#1
Is he indisputably the best bass player ever? I think he is very underrated and lot of rock fans don't give him the recognition he deserves.
#2
i do really good keeping up with bassists but i must say i have never heard of him
empty the bullets from the chamber
#3
Jamerson provided bassline on many of Motown famous songs, such as What's going on, For once in my life, My girl ... etc.
#4
ok yeah somebody was telling me hes pretty good with a talk box. motown had some good stuff but not enough to make him the best.
empty the bullets from the chamber
#5
No he never played the talk box.
His bass of choice was the Fender Precision

He used only his index finger to play most of the time
Last edited by lpmarshall at Sep 26, 2007,
#6
nice bass. ill have to listen to more of thei stuff and see how good he really is
empty the bullets from the chamber
#8
I never liked James Jamerson. To me, his stuff sounds like random 8th and 16th note twittering - random and sloppy as hell half the time. There's some self-serving video on youtube calling him the greatest bass player ever showing probably the worst bassline of them all. He's the Cliff Burton of Motown... or, Cliff is the JJ of metal.

Anyway, he's by no means underrated, half our heroes loved him, and I don't. The story of my life.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
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#9
Quote by Dauntless
i do really good keeping up with bassists but i must say i have never heard of him


Ok, I don't know whether to laugh or cry over that one.

James Jamerson was an integral part of what made the 1960s Motown sound what it is, and some have argued the most dominant and talented member of the Funk Brothers, the nickname of the Motown session musicians. He was also nick named "the hook" because he played only with his index finger, a style he brought over from his upright days. Standing in the Shadows of Motown, is an excellent book and DVD about Jamerson and even if you are not a fan of Motown, you can gain much from watching and reading both.

Jamerson, like Fitz said, influenced a ton of people in his style of playing. His bass lines, which on first listen can seem straightforward, do have quite a bit of complexity and depth. Listening to Jamerson will give definitely go a long way to teaching you how to take a basic pop song and write an amazing bassline.
#11
When you see the transcriptions of what he played I feel that it's much easier to see what a great player he was. My favourite part of the style is that he'd never play the same riffs or lines for verse or chorus. It's a constantly changing bass line.
Founder of Jaco society

[22:08:23] <Confusius> I wish I was a bassist
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#12
best bassist to have ever lived. period.
"Comedy's a dead art form. Now tragedy, that's funny." -Bender Bending Rodriguez
#13
Quote by thefitz
He's the Cliff Burton of Motown... or, Cliff is the JJ of metal.


... or the Jaco of Motown. Or Jaco is the JJ of jazz...
#14
Quote by Lendorav
... or the Jaco of Motown. Or Jaco is the JJ of jazz...


From last months Bass Player mag article on Jaco.

“Come here and take a look at this.” The request came from legendary engineer Ron Malo, whose recordings at Chess, Motown, Capitol, and other labels ranged from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel. He was speaking to young engineer Brian Risner. On the other side of the glass, an equally youthful Jaco Pastorius had just plugged in for his Weather Report audition track: “Cannon Ball,” from the album Black Market. As Risner relates, “Ron said, ‘All I have is maybe 3dB of peak limiting and almost no EQ, and it’s not even going into limiting. There’s only one other bass player I’ve ever worked with who got this great a sound from his hands, and that was James Jamerson.’”

Enough said.
#15
Quote by Lendorav
... or the Jaco of Motown. Or Jaco is the JJ of jazz...

Yeah, but Jaco was... actually... amazing? (My opinion, blah blah blah)
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#16
Quote by thefitz
I never liked James Jamerson. To me, his stuff sounds like random 8th and 16th note twittering - random and sloppy as hell half the time. There's some self-serving video on youtube calling him the greatest bass player ever showing probably the worst bassline of them all. He's the Cliff Burton of Motown... or, Cliff is the JJ of metal.

Anyway, he's by no means underrated, half our heroes loved him, and I don't. The story of my life.

For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race toward an early grave.


