Both Questlove and D’Angelo cite J Dilla (born James Yancey) to be a visionary
and an eye opener. He single-handedly invented the sloppy, slugging
behind-the-beat feel that is now considered a staple typical for Neo-soul,
Fusion and Hip Hop acts. Rumours say it happened by accident, when the samples
were not aligned “correctly” to the beat grid but shifted ever so slightly. In a
video, Questlove explains how he had to unlearn the rhythmic tightness and
precision he acquired over the years in order to achieve the musical ideas of
D’Angelo based on J Dilla’s beats.
Unfortunately, J Dilla died early in 2006 on a rare condition. Instead of giving
in, he produced his final solo album The Diary lying in a hospital bed. Off of
that album, Gangsta Boogie is a prime example for the aforementioned style,
which this transcription cannot capture at all:
So in order to get the feel right, listen, listen and listen again. And don’t
get lost in Snoop Dogg’s verses.
Yes, the bassline was very likely a synth which I tried to emulate with the
Digitech Bass Synth Wah. It’s close but unfortunately not the real deal.
Avishai Cohen alongside Christian McBride is my favorite contemporary upright
bassist. Unlike McBride, he has found a very particular sound and approach to
music, mixing modern Jazz with middle eastern influences and playful rhythms. In
the past, he was mainly known for having been the bass player for the Chick
Corea band but since then made a huge impact with his own group and trio work.
Calm is