Ray Brown Bass Transcription - "Pennies from Heaven"

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

YES! This is the Ray Brown I love.

Years before James Jamerson who, as one man puts it, was the "Schoenberg" of simple chord changes, there was Ray Brown.

(Btw, check out Jamerson's bass line on "I Was Made to Love Her" set to motion graphics at crazy cool!)

Listen to how Ray Brown keeps the bass line interesting by varying his note and rhythmic choices as the song moves on. Not to say he doesn't repeat himself, but even on Page 1, measures 9-10 and 25-26 both have the same chord changes (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Edim) but a different line. So pretty! And it gives the bass line personality and shape.

Same chord changes, different line variations.

Other things that stand out to me right away:

  • Measure 127 - The classic Ray Brown eight-note-to-dotted-quarter drop to an open string. Tension and release!

  • Measure 201 - The challenge of sight-reading in D-flat. The modulation here makes for some juicy double-flats... it's accidental hell.

  • The interaction between band members. This is one thing you CAN'T capture on the page: the reasons players make their decisions!

  • The use of open strings. Upright players usually catch onto this way before us electric players... open strings are your friend. For example, playing a "D" open string allows for a giant leap up to the 11th fret on the G string... without killing yourself. Or the classic Ray Brown drop in measure 127, a seamless transition from the high F to the low A.

  • The beautiful ending. It's one thing to pull off an effective ending in traditional jazz music... it's another to do it after 5 minutes of improvising a bass line, then execute the ending in perfect sync with the rest of the band. While being recorded. Also, a great arpeggio workout!

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