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Some favorite acoustic bass tracks

"hands in music" by Giuliagas on Flickr

Time to highlight a few of my favorite recorded tracks by some of the greatest upright bass players of all time.

The first is by Milt Hinton, nicknamed “The Judge.” If any single person can be said to have created modern acoustic jazz bass, it’s Hinton. He’s the most-recorded jazz musician of all time.

The Judge was seventy-eight years old when he played on Branford Marsalis’ superb Trio Jeepy in 1989. Hinton’s playing is wonderful throughout (not to mention Branford’s and Jeff “Tain” Watts’), but probably at its most exciting on the ’30s standard “Three Little Words.” Who else ever played like this? Maybe Slam Stewart? The false start is great – Branford and Judge excitedly talking through the changes, followed by Branford’s crazy jump into the actual tune.

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Next up is Arvell Shaw, another influential early jazz bassist. Shaw was born in St. Louis, and after WWII became known for his long-time work with Louis Armstrong. I really like his playing on Fats Waller’s “Viper’s Drag / The Reefer Song” from the 1978 Broadway musical review Ain’t Misbehavin’. This track is essentially a bass duet with the singer – I suspect the composer or arranger wrote most of the bass part, but Shaw really draws out the languid spirit by hanging way behind the beat.

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And no bass roundup is complete without including Ray Brown, the pure embodiment of the jazz double bassist. I could include dozens of tracks here, but I just love how he takes over Harry Connick Jr.’s “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” a guest spot on Connick Jr.’s album 25. You’ve got to love Connick Jr.’s joyous shoutout to Brown toward the end, too. Beginning to end, this track is a double bass showcase.

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  • Milt Hinton on Wikipedia here
    • Branford Marsalis’ Trio Jeepy on Amazon here
  • Arvell Shaw on Wikipedia here
    • Ain’t Misbehavin’ Original Broadway Cast recording on Amazon here
  • Ray Brown on Wikipedia here
    • Harry Connick Jr.’s 25 on Amazon here

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