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  1. #1

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    It's the bass player right?

    That's who you'd line up with for your 'metronome'?

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  3. #2

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    I'd say drums followed by bass. Jazz bass can go all over the place these days but drums and bass together do it. You could add piano if you're soloing. If you're comping then... maybe you too :-)

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by jobabrinks View Post
    It's the bass player right?

    That's who you'd line up with for your 'metronome'?
    Often, there's a dominant player-- one who is so clear and accurate that everyone naturally follows. Could be any instrument. I think it's somewhat unusual for a jazz guitarist to be that guy, although I think Reg is definitely a guy who can do that. In that situation, everybody has the usual responsibility to play in the collective pocket. If there isn't a dominant player, all the players have to work out the time and keep it going.

    Advanced jazz involves some playing around with the time -- in that situation everybody has to keep the time individually.

    One master player told me, "everybody gets off the time sometimes, the question is, how you get back on". That's a matter of keeping your ears open and not being overly focused on the sound of your own instrument.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 10-19-2020 at 04:54 AM.

  5. #4

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    No idea.

    Practice your time though, because it might be you at some point.

  6. #5

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    Me.

    Danny W.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W. View Post
    Me.

    Danny W.
    Even when you aren't on the gig?

  8. #7

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    Everyone is responsible for the beat or ‘groove’ in a band. When you’re playing you are either enhancing the groove or detracting from it. Obviously we want to be the former and not the latter. So the question is, what am I adding to this groove? If you don’t know, then you should probably stop playing.
    I think it’s a mistake to put the responsibility of the time keeper or beat keeper onto one person.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Even when you aren't on the gig?
    Especially then!

    Some time ago the leader of my big band had us trying out a rather bizarre and confusing new chart at a rehearsal. Halfway through I realized I was lost. Trying to pick out the changes from the horns seemed futile, since they were having their own trainwreck, so I just soldiered on. When the chart finally came to an end the rhythm section was together, miraculously. I told the drummer that I'd been totally lost and he said " Are you kidding? You were the only one who had it right. We were all hanging on to you" and the bass player turned around and said "What he said, so shut up and play your guitar."

    When people ask what I do in a big band I tell them "I'm the glue that holds it all together." Sometimes I'm not kidding.

    Danny W.
    Last edited by Danny W.; 10-17-2020 at 06:55 PM.

  10. #9

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    Everyone is responsible for keeping the time.

  11. #10

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    Who keeps the beat in a duo? Nobody. Either the duo swings or it doesn't.

    In a band, if one person is out, that person is preventing the band from keeping it together. If more than one persons are out, than oh boy.

    I think it's a dangerous business to lean on other players. I don't see how it can work as a long term strategy.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-17-2020 at 07:43 PM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Who keeps the beat in a duo? Nobody. Either the duo swings or it doesn't.

    Both needs to have an internal beat that sync with each other.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    In a band, if one person is out, that person is preventing the band from keeping it together. If more than one persons are out, than oh boy.
    If the soloist is out, but the rhythm section is in the pocket, the band as a whole can still keep it together. Of course it will not sound good, but it is less troublesome than if the rhythm section would not be in sync.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    I think it's a dangerous business to lean on other players. I don't see how it can work as a long term strategy.
    Not even as a short term strategy.

    Everyone MUST have a strong internal sense of the pulse, otherwise the results will be compromised.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by greveost View Post
    Both needs to have an internal beat that sync with each other.
    Yeah that's what I meant. Nobody is keeping the beat for the other.

    To me band keeping it together means, from the audience perspective, the performance is tight and swinging. If one person is out, it ruins the performance. Even if it's the soloist.

  14. #13

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    I think there are some old threads about research along these lines which indicate that musicians playing together "synchronize" their brains in terms of their time sense. I have had people I have played with that I just cannot synchronize with and get into a groove that works, while with other players the groove is just there from the first downbeat. When you do find that, it is amazing how much easier it is to play music.

  15. #14

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    Monk said: just because you are not the drummer doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep the time.


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  16. #15

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    In R&B the backbeat is on the snare, 2 and 4. In Jazz Swing the 2 &4 is on the high hat. The Bass often plays quarters for the pulse.
    It used to be the guitar playing quarters in early big band swing.

