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Jazz bass is the use of the double bass, or in some genres bass guitar, to improvise accompaniment ("comping") and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. The double bass began being used in jazz in the 1890s, to supply the low-pitched walking basslines which outlined the harmony of the music. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through Bebop and Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz groups. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, some jazz fusion bandleaders began to substitute the electric bass guitar for the double bass.
Apart from the jazz styles of jazz fusion and Latin-influenced jazz and salsa, the double bass is still widely used in jazz. The sound and tone of the plucked double bass is distinct from that of the fretted bass guitar. The bass guitar produces a different sound than the double bass, because bass guitars usually have a solid wood body, which means that the sound is produced by electronic amplification of the vibration of the strings rather than from the resonance of the double bass' hollow body.
Most jazz bassists specialize in either the double bass or the electric bass; in some cases, though, performers achieve a high level of virtuosity on both instruments, such as Stanley Clarke and John Patitucci. Whether a jazz bassist is comping (accompanying) or soloing, or playing on a double bass or an electric bass, they usually aim to create a rhythmic drive and "timefeel" that creates a sense of "swing" and "groove".
March 6th, 2013
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