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EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK'S INTRODUCTION
Scott LaFaro is a monumental figure in the evolution of the bass and its role in Jazz. He had a great sense of time and melody, as well as incredible facility on the instrument. Scott is probably best known for his solos and "loose" accompanying style on the Bill Evans recording Waltz For Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard, but that is only part of his story. He also had a reputation as a solid bassist who could really lay it down.
Transcribing these solos brought me deep into Scott's style, where I was fascinated by the many nuances of his playing. I have taken the time to be as specific as possible. I may have gotten a little carried away notating everything, but since I'm a "type A" person, I had no choice. You should listen to these solos as much as possible, before reading through them. This will help you get a feel for how I used what I like to call "custom notation." Beginning on page 10, I have written out a few examples of the notations I employ in this book.
Scott LaFaro's Style
Scott liked to use the full register. He would often run up the G string, preferring to finger the octave G, rather than use the harmonic. He hit the Jazz world with a new sense of of what a bass could sound like due to his innovative rhythmic and melodic ideas. Scott also had a very powerful sound. He had very strong hands, which you can hear in the way he attacked the strings with his right hand and hammered the fingerboard with his left.
Every musician, no matter how unique he or she is, has been influenced by other players at some point, and Scott LaFaro is no exception. He didn't just fall to earth; he worked hard. He had an original voice on the instrument, but as I transcribed the solos, I found what I believe to be a little Ray Brown influence. I imagine almost every bassist has come under Ray's spell at some point. As I got deeper into Scott's playing, I began to notice diminished and whole tone patterns that reminded me of things Ray talked about during a lesson I had with him. He talked in depth about using these patterns over chord changes, and had great fingerings worked out for them. It seems to me that Scott digested Ray's diminished and whole tone ideas and came up with something very unique.
If you study Scott's solo on Solar, for instance, you will notice just how much he used diminished patterns in his playing. You may also notice how many of his note choices in the solo contradict the chord changes. When you listen to this solo, you can't hear and "wrong" notes because pianist Bill Evans drops out after the third chorus and stays out until the end of the bass solo. This is similar to the Coltrane quartet; McCoy Tyner would sometimes lay out to let Coltrane and Elvin stretch out. Scott was really going for things, therefore Bill Evans would drop out at times to give him the freedom to explore.
While I was putting this book together, I was lucky to speak with numerous people who had first hand accounts of what Scott LaFaro was like. Two items struck me as words to live by:
1. He worked very hard and practiced a lot, and
2. He listened to a lot of live music and checked out other bassists of the day.
More than anything else, his love of music brought him to new heights.
Written in Standard Notation, NO TAB. 60 pages.