  17. #16

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    On a good night, everyone in the group. On a bad night....

    If your'e not keeping the pulse, you are not doing your whole job.

  18. #17

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    Its everybody and nobody, if the group is good.

  19. #18

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    The drummer "owns" the beat;
    everyone else "keeps" the beat,
    but not necessarily "on" a beat.

  20. #19

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    Lawrence Lucie, guitarist with Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter and Jelly Roll Morton, among many others, described the function of the FOUR piece rhythm section thusly:
    1. The bass player is in charge of 1 and 3.
    2. The guitar player is in charge of 2 and 4.
    3. The drummer is in charge of making sure that the music is swinging.
    4. The piano player is in charge of the music.
    5. The bass player & the guitar player TOGETHER are in charge of making sure the drummer doesn’t rush.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Lawrence Lucie, guitarist with Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter and Jelly Roll Morton, among many others, described the function of the FOUR piece rhythm section thusly:
    1. The bass player is in charge of 1 and 3.
    2. The guitar player is in charge of 2 and 4.
    3. The drummer is in charge of making sure that the music is swinging.
    4. The piano player is in charge of the music.
    5. The bass player & the guitar player TOGETHER are in charge of making sure the drummer doesn’t rush.
    I am not sure how can anybody prevent a rushing drummer...

    Having this doubt on #5 I re-read the other points and it turns out practically all statements may have issues...

  22. #21

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    I think this is actually quite accurate for a four piece swing/old school dance band rhythm section.

    The guitar and the bass are very locked it in this style, and the drummers job is being the swing and the fire, so they do tend to speed up sometimes and you can totally keep them in check, a bit like a metronome. That was Freddie Green’s job back in the Baisie band; apparently the band would fall apart without him.

    this obviously not true if you are playing some sort of modern comp style. But in this case the music frequently speeds up, so maybe that’s why lol.

    But seriously it goes to show how there’s no simple yes/no answer to the OP.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-19-2020 at 05:06 AM.

  23. #22

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    A few years ago I went to a seminar with several leading (trumpet) players. One piece of wisdom was, listen to the ride cymbal for time.

    Like the previous comment about big band playing, though- with the BB I was playing with, I try to lock in with the bass and listen to the drummer- he reads charts, too, and doesn't get lost!

  24. #23

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    One bassist I know sets up right next to the hi-hat. He wants to be sure he can hear it and he wants to be able to lock in visually if necessary.
    I did a wedding gig with him once where the space was so tight that my leg was pressed against the acoustic bass. Time was good all night.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    One bassist I know sets up right next to the hi-hat. He wants to be sure he can hear it and he wants to be able to lock in visually if necessary.
    I did a wedding gig with him once where the space was so tight that my leg was pressed against the acoustic bass. Time was good all night.
    When I could I would set up so that I could see (and hopefully hear) the hi-hat. I find the more finely subdivided ticaticaticatic of the hi-hat a better indicator of tempo and feel than the kick and snare (let alone toms) which tend to be a bit wobbly, sometimes.

    It didn't always help, but it didn't hurt.

  26. #25

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    Everyone. including the listener.


    Tim

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLerch View Post
    Everyone. including the listener.Tim
    That's the goal at least. Something to work towards!

  28. #27

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    Yea it would be great if everyone could keep time and had feel for the pulse. But many just don't. In a big band.... the drummer is king... in smaller ensembles, part of the process is listening and being able to interact etc...feels and styles can push and stretch time. Part of being able to have good time is being able to feel and understand, longer section of time... the physical space thing, feel alive and still have reference to the pulse. That pulse may speed up or even slow down, but it's still implied. The other thing is many players are just Time followers, not bad or wrong, but some just follow time while others create time. Some your almost guessing where the pulse and feel of time is, while with other, it's a given. As pauln said... most of the time... the drummer controls the time.

    Thanks Rick for kind words... when we ever get back out playin, you always have an open invitation to sit in.

  29. #28

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    The bass. Everyone of course, but mostly in jazz it's the bass.

