The bass guitar has a history that dates back to the early 1900s, when it was first used in jazz music. It is one of the most important instruments on any bandstand, and there are many reasons why. In this blog post, we will go over all of these reasons and more! We’ll help you understand what makes the bass guitar such an integral instrument in jazz music- from its origins to how it functions in a live performance setting!
##The pioneers of bass guitar in jazz music
In the early 1900s, the bass guitar was used in jazz music. Originally an upright stringed instrument that could be played with fingers or a pick, it came to be associated with different genres of popular and traditional folk music by 1910. The earliest recordings of this genre were not until 1918.
Around this time, bass players began using the electric upright bass. This really helped with the bass’s importance in jazz music as it became a very important part of any ensemble.
##Jazz in the 1920s
There was a huge boom in jazz music during the 1920s. This is when bass guitarists first began to take center stage and be recognized for their talent as solo performers, not just accompanists. Some of these early pioneers include Eddie Durham, Joe Benjamin, Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford and Jimmy Blanton. All pioneered the approach to bass and jazz music at this time.
A lot of the early bass guitarists were classically trained in rhythm and harmony, which made them perfect for their new role as solo performers. The first recordings of a bass player featured on a record was by Eddie Durham that took place in 1927 with King Oliver’s band. This is just one example of many that show that bass players were the true pioneers of jazz music.
##Jazz in the 1930s
The 1930s is often regarded as the heyday of traditional jazz and some would say that this was due to the Great Depression.
Families were struggling financially at home, but could spend a dime on an evening out listening to live music. Musicians also had stable work in dance bands or night clubs, so they continued playing their instruments.
For bass players in the 1930s , their role was primarily to support the rhythm section and provide a rhythmic backbone for jazz music.
At this time bass players were expected to be skilled in both classical and popular styles of playing, while also being able to read music well.
##Jazz bass players in the 1940s
The 1940s saw the emergence of bebop jazz. Bebop is characterized by fast tempos, complex melodies, and improvisation. Bass players were not expected to read music or stand out in any way– their role was to provide a simple bass line that would stay on one note for an entire song if needed.
Rather than having solos or improvisation, the bass player’s main job was to provide a steady pulse for the rest of the band.
The 1940s also saw jazz musicians moving from big bands to smaller combos with only four or five members in total. This meant that there were fewer instruments on stage at any given time
##Jazz bass in the 1950s
The jazz scene really changed in the mid 1950s with the advent of rock and roll. As a result, many musicians had to adapt – but bass players specifically because they were most impacted by the change to playing in a smaller, more compact space.
The bass guitar’s role suddenly became much more important. It could now be heard clearly in the mix, and bass players were called on to be able to play both rhythmically and melodically. The advent of slap-bass technique also made it possible for a single player to provide all that was needed by way of accompaniment.
##Jazz bass players in the 1960s
The 1960s saw the rise of jazz rock fusion, a new genre that combined elements from both jazz and rock. The bass guitar was increasingly used as part of an ensemble playing chordal accompaniment (generally in traditional jazz tunes), or played solos. It is no coincidence that some of the most iconic 20th century players are featured on records from this era. This includes jazz bass players such as James Jamerson, who is often credited as the first person to develop the so-called “slap” bass technique.
An example of this can be heard on The Chambers Brothers’ 1969 album Time Has Come Today in the song Turn On Your Love Light, when James Jamerson’s playing has a ‘bluesy feel’ reminiscent of artists such as Ray Brown or Milt Hinton.
##Jazz bass in the 1970s
In the 1970s, jazz bass players such as Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius took a more active approach to playing pizzicato techniques (i.e., plucking the strings) than had been traditionally accepted for their instrument in jazz music: this gave rise to what is now called “
In the 1970s Jazz music started to open up and become more diverse. Bass players could finally explore a number of different sounds, which led to some interesting innovations. Some great examples of this are Jaco Pastorius, James Jamerson and Stanley Clarke.
In the 70s, as interest in acoustic jazz waned, fusion, the plugged-in love-child of jazz and rock, held sway. It ushered in a new age dominated by two virtuosic electric bassists with contrasting styles and characters: Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius, who were both also noteworthy composers.
##Jazz bass players in the 1980s
In the 1980s Jazz music started to change again and morphed into a new genre called “New Age” or “acid jazz”, this incorporated a lot of electronic sounds, hip hop beats and drum loops.
By the 1980s Jazz music had simultaneously started to swing back in the other direction to a more traditional sound.
Certain bassists did not want this and started exploring different sounds, styles. This was especially true for players such as Marcus Miller, who played electric bass with the Jazz group Miles Davis from 1980 to 1981.
##Jazz bass players in the 90s
The 1990s saw a lot of experimentation with the bass guitar, most notably in Jazz. The sound was now very different to what it had been before and even many people who weren’t into Jazz liked this new style.
Once the 1990s rolled around a new generation of bass players were born . This generation, or “Boom” brought a new level of creativity to Jazz music and really pushed the frontiers by introducing new techniques and instruments
This included the exploration of more than one bass guitar at a time, sometimes with two or three.
##Jazz bass players in the 21st Century
Here are some of the most influential bass players from the 21st century and what they’ve done to push music forward:
– Victor Wooten, who is a virtuoso with his left hand. He has developed many new techniques on fretless guitar that he uses.
Other top jazz bassists of the 21st century include :
– Christian McBride, who is one of the most prolific and recorded bassists. He has developed many new techniques on his instrument as well
– Ron Carter, who was a major influence in Miles Davis’ group for years. His style was influenced by the funk from James Brown’s rhythm section.
In the early 2000s jazz players started exploring the bass guitar’s deeper range too, and started playing notes below the low “A” or first string on their instrument. This had the effect of adding more weight and depth to the tunes.
Though most bass players today play an electric bass, the double bass is still a common instrument. The first jazz recordings to feature it were made in 1935.
One of the main differences between then and now between these two types of bass is the size. The electric bass can be carried, set up and taken down relatively easily so it’s great for the travelling musician.
What we can learn from the history of jazz bass players is that they are essential for creating a deep a full sound, but they are also often overlooked or underappreciated.
Modern jazz today is flourishing and is one of the most popular genres in music.
The bass guitar continues to be an integral part of jazz music, even with its humble