords would buy a bass – so I lost the contest, bought my first bass, and became the only bass player in the neighborhood. Soon after, I met Andrew Farriss, who had heard that I had a bass, and a few days later, I was jamming with Andrew and Jon Farriss.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I am still actively writing music and playing bass sessions. I also have an LA-based original band called Ashenmoon.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I did woodwork in High School and always enjoyed making all sorts of things out of wood.

After finishing high school, I took a course in electronics for a year or so and learned enough to understand basic circuits in guitars, amplifiers, and effects. The best way to learn is to deconstruct and study, so my dad’s garage was littered with old junked radios and any instrument parts I could find. 

My first guitars were more like Frankenstein-type creations made out of parts I found here and there. I didn’t really try to build a bass from scratch until I perfected my Quad pickup design and got my patent.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I only use woods that were used at Fender in the 50s, which are my favorite basses and guitars of all time. All my GGB basses are modeled in some way from my INXS bass- a 1958 Fender Precision bass I bought in 1985 in Chicago. I call her “Old Faithful,” and she has an Alder wood body with a maple neck. All of my GGB basses are select Alder wood bodies that I have had extra dried, so they match the resonance of “Old Faithful,” as she has had 66 years to lose all her moisture and become more resonant and alive-sounding. I use plain old Maple necks that I carefully select, and again, I dry the necks to make them sing a little more.

Tell us about your pickups.

I started working on my Quad coil design back in Australia in the ‘90s and then put it to bed, so to speak, until I found an old pickup winding machine at a swap meet here in LA. I taught myself enough about pickup winding to build my first prototype design and worked towards my patented Quad coil design by trial and error. Nordstrand Audio builds the pickups for me here in SOCAL.

What is the reaction of players who pick up your basses?

I build the basses to feel like an old friend. They look and feel vintage, and when you plug them in, you discover the array of vintage sounds available to you from just one pickup. Most of the players I have contact with are established professional players, and they all love the basses. Freddie Washington and Nick Seymour from Crowded House are a couple of players with GGB Basses in their hands.

What are a few things that you are proud of in your instruments and would consider unique?

I would say I am most proud of the patented Quad pickup design. I own the patent from 4 through to 10-string. So far, I have only built 4 and 5-string pickups, but the design is a winner. Split Humbucker / Reverse Split Humbucker / Full Humbucker / Single coil Neck / Single coil bridge. All these sounds come from one passive pickup. I am very proud that my perseverance and desire to have this pickup have made it a reality. Being able to have these sounds in one bass enables the player to have one bass in the studio and on the stage. The only place you can have the GGB Quad pickup is in one of my GGB Basses.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

I offer three body shapes and about ten different color options – all based on the ‘50s and early ‘60s custom guitar and car paint styles. I have always been a lover of P basses, but my favorite bass I build is now my XS-1 model- which is a custom Jazz bass body style. It is pretty sexy and is a light, well-balanced, and great-feeling body shape. The other body styles are the XS-2, which is a custom Jazzmaster body and has been the most popular so far- and the XS-3, which is the standard P bass body style. I also offer an XS-58, which is a replica of my “Old Faithful” ‘58 P bass. They are currently available to order now and should be available soon.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

I don’t really consider myself a Luthier in the traditional sense. I just love to build things and tinker. I was always looking to improve things, whether it was a guitar, an amp, a pedal board, or a car. So my advice is to always be curious and learn the basics of what you want to build, and the rest should follow once you decide what you want to say as a designer/builder. People are lucky these days that you can learn pretty much anything from talented people on the internet, but nothing replaces working with and learning from real people in real situations. Seek out like-minded builders and start a discussion.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Have a good hard think about what you want to say as a player. What is your style, both musically and as a player? There are so many instruments available. Do the research, play the instruments that fit your criteria, and make a decision. But make sure you try a GGB Bass!   With all the sound choices my basses offer, with a simple turn of a knob, you may find it easier to find “your” sound.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Well, the company is brand new, and at this point, it is just me, so getting this far in the manufacturing process and now having these amazing basses in my hands is a great achievement, but now comes all the business stuff!! 