  30. #29

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    The advice I would generally give is; don't assume someone else will be responsible for your time.

    The stronger your time is, the more adventurous you can be...

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    Yea it would be great if everyone could keep time and had feel for the pulse. But many just don't. In a big band.... the drummer is king... in smaller ensembles, part of the process is listening and being able to interact etc...feels and styles can push and stretch time. Part of being able to have good time is being able to feel and understand, longer section of time... the physical space thing, feel alive and still have reference to the pulse. That pulse may speed up or even slow down, but it's still implied. The other thing is many players are just Time followers, not bad or wrong, but some just follow time while others create time. Some your almost guessing where the pulse and feel of time is, while with other, it's a given. As pauln said... most of the time... the drummer controls the time.

    Thanks Rick for kind words... when we ever get back out playin, you always have an open invitation to sit in.
    Thank you Reg. I see it the same way -- some players follow, others create the time. Probably exists at different levels, so that a guy who can create time might defer to an even stronger player, well, maybe.

    One question is, how can a player make the transition from follower to creator? How do you work on that?

    I'll take a shot at trying to answer this question, even though I don't really think I know the answer.

    1. Don't try to play anything you can't actually play. For example, don't try to play a line that you can't execute with perfect time. The time is more important than the notes.

    2. If your natural inclination is to relax and let somebody else create time, then, instead, try to maintain your focus on the time with every note or chord you play. Reg has a lot of videos and his time is sharp in every one of them. Imitate that, constantly.

    3. Play with the strongest players you can and keep your ears wide open for indications with regard to time feel. A great drummer will be creating rhythmic information constantly -- so phrase with it.

    4. Make sure that your instrument isn't drowning out your ability to hear the other instruments. As an aside, I confess that I'm surprised that guitarists often put their amps so close to themselves. And, I'm surprised that they can often make it work. I like the amp further away, when I can do it, so that I'm hearing my guitar in context volume-wise.

    5. Work on different ways to play time. Simple example: swing is often comped on 1, 2+. Charleston. Instead try 2+, 4. Or some other pattern.

  32. #31

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    I did a clinic a few years back with the Count Basie rhythm section at the Midwest Band Clinic and that very question their topic. The answer was that the explaining why and demoing itbass player keeps the beat and does not do any fancy showoff stuff. JUST KEEP THE BEAT! They went through this whole thing for 30 minutes then ask for a volunteer to make sure everyone understood. Up came a college kid who wanted to show off his bass playing chops and obviously hadn't paid any attention to this very seasoned rhythm section. 4 bars into the song they stopped him and asked what the heck was he doing. Well I just though I would...NOT! He went to his seat hangin his head because he had just made a fool out of himself in front of a world renown rhythm section. He wasn't asked to play a solo but just be the bass player for a Jazz Rhythm Section. Boring job for a bass player? Not really! Mostly straight eighth notes on a straight ahead swing chart like "Wind Machine from the Basie Straight Ahead album. That's a few years back. The most fun I have ever had was playing trumpet in a Big Swing Band for several years. Ain'y got the chops anymore!

  33. #32

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    yea... the bass is the communicator of the pulse, beat or time. By that I mean he or she, play the obvious, but generally the drums keep or communicate the tempo. So who keeps the beat....like I said when your a follower of the beat, you probable feel the bass, at least the implied pulse, when performing.

    Yea... a rhythm section should function like one player, we all keep time or the beat. I've always had good time and feel and even when I want a specific feel or tempo... I generally look for the drummer to keep us together... who counts off most tunes, I almost always let drummers count off tunes and even when I do.... I always check with the drums.

    I guess it's a trick question.... what element(s) of music imply Time? So is the bass a metronome with pitch.
    (just for record, I performed on bass most of life, many BB's...have good time, can sightread almost anything.... and have always looked to the drums as Boss of time). Unless the player sucks.... Then I do what's needed, I become the one who implies time or beat and set up feels... become a living metronome with style settings. Work.

