Bass Line From Jaco Pastorius’ Okonkole Y Trompa…
Despite Jaco having left innumerable mind-blowing and beautiful pieces of music as a legacy – including Donna Lee, Continuum, Portrait of Tracy, Havona, Chromatic Fantasy, Birdland to name a few – my all time favorite Jaco tune remains Okonkole Y Trompa. It’s mesmerizing and airy atmosphere breathes and ambigious serenity into the listener. The bass provides the setting by a simple pattern which sounds like an endless spiral – the natural harmonics make this line special and outstanding, yet it just flows under the floating french horn melody like a calm river. The congas are more in an accompanying role – they are the ripples of that river which provides the foundation – it feels like there is no meter, it much more feels like a free meditation which also has a enigmatic and mysterious order.
The reason why I am comparing this to a meditation is because the the groove itself is ‘simple’ compared to other Jaco songs, yet, playing these simple notes focused with control and evenness for four minutes takes some mastery and a meditative sort of concentration.Even though the meter of the song could be possibly interpreted in several different ways I prefer to simply think about it as straight 4/4. As you will see in the notation, Jaco is playing groups of five – quintuplets – with the first of the quintuplets accented. Basically, this simple pattern of five is just repeated over and over again. I’ve notated this as sixteenth quintuplets – which equal the length of one quarter note (that equals 4 sixteenth notes): that means you are actually playing 5 sixteenth notes over the time of 4 sixteenths(=1 quarter) – I know that sounds complicated but it is actually not 🙂 Very simply put, you just have to keep counting 1-2-3-4-5 quickly over what Jaco plays and you’ll get it!
The notes are natural harmonics which means your fretting hand fingers do not actually push down the notes, they just barely touch the string right above the frets. The ringing of these notes are controlled by your left hand curvature – when your fingers are less curved and more flattened, the ring is controlled, the notes are shorter, but if you curve your left hand fingers more, there will be space for notes to ring out. Towards the end of the tune, you can hear that the groove sounds more ‘open’: some tones are left to ring out more – on the tab I marked these ones red. That ringing-out is achieved by this left hand curvature – as you curve your fingers, they will not come in contact with the G string while you play the next notes on the D and the A string and that way that note marked red on the G string will ring out while you are playing the other notes (see pictures in video!)
Well, that’s about it! I am planning to do two more Jaco snippets soon (erm, or at least, this semester :P) – one will be a short unison which I haven’t really seen transcribed in any Jaco books, and the other one is a classic but I will have it present with an extra 😉 stay tuned.