Ben Hamelech
#17
Quote by thefitz
Yeah, but Jaco was... actually... amazing? (My opinion, blah blah blah)


No doubt about it, but I don't think we would be praising Jaco, Cliff or JJ as much as we do if they were still alive.
#18
Quote by Lendorav
No doubt about it, but I don't think we would be praising Jaco, Cliff or JJ as much as we do if they were still alive.

Exactly. The main reason we worship dead musicians is that they have a fixed range of what they've done, and they will never, ever change again. This makes them much more easily copied, and the desire to copy them is much stronger. They are simply a model; a fixed picture after which we can adapt ourselves. I mean, what if Jeff Berlin died instead of Jaco? They were both doing the same **** at the same time. Duck Dunn instread of Jamerson? same deal.

Jaco may have played a lot of notes, but he seemed like he would have been such a royal ass that I would have never wanted to meet him. Cliff and JJ at least seem like decent human beings. I've obviously never met any of them, but that's just how they all kind of strike me.

As far as bass skill goes, in my personal ranking I'd put JJ first, Jaco second and cliff at the very bottom. He was a guitarist. His bass technique was god-awful, his BASS parts blew but his guitar solos were somewhat cool. However, guitar solos on a bass don't make you a good bassist.
"Comedy's a dead art form. Now tragedy, that's funny." -Bender Bending Rodriguez
Last edited by mountaindew88 at Sep 27, 2007,
#19
It's also an issue of context. Sure, Jamerson's lines may not hold up to what Victor Wooten does these days, but one must understand that back in the late 1950s, hardly anyone took the electric bass seriously. Even Jamerson was reluctant to take it on (since he was a standup player), but someone encouraged him enough to get him take it up. At first, he did play some basic lines, but as he realized how bass could fit into the scheme of the sheet music given to him, he began to stretch out from the basic I-V-octave monotony, by introducing enharmonic passing notes and grace notes, and it worked. He started to break some rules set by the session bassists and people started to take notice of his craft. And to think he did it all with that P-bass and one plucking finger, plucking all upstrokes.

His style made you wonder where he was going to land next in the notes--he always kept you guessing, and that's something the many bassists cannot do--they stick to one bassline and don't venture too far out from it. He played each take differently, and even in the same song, played a different set of notes for any given chord sequence, rarely repeating himself in later years.

There are a lot of bassists out there who are great in their own right, but only one can stake claim to being the first to take command of the bass and make it an equal voice in the ensemble--and not have it buried beneath the kick drum or the lead guitar riff. And to make the bass lines so amazingly fluid, solid and serpentine at the same time. That is James Jamerson's legacy. And up until about 10 years ago, the general public never knew who he was.

He played bass on more Top Ten hits than anyone else alive. And no one knew about his name until that film came out. How sad.

In the film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", they start introducing all the Funk Brothers, including the deceased ones--the ones who never got their due recognition for all the beautiful grooves and tasteful tunes they worked on--and the last one they introduced was James Jamerson. "The greatest bass player of all time." He finally got his recognition. I was in tears at the end of the movie. I had loved his bass work ever since I first heard "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye back when I was working at the movie theaters in 1987. I still aspire to play like him--get into his mind and get his understanding of the bass from his perspective. I try to do that with all of my bass influences, but Jamerson still gives me a warm feeling of satisfaction every time I play his lines and cop his style.

To someone who plays hardcore bop jazz, avant-garde, metal, or some crazy manic style that requires you to play chords, rhythms and melodies at the same time, you'll never understand Jamerson's stamp on popular music. His style is so zen and Tao at the same time--playing notes on the fly and living the notes in the moment, giving the notes just the right amount of silence to breathe life into the groove. It isn't popping and slapping--it's earthier than that flashy "look at me, I'm a badass" stuff. He knew he was good--and he never lost sight of the ensemble's direction and sound.

