NEW TRANSCRIPTION: Tenor Madness, 15 Pages, Paul Chambers Walking Bass Line and Solo

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

In the beginning, God said, “Let there be bass.” Paul Chambers appeared. He looketh upon Him, and He saw that it was good.

Today’s FULL bass transcription comes from the 1956 Sonny Rollins’ album “Tenor Madness,” featuring Paul Chambers.

Before we dive into the transcription, a brief note on harmony, as it’s the thing I’m contacted about the most. In this transcription, chord symbols are intended to mark location in the form, and not much else. For example, Measure 8 (et al) is D-7, G7. For people hoping to sharpen reading skills, this method gives a little “less” (visually) to rely upon. Thebasscase also has a fair amount of students and teachers, and this allows such players to write in their own, specific harmonies, if desired.


Just like last week’s transcription of Red Pepper Blues, this walking bass line and solo are full of meaty motifs:

  • Measure 1 is repeated verbatim in mm 85, 217, 349, etc. In fact, the same shape (same intervals, but starting on a different note) occurs on the F7 chord e.g. m142, 154, etc.! Don’t judge my excitement.

  • Measure 9 is repeated more times than I care to count.

  • Broken 3rds pattern. This begins in measure 65 and is repeated throughout the song, and in a fun twist, is even carried through Chambers’ solo! It caught my ear right away since it’s often a technical exercise many of us practice when working on scales, neck familiarity, etc. But Chambers demonstrates in can be very musical/pleasing.

Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge Chambers’ killer sense of time/rhythm. Put it this way: the effectiveness of melodic ideas is proportional to sense of time.

Something that may be tricky for electric players at first glance: the ghost & eighth notes, as in measure 11. They often sound the most fluid when played on open strings, rather than fretting.

I laughed out loud at measure 326. I’m speculating here, to be sure, but it’s happened to all of us – we’re trading 4s, and not everyone is on the same page about what’s supposed to happen next. The beauty of improv! Well, at measure 326, it sounds like the entire band expects to trade 2s with the drummer, Philly Joe Jones, which is a perfectly reasonable expectation. Except, nope, that’s not what happens! Jones continues playing time, the band recalibrates, and things go on from there.

It’s a wonderfully instructive moment when we see that even the masters of jazz have real, live interplay. They work together, support each other, and have the courage to keep moving forward.

#paulchambers #basstranscription #walkingbasslinetranscription #tenormadnessbassline

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