What are your future plans?

It’s a work in progress. Right now, it’s all about getting the word out and getting the basses into the hands of interested players. I believe in the basses – and the Quad pickup, so hopefully, GGB Basses can become a go-to bass for demanding studio and live players who want sound choices in a gorgeous vintage-style instrument.

Visit online at www.ggbbasses.com

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Joyo Monomyth – A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

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Gear Revieww: Joyo Monomyth - A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinions or the content of our reviews. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

Introduction:

The Joyo Monomyth bass preamp pedal is designed to offer bassists a comprehensive range of tonal options, combining modern features with practical functionality. With independent channels for EQ and overdrive, as well as useful additions like a cab sim and DI output, the Monomyth aims to be a versatile tool for both live performances and studio sessions. This review will delve into the pedal’s specifications, controls, and overall performance to determine if it lives up to its promise of delivering quality and flexibility at an affordable price.

Specifications:

– Dimensions: 130 * 110 * 50 mm

– Weight: 442g

– Working Voltage: DC 9V

Controls:

The Joyo Monomyth is equipped with a comprehensive set of controls designed to provide maximum tonal flexibility:

– Voice: Adjusts the character of the overdrive, from distortion to fuzz.

– Blend: Balances the dry and effected signals, crucial for maintaining low-end presence.

– Level: Sets the overall output volume.

– Drive: Controls the amount of gain in the overdrive channel.

– Treble Boost: Enhances high and mid frequencies for clarity in complex passages.

– Gain Boost: Adds extra gain, particularly effective at low gain settings to enhance the low e.

– EQ Function Controls: Features a 6-band graphic EQ plus a master control for precise nal shaping.

– Ground Lift Switch: Helps eliminate ground loop noise.

– Cab Sim Switch: Activates a simulated 8×10″ cab sound.

– LED Light Control: Customizes the pedal’s ambient lighting.

Performance:

The Joyo Monomyth shines in its dual-channel design, offering both a transparent EQ channel and a versatile overdrive channel. The 6-band EQ allows for detailed tonal adjustments, preserving the natural character of your bass while providing ample flexibility. The voice control mimics the functionality of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, shifting from distortion to fuzz, with a sweet spot around the middle for balanced tones.

The blend control is essential for retaining the low end when using distortion, ensuring your bass remains powerful and clear. The treble and gain boosts, available on the overdrive channel, further enhance the pedal’s versatility, making it suitable for everything from subtle drive to full-blown fuzz.

Outputs are plentiful, with a DI and XLR out for direct recording or ampless setups, and a headphone out for convenient practice sessions. The cab sim switch adds a realistic 8×10″ cab sound, enhancing the Monomyth’s utility in live and studio environments.

Pros:

– Versatile Control Set: Offers a wide range of tones, from clean to fuzz.

– Blend Control: Maintains low-end presence.

– Robust Outputs: DI, XLR, and headphone outs make it adaptable for various setups.

– Affordable: Provides high-end functionality at a budget-friendly price.

– Sturdy Construction: Durable build quality ensures reliability.

Cons:

– Plastic Knobs: May feel less premium compared to metal controls.

– Boosts Limited to Overdrive Channel: Treble and gain boosts do not affect the EQ channel.

– Cab Sim only on the XLR out: how cool would it be to also have it on the headphone out?

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Monomyth stands out as a versatile and powerful bass preamp pedal, offering a range of features that cater to both traditional and modern bassists. Its dual-channel design, comprehensive control set, and robust output options make it a valuable tool for achieving a wide spectrum of tones, from clean and warm to heavily distorted. For bassists seeking flexibility, reliability, and excellent value, the Joyo Monomyth is a top contender.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/267.html

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