  34. #33

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    In a band - a great band - everyone creates the beat. The beat followed is the one inside. Bass in jazz is different than bass in pop, rock or R&B. Bass marks off the quarter notes and frames the song's harmonic structure. Everybody holds it from the moment it's counted off. Micro adjustments along the way. If someone in the band assumes the role of time keeper that's a interpersonal band agreement, mostly unspoken. Sometimes the bassist has better time. Sometimes the guitar player does, even the piano player. They have less direct ability to effect the direction of the time since comping rarely is quarter notes unless you're doing Greene.

    A lot of people don't know how to hear jazz because they listen to the drummer for the time - like back beat on 2 and 4, rather than hearing the bass as the frame.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bugleboy08 View Post
    I did a clinic a few years back with the Count Basie rhythm section at the Midwest Band Clinic and that very question their topic. The answer was that the explaining why and demoing itbass player keeps the beat and does not do any fancy showoff stuff. JUST KEEP THE BEAT! They went through this whole thing for 30 minutes then ask for a volunteer to make sure everyone understood. Up came a college kid who wanted to show off his bass playing chops and obviously hadn't paid any attention to this very seasoned rhythm section. 4 bars into the song they stopped him and asked what the heck was he doing. Well I just though I would...NOT! He went to his seat hangin his head because he had just made a fool out of himself in front of a world renown rhythm section. He wasn't asked to play a solo but just be the bass player for a Jazz Rhythm Section. Boring job for a bass player? Not really! Mostly straight eighth notes on a straight ahead swing chart like "Wind Machine from the Basie Straight Ahead album. That's a few years back. The most fun I have ever had was playing trumpet in a Big Swing Band for several years. Ain'y got the chops anymore!

  36. #35

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    If you heard Bucky Pizzarelli interviewed a few years ago, he would have pointed out how the guitar carries the swing in the big band.

    That said, it’s usually the drummer and the bass, in a small group at least.

    In our group we have an inventive bass player, but who tends to speed up as the song goes on. He often starts the song, and the rest of us come on board. The drummer kind of exists to keep the bassist in line with the tempo.

    It’s probably different with every group. JMO the least experienced among us need a strong drummer to keep everyone on beat. It’s obviously a different story with the Keith Jarrett trio or a similar outfit.

  37. #36

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    Also just a small tip I have learned as I’ve progressed a bit from beginner to not-quite-beginner guitarist: no matter who’s keeping the beat, tap your foot along with it. This makes a big difference for me in keeping me on track, because there’s a bit of a disconnect or at least delay in listening to the other musicians. You need an internal metronome to stay with the rhythm.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    In a band - a great band - everyone creates the beat. The beat followed is the one inside. Bass in jazz is different than bass in pop, rock or R&B. Bass marks off the quarter notes and frames the song's harmonic structure. Everybody holds it from the moment it's counted off. Micro adjustments along the way. If someone in the band assumes the role of time keeper that's a interpersonal band agreement, mostly unspoken. Sometimes the bassist has better time. Sometimes the guitar player does, even the piano player. They have less direct ability to effect the direction of the time since comping rarely is quarter notes unless you're doing Greene.

    A lot of people don't know how to hear jazz because they listen to the drummer for the time - like back beat on 2 and 4, rather than hearing the bass as the frame.
    I dunno I’ve heard Jim Mullen (guitar) lock in drummers with weaker time in by comping repeated Wes style figures.

    Communication is the operative word.

    The bass player is probably who I would listen to most of the time.

  39. #38

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    I think the bassist is a good default, but the feel is on everyone. Some bassists play ahead of the beat a bit, some squarely on the beat. I can't really think of any bassists that play behind the beat. For me, it's about the bassist and drummer. If the drummer is pushing or playing behind the beat, as a bassist myself I'll play dead on the beat. If the drummer is playing dead center (pretty rare), I'll usually push the beat a bit.

    Listening to the hi-hat is good general advice but it wouldn't have worked if you were in Art Blakey's band! Blakey pushes the hell out of his hi hat.

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    I think the bassist is a good default, but the feel is on everyone. Some bassists play ahead of the beat a bit, some squarely on the beat. I can't really think of any bassists that play behind the beat. For me, it's about the bassist and drummer. If the drummer is pushing or playing behind the beat, as a bassist myself I'll play dead on the beat. If the drummer is playing dead center (pretty rare), I'll usually push the beat a bit.

