Tag Archives: jazz bass lick

Jimmy Johnson Bass Lick – Bass Practice Diary 148

Learn a Jimmy Johnson Bass Lick with Bass TAB – Bass Practice Diary – 2nd March 2021

I’m always surprised that Jimmy Johnson isn’t talked about more among the bass community. Some great bass players achieve legendary status, like Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller, while others aren’t heralded in the same way. I would argue that Jimmy Johnson belongs in the very top echelon of bass players, and most of the professionals that I know who are familiar with his work agree with me.

I’ve only been lucky enough to witness him play live once, about 10 years ago with Allan Holdsworth and Gary Husband. I’ve been to a lot of gigs in my life both before and after that night and I’ve seen most of the bassists that I consider to be the greatest in the business. But even so, that night sticks in my memory for being a particularly extraordinary night of musicianship from all three members of the band.

For me, what makes Jimmy Johnson so extraordinary is his execution. He seems to place every note perfectly even when playing highly complex music, such as the compositions of Allan Holdsworth. He never seems to make a mistake or misplace a note even when playing and improvising through lightening fast compositions with irregular meters and complex harmony.

Sadly, Allan Holdsworth is no longer with us, but Jimmy Johnson is, and I would recommend that every bass player try to see him play live at least once.

The Lick

Having talked a bit about highly complex music, I’ve actually picked a lick from a fairly simple composition, Rio Funk by Lee Ritenour. It’s a tune that is most famous in the bass community for Marcus Miller’s iconic bass line on the original version. Jimmy Johnson’s approach to playing and soloing on the tune is completely different to Marcus Miller. It’s interesting to listen to the two versions side by side, both contain a bass solo.

The lick that I’ve transcribed comes 2 minutes and 34 seconds into the YouTube video linked here. It’s an almost entirely diatonic line that he plays over Gm7 and C7. But what I like, is the way he effortlessly navigates virtually the entire fretboard from 24th fret down to 3rd fret. It’s a lesson in knowing the harmony over the entire fretboard and executing the techniques involved in moving through the positions while improvising.

Jimmy Johnson Bass Lick on Rio Funk
Jimmy Johnson Bass Lick on Rio Funk

I’ve TAB’d this for 5-string bass because Jimmy Johnson is playing a 5-string bass. However, I mentioned in the video that you don’t need a 5-string to play this. You do need 24 frets if you want to play the notes in the same positions that he plays them. It is possible to play the line on a 4-string bass with 22 frets by moving one note. You need to move the D on the 24th fret of the 2nd string to the 19th fret of the first string. However, the reason I transcribed the line from a video is because I wanted to see where he was placing the notes and how he made the shifts. So, the version that I’ve written is accurate in terms of where he plays the notes on the fretboard.

Jeff Andrews Jazz Bass Lick – Bass Practice Diary 48

Learn a Jazz Bass Lick by Jeff Andrews – Bass Practice Diary – 19th March 2019

I heard the news a couple of days ago that Jeff Andrews had passed away. He really deserves to be remembered as one of the great jazz electric bass players. I know him best from his work with Mike Stern. He played on albums such as Time in Place and Between the Lines which have been among my favourites for a long time. As well as his work with Mike Stern, he’s also played with jazz and fusion greats like Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, Vital Information and Steps Ahead.

After hearing the news, I immediately started listening to some of those albums again. And I also found a really cool compilation of his solos on Youtube. It really struck me what a great musician and improviser Jeff Andrews is. And predictably I started trying to work out what he was playing. What I found was a goldmine of incredible jazz lines improvised on electric bass.

Using Inside and Outside Lines

What struck me about his style was his brilliant use of inside and outside lines. It’s a commonly used technique of many jazz improvisers. Incorporating lines that are both inside the harmony and outside the harmony as a way of creating tension and resolution. Jeff Andrews is an absolute master of this. He improvises lines at high speed that outline the harmony, but then take you way outside the harmony before bringing you back in for the resolution.

Jazz Blues Bass Lick

The lines he creates are so cool, and I could have picked any one of his lines as a demonstration. But I choose this one which is from a Mike Stern tune called Bait Tone Blues.

Jeff Andrews Jazz Bass Lick
Jeff Andrews Jazz Bass Lick

This line takes place over the last four bars of blues in F. And it starts by clearly outlining a ii – v in the key of F. But then follows a sequence which starts on a B natural and ends with a sort of chromatic run featuring the notes A, Bb, Ab, E and G. That’s an uncomfortable sounding sequence of notes when you play it over a standard blues turnaround in the key of F. But then having played that outside sequence, he immediately brings it back inside the harmony by outlining a C major triad at the end. With the C7 functioning as the V chord in the last bar of the blues.

It’s really hard to analyse some of these outside lines other than to say that when you play the lick through, it just sounds really cool. And it shows that Jeff Andrews had incredible musical instincts as an improviser. He had the ability to throw in outside passages and make them sound like they fit with the inside harmony. He will be missed.

Jaco Pastorius Jazz Lick – Bass Practice Diary 42

Jaco Pastorius Jazz Lick – Bass Practice Diary – 5th February 2019

This week I’m featuring a lick from Jaco Pastorius’ solo on (Used to be a) Cha Cha from his debut album. It’s one of my favourite Jaco solo’s because it contains incredible melodic jazz lines like the one I’ve featured in the video. Here’s the lick!

Jaco Pastorius Jazz Lick

Several things stand out to me about this lick. It’s very fast, it takes place over moving harmony, Eb major to D minor and it includes an odd meter bar. I don’t know for sure that he improvised the line, but I believe that he did. And to improvise a line at that speed over moving harmony and an odd meter bar is extraordinary. That solo is one of many moments from that album that really underline why Jaco was such a genius and why his legacy has been so long lasting on the bass guitar.