Jamerson is the alpha point for electric bass. Begging to differ is the sign of ignorance, or of a braggard who thinks he knows all the answers. Even Jaco had enough sense to give props to Jamerson. Calling Jamerson sloppy misses the point altogether. It's called feel and groove--anyone can play super clean notes to a metronome with practice, but it takes innate talent to be able to come up with lines like he did on the fly and make the tunes groove with just the right amount of shuffle and push in the pocket. That's musical genius.

If you still disagree, I don't care. There is a difference between stubbornness and skepticism. Once they are proven wrong, skeptics at least have the rational sense to take the lumps and accept it. Stubborn folks continue to live with a closed mind, never accepting anything that fits into their world view. If you can prove to me that Jamerson wasn't the first to lay the law down for electric bass on hundreds of certified hits, and be an inspiration for the likes of John Paul Jones, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Entwhistle, Jack Casady, Bob Babbitt, Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, and countless other living bass A-listers, I will concede.
Jaco de Lucia.

The Zen of Duh: How low can you go? Zero Hertz. That's the lowest anyone can go. Just turn off your bass amp and not play.

Q-tuner PUs (0X0 configuration) and HG Thor Labs for the best fretless bass tone. MWAH FACTOR!!!
#21
Jaco de lucia, good to see you around again!

I must say I never really got into motown, but after your glowing recommendations i'll give some more Jamerson stuff a try.
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#22
Good to be back. I've been around, just not so much since my schedule is tight.

I'm glad to see someone is taking the recommdation seriously. Just be aware that some of the lines were not done by Jamerson for Motown--some were done by his "understudy" Bob Babbitt, who is great in his own right, but even Babbitt gives props to Jamerson.

Babbitt did the basslines for:

"Tears of a Clown" -- Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
"Midnight Train to Georgia" -- Gladys Knight & the Pips
"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" -- Marvin Gaye

Slightly different style, but subtly different. More repititions of the hooky basslines and an ostinato that is hard to shake.

Chuck Rainey was a disciple of the Jamerson style, but took it to the next level, incorporating slides and double stops. You can hear his bassline on the theme from "Sanford & Son" (Quincy Jones) as a staring point--it is killer. Rainey also played with Steely Dan on the Aja album--"Peg" is one of his babies.

But Jamerson really got the ball rolling--making bass interesting. While others were just holding down the I-V, Jamerson brought jazzier elements, like walking basslines, into popular music. From there, he made the music groove in the pocket. Bass does a lot more these days, but back then, it was a revelation to all aspiring bass players--you do not have to be the fat kid in the back relegated to playing the root notes and being a second-class musician to the guitarist or drummer. You can literally play a solo through the entire piece, and no one will tell you to shut up, as long as you give enough room for the rest of the ensemble in the sound spectrum, and can make the piece groove. You are the glue that holds the band together, that ties the upper sound spectrum of the guitars with the rhythmic backbone, that commands the power to control the feel of the rhythm by changing syncopation, that creates the tension by pedaling non-root notes beneath a chord (and its release by resolving it), and that makes people want to get up and sway to the music.

Sure, if Jamerson didn't start the ball rolling, someone else would probably have done it. But could they have played on so many hit records? I'm not sure. Could they have played with so much restraint, plucking with only one finger, giving the notes a chance to breathe? Not likely. Jamerson did everything right to set up the stage for his disciples, and they ran with it. But they always ALWAYS gave props to James Jamerson. And Jamerson deserved every bit of it and still does.
Jaco de Lucia.

The Zen of Duh: How low can you go? Zero Hertz. That's the lowest anyone can go. Just turn off your bass amp and not play.

Q-tuner PUs (0X0 configuration) and HG Thor Labs for the best fretless bass tone. MWAH FACTOR!!!
#23
Quote by thefitz
I never liked James Jamerson. To me, his stuff sounds like random 8th and 16th note twittering - random and sloppy as hell half the time. There's some self-serving video on youtube calling him the greatest bass player ever showing probably the worst bassline of them all. He's the Cliff Burton of Motown... or, Cliff is the JJ of metal.

Anyway, he's by no means underrated, half our heroes loved him, and I don't. The story of my life.


