Bassline Academy – On The Serious Side, Rocco Prestia

‘On The Serious Side’ is another tune from Tower of Power’s album ‘In The Slot’ (if you haven’t already, check out ‘Drop It In The Slot‘ as well!) featuring Rocco’s punchy sound. The whole tune revolves around the same relentless bass pattern almost all the way through, with a short B section interjecting in the middle of the song. The repeating bassline contains a trademark chromatic run up from the 3rd degree of the scale and just keeps going and going! This presents a bit of a stamina challenge on the tuba. I can just about keep my single tonguing going for the whole tune but found that double tonguing is not only easier and more efficient, but also seems to fit better with the way the TOP band play the groove. It’s like the double tongue sound matches the ‘wacka chicka’ type articulation that is going on throughout the tune.

Download the full transcription here: On the Serious Side bass transcription

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Bassline Academy – Come on Come Over, Jaco Pastorius

Come on Come Over is the second track on Jaco Pastorius’ album called ‘Jaco Pastorius’! It’s a great album which takes you on a proper musical journey and is really well put together – if you haven’t heard it check it out, it’s been a firm favourite of mine for many years. Come on Come Over is one of the full on funky tracks with the horn section featuring amongst others the Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn and the great Howard Johnson (also of jazz tuba fame) on baritone sax.

This track is a great example of Jaco’s melodic bass craft. He’s never just keeping time or outlining the harmony but playing long arching melodic phrases that are spellbinding. In essence the piece has just 2 sections. The bass line in the A section, which sits on C minor with a couple of ascending chromatic semi runs, stays rock solid the same all the way through the track.

The B section steps up a tone to D major. The bassline loosely follows the example on the left with Jaco continually embellishing the phrase in his own characteristic way throughout the tune. The way he plays makes it sound like there’s nearly always continual semiquaver movement in the bass, but listen closely and there’s actually a fair bit of space in his lines (well, in the first two B sections at least, he does let his hair down a bit in the last one!). Jaco’s note placement is impeccable and it’s his interaction with everything else that’s going on in the band that gives the feel of perpetual motion.

Click here to download a full transcription of Jaco’s bassline in Come on Come Over.

This may not be the most obvious track to try on tuba but I love this tight funky kind of thing so here goes!

Bassline Academy – Lingus, Michael League

Lingus has got to be one of my favourite Snarky Puppy tunes. Cory Henry’s epic solo will surely go down in history as one the greats, and underpinning it all is Michael League’s bass, which I think is a great example of groovy restraint. Michael League and Snarky Puppy can, by his own admission bit quite ‘chopsy’, and there’s certainly a lot of fireworks going on in the soloing and drumming on this track. But if you listen to the bass it’s actually doing the simple things (well, relatively simple things) really well. There are a few times when he lets loose but on the whole, especially in the Cory Henry solo, he’s just thumping out the same underpinning grove pattern without making things too fancy – there’s enough fancy stuff going on in the keyboard and drum parts!

 

The opening Emin riff is wonderfully phat and dirty, and so fits very well on tuba!

 

It’s in this section that Mr. League takes the (rare in this piece) opportunity to put in a choice fill. For me this is one of the bass highlights of the track! The use of C#s and low G# make things momentarily brighter implying Emaj briefly, before returning straight back to Emin.

A nice touch of rhythm section detail is how the syncopated pattern (that delays the root of the chord to beat 2 in bar 5 of the B section) leaves the low root out altogether on the third time we hear it. It’s a great example of how less is more. By just leaving out one choice note it gives a really nice moment of space but at the same time it’s like we still hear the low root even though it’s not there!

 After an increase in the baseline intensity through the horn solos, Michael finally lets loose for 4 bars in the tutti that ends the first section of the tune before reigning it all back in to hold down the repeating bassline in the second half of the piece.

As a bit of a tuba challenge a decided to transcribe the whole bass part and give it a blow. I’ve tried to get the transcription as honest to what Michael is playing as possible. It’s tricky to tell exactly what octave he’s playing in sometimes as there are other instruments doubling the baseline at times but here’s my best attempt.

Click here to download a pdf of the full Lingus Bass transcription.

