Ed Lucie is the Associate Professor of the Berklee College Of Music Bass Department, and he will be happy to answer your questions! So feel free to ask away, and we will forward your questions to Ed.
Q: When drummers swing, some play way on top of the beat, some pull way back, and others are somewhere in between. When playing a swing tune with a drummer, is it better for the bassist to push / pull in the opposite direction? For example, if the drummer is pushing it hard, is it better for the bassist to pull back? Or should the bassist try to swing with exactly the same feel as the drummer?
A: This is an interesting question that I don’t think has one solid answer that applies to all situations. The bottom line is always to make the music and groove to feel good. I remember when I played with Buddy Rich he played ‘on top’ and feathered his bass drum with ‘4 on the floor’. I had to lock in with his time and feel, there was no compromise. The result was a very powerful, forward feel to the groove. When I listen to Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, the quarter notes on Cobb’s ride cymbal and PC’s quarter notes are perfectly lined up but in a relaxed way. Tony Williams and Ron Carter had something else going on, certainly together but looser.
More recent rhythm sections like Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart have perfect time (if that is possible) right in the ‘middle’ of the pulse, whereas John Patitucci and Brian Blade are feeling time together but not always stating it. So what is the answer? Listening; this is the key to finding your place with the drummer; the quarter note in the ride, the 2 and 4 on the high-hat. If he or she is on top or behind, I think we need to find a ‘middle’ but without fighting him. There is a difference between rushing and playing on top, and dragging or playing behind. If we find the middle then the groove will still have that forward motion and feel.
About Ed Lucie: In addition to being a Berklee professor and graduate, Ed has a Masters from the New England Conservatory Of Music. As a pro bassist, he has performed with Stevie Wonder, Buddy Rich, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule, Leo Nocentelli, and has performed both on Broadway and TV. You’ve heard him as a sideman on numerous albums, and perhaps have read his columns back when he was a contributing writer for Bass Player Magazine.
For more info on Ed Lucie, visit his Berklee page.