Wow....I've never heard anybody say that about him before. Personally I think he's great, theres a very very good reason he's on so many formidable recordings.

Also...I love Cliff, but that's a different topic.
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+1
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EDIT: Sammcl pretty much got it dead on.
#24
Quote by Lendorav
No doubt about it, but I don't think we would be praising Jaco, Cliff or JJ as much as we do if they were still alive.


I was never really fond of Cliff Burton.
But in my opinion, he died in a funny way.

I prefer Jaco over Cliff.
#25
Quote by brentonkim
I was never really fond of Cliff Burton.
But in my opinion, he died in a funny way.

I prefer Jaco over Cliff.


...

Please explain how getting smashed by a bus is, in any way, funny.
#26
Funny can also mean strange.
Founder of Jaco society

[22:08:23] <Confusius> I wish I was a bassist
[22:08:26] <Confusius> you fuckers look cool


Want to know how to play bass in jazz? Read this.
#27
If you wanna hear some good Jamerson listen to The Four Tops - Standing In The Shadows Of Love.
#28
Quote by Lendorav
...

Please explain how getting smashed by a bus is, in any way, funny.



It is a funny way. Not a hillarious funny. But a that's a pretty weird funny.
#29
Quote by Lendorav
...

Please explain how getting smashed by a bus is, in any way, funny.

A comedy writer could definitely take the exact circumstances of Cliff's death and make a funny skit from it (especially James description of Cliff's skinny pale legs sticking out from the bus like the witch that got crushed in Wizard of Oz).
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
Last edited by thefitz at Oct 1, 2007,
#31
Quote by thefitz
A comedy writer could definitely take the exact circumstances of Cliff's death and make a funny skit from it (especially James description of Cliff's skinny pale legs sticking out from the bus like the witch that got crushed in Wizard of Oz).


But that's a sketch...The actual loss of life there isn't funny at all.
Quote by Demonikk
+1
I live by the method: 3 or less orange warning labels, and it's safe as a kitten


Quote by Charlatan_001
EDIT: Sammcl pretty much got it dead on.
#32
It's so typical of this forum that the threads tend to deteriorate away into some strange non-sequitur. I'm going to try to bring it back into focus.

I know threads are NOT supposed to have links to video clips, but this gives a nice glimpse of the basslines that Jamerson was laying down in the early 70s. This wasn't even a hit but he sure put his stamp on the bottom end. Give it a listen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND-iW51idC0

If you look at the comments, the one from the rock dude is pretty inspiring.

How can anyone NOT appreciate a bassline like that? Pure class without ever sounding pretentious or overwhelming. That's a sign of a musical genius.
Jaco de Lucia.

The Zen of Duh: How low can you go? Zero Hertz. That's the lowest anyone can go. Just turn off your bass amp and not play.

Q-tuner PUs (0X0 configuration) and HG Thor Labs for the best fretless bass tone. MWAH FACTOR!!!
#33
Jamerson to me is the greatest. because he went by one and only oen rule when playign music or creating music. If you don't feel it, don't play it. so if you dont feel that a certain part doesn't belongs in a song, don't play it, chances are. you're right. yes his bass lines are not complicted, but they are however genius. TO ME hes the greatest, to others he might be just another guy.
♫♪♪♫♪♪♫♪♪♫♪♪♫♪♪♫♪♪

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#34
I think technically, skill-wise...jaco could outplay jamerson anyday..a lot of people probably could..The thing about jamerson was that he was solely improv...He played like he felt it..given a leadsheet with some basic riff or just chords...Jamerson really took to the bass (both upright and electric) very well.

Also I think that Jamerson took something that no one had really tried before and started a new era. I mean seriously if you had never in your life heard someone play the bass, how different would your style be. People studied the magnificence of his lines, then adapted it to fit their own style...then someone studied there lines and so on....

At this point I dont think Jamerson can be claimed as the greatest Bassist of all time. But it is definitely understandable to call him the father of the modern electric bass player, or at least on of the fathers