Updated: Jan 17, 2020
This bass transcription is Paul Chambers full bass line from Miles Davis' famous 1957 album, "Round Midnight." Let's dive right in!
So last year marked 20 years I've been playing bass. Every year, I become more convinced that when we're trying to learn from the best bass players, we ought to focus most on their habits instead of on individual moments.
In other words, when I listen to Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, etc., I'm asking myself, "What things are they doing over and over and over again, that I can learn from?" With this recording, the habits I hear (and you may hear additional/other things):
1) Time. His notes are evenly spaced apart from one another.
2) Song form. Paul Chambers never falls off the page, ever. You don't get the sense he's looking at Red Garland (piano) wide-eyed and asking where they are in the song.
3) Touch. He plucks confidently. Also, most of Chambers' notes are "long" notes. That is to say, not pizzicato. Each note rings out.
4) Repeated ideas. The linear lines he uses over ii-V's as in measures 115-116 are the same lines he's used in umpteen other songs. If I ever write a book called Paul Chambers' Vocabulary, that lick will probably be number one!
Again, I'm aiming not to get too hung up on specific notes or moments. For example, measure 245 sounds like a mistake to me. It's a clear, confident Eb when every other time in the song, he plays an F as per the song form. Garland plays the usual Fm7-Bb7. So while I sounds like a mistake, I don't know. I can't sit down with Paul Chambers' ghost and ask him about his choices in one note of one measure of one song 60 years ago! More importantly, I just don't really care that much. There are so many other great patterns that we CAN be sure of since top-notch players have top-notch habits.
One last comment on the song form - notice that the song form is the standard 32 bars, followed by another 48 bars. It goes back and forth between the two -- 32, 48, 32, 48, etc.
The 48 bar sections are just the standard 32 bar form followed by a few I-vi-ii-V's (Ebmaj7, Cm7 or C7, Fm7, Bb7).