 

4th Valve Conversion on 15″ Bell Imperial – part 2

It’s been quite a few months since I received my Imperial back from Mike Johnson. He did a fair bit of restoration and modification on it and it’s now a fantastic instrument. Here’s a run down of the things that happened in the workshop:

  • Re-solder a number of joints (some of which were hanging on with less than half the joint properly sealed!).
  • Chop a section out the middle of the instrument to take it from low pitch to standard A 440 tuning.
  • Remove the nobble under the bottom bow.
  • New large shank mouthpiece receiver fitted which means I can use my Schilke mouthpieces.
  • Remove piston 4th valve, replace it with a rotary valve and reroute and replumb the associated tubing.
  • Fit a ring on the first valve slide to use as a tuning trigger.
  • Make and put a memorial plaque on the back of the instrument.

As with any new or different instrument it’s taken me a while to learn it’s individual playing characteristics and quirks, but I think I’m starting to get a handle on it!

In general the Imperial has more character to the sound right across it’s range compared with my Sovereign. It also seems to take less effort to play and at first I was quite surprised how much power in the sound I seemed to be producing with relatively little effort, especially in the mid register. The 4th valve register is nice and punchy and easy to play in. To centre a long, loud low F and E I’ve found I need to focus the airflow slightly more downwards than I’m used to, I’ve no idea why but apart from that the low register just plays itself! In short this instrument makes the grunty, fat and fruity sound I’ve been looking for.

Mike’s craftsmanship is second to none. Where he places the forth valve lever means you can also operate a tuning trigger for the first valve which helps tweak any intonation issues, allowing you to get some extra tube length for low F and E is you need to settle them. All the soldering feels really solid and instrument feels ‘air tight’!

In short I love it. Video review to follow……..

Finally a quick word about why I’ve come to get this instrument. In 2011 my younger brother, Graham Fox tragically died. He was an extremely talented drummer (Google him) and collector of drum gear. After he passed away I inherited 4 kits, 10 snares, 40+ cymbals and whole load of other percussive toys. Rather than keep all this and have it collect dust and take up a whole room of its own I decided to sell most of it and buy a memorial tuba in its place. It seems fitting that I have found a 40 year old tuba as a memorial for my dear brother who loved vintage drums.

 

Jungle Funk – The Brasshoppers in Norway 2017

Here’s an epic 16min version of Jungle Funk from The Brasshoppers trip to Haugesund last month.

2:21 Scouse rapping – Tony Peers (The Brasshoppers)
4:24 alto solo – Paul Jones (The Brasshoppers)
6:14 tenor solo – Dan White (Huntertones)
8:37 trombone solo – Chris Ott (Huntertones)
11:13 trumpet call and response and solo – Jon Lampley (Huntertones)

We were joined on stage by some of the members of the Huntertones, a great band from New York who had played earlier in the evening. The trumpet player from the Huntertones is great but you should hear him play sousaphone – he’s off the planet!!! Look out for Jon Lampley doing anything on the sousa he’s mind blowing.

As ever it was a good trip to Norway, they do love the Brasshoppers in Haugesund. We played some great gigs and had one poignant moment when we played at the funeral of a guy who was fan of the band and had passed away the week before we arrived – it was an honour and quite moving.

Don’t forget to check out the free downloads on The Brasshoppers bandcamp page.

Norway trip with The Brasshoppers

I’m back from a quite surreal trip away with The Brasshoppers. Having not done a gig with this band for the best part of 15 years I jumped at the chance to go back to Haugesund and the Silda Jazz Festival. I did this gig a couple of time when I was playing with the band regularly and since then they have been back pretty much every year and developed quite a following of enthusiastic Norwegian groupies. We spent the first few days laughing and generally having a good time which is what always happens with this band.

And then ‘it’ happened! The ‘it’ being when Snarky Puppy turned up at our Friday night gig. I’d already heard that they were at the bar at the back of our venue so I just got my head down and tried not to make too many mistakes. Before I knew what was going on I look up to see Michael League right in front of me shouting ‘I’m your fan’, to which I responded ‘er, no I think you’ll find I’m your fan!’ To cut a long story short they stayed to the end of our gig and we all got chatting afterwards which ended up with them inviting us to play on their encore at their gig the following evening!!! Yep that’s right I got to play on stage with Snarky Puppy.

Queen’s 90th Birthday Thanksgiving Service.

Today I had the huge honour of playing at the Queen’s 90th birthday thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral with the Wren Brass Ensemble. It was one of the most amazing gigs I’ve ever done and I got completely caught up with the pomp and pageantry. The brass were positioned in between the choir stalls facing the congregation, so we had the best seats in the house pretty much opposite the queen and the rest of the royal family. It doesn’t get much better than this!