    Listening to the hi-hat is good general advice but it wouldn't have worked if you were in Art Blakey's band! Blakey pushes the hell out of his hi hat.
    Blakey’s hi hat may be the best thing about music

    Do you feel sometimes that drummers need to be allowed to not keep time in the pedantic grid sense and be all about the swing? And that the other players allow them to do that by being responsible for their own time?

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Do you feel sometimes that drummers need to be allowed to not keep time in the pedantic grid sense and be all about the swing? And that the other players allow them to do that by being responsible for their own time?
    100% this.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    100% this.
    At the risk of belaboring a dissenting view ...

    When I'm in the audience in a NYC jazz club, I never think about who is carrying or dictating the time.

    But, in my own semi-pro non-NYC experience in combos, it's not the instrument, it's the player with the best time feel.

    The players sense it and fall into line.

  43. #42

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    This is the best explanation for me. Very similar to the Jerry Roll list above.

    I feel this.

    But it only works if everybody has this same vision in mind.

    'Unlegislated division of power'


  44. #43

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    James Chirillo is such a sensitive and a humble player - may be not very known to general public but surely respected by the best.
    Judy Carmichael playing with him with him is a total bliss



  45. #44

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    Her left hand is the time in those videos
    it's so strong you have to follow that ....
    (And She's wonderfull !)

    Maybe because it's stride
    i notice when Basie plays stride his LH also becomes the time

    in different bands and styles , different instruments
    or voices state the time more or less explicitly

    for me it's best when the whole band shares the time
    Billy holiday with those small groups with
    Teddy Wilson , Barney , Pres , Roy Eldridge etc etc
    sublime elastic time

    in a funky way but also wonderful EWF

  46. #45

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    It's the other guy.. usually... hopefully... maybe..

  47. #46

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    In a combo it should be the bass, that's the engine that drives the train.
    For solo piano it's my left heel.

  48. #47

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    It's the bass man!


  49. #48

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    Ray Brown in charge:


  50. #49

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    IMO, the bass is (or should be) the keeper of the groove in jazz. Some bass players do not want to perform that role (or they lack the skill to do so). It reminds me of a Barney Kessel story I heard many years ago;

    Barney was in a town with a pickup band of side men. There was not enough time for a rehearsal so Barney met his sidemen on the bandstand just before downbeat. After the the first tune ended, Barney looked over at the bass player and said "It seems that we could both use a bass player".

    I have had the displeasure of playing with a few bass players like that myself. They seem to think that their role is to always be playing a bass solo. As I said, I think their job is to be keeper of the groove.

  51. #50

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    In a group composed of players with varying qualities of time feel, I think a leader tends to emerge.

    In a group where everybody has equal quality time, it doesn't emerge as an issue.

    But this post is about bass players.

    I've been playing for about a year (weekly, outdoors and distanced during Covid) with a brilliant drummer. We've had several bassists. Most musicians of my acquaintance tend to keep their opinions to themselves (about other musicians), but this drummer was willing to tell me who his favorite bassist is.

    It was not one of the obvious virtuosos. Rather, it was a guy who calls himself a "meat and potatoes" bassist. He plays simply. He isn't a flashy soloist -- and doesn't always want to solo. I recall him telling me, a few years ago, that he took drum lessons as a way of working on improving his note placement for samba. That is, he took the micro-placement of quarter notes very seriously. He could have been working on a multitude of fancier things, but that wasn't his choice.

    More recently, I started playing with another long term pro bassist (we haven't had a session with that drummer yet, although they know each other). His playing is completely non-flashy. His soloing is the same, but you notice that he never drops the groove while he solos, so the bottom doesn't fall out of the band during the bass solo.

    I find that, with these two bassists especially, my attention is not drawn to the bass. It feels like the foundation of a house. You really don't want your attention drawn to it. That only happens when there's trouble.

    As it turns out, I spend more time focusing on the drums. He includes a lot of rhythmic detail which makes it easier to find a comping pattern that adds to the group sound.

    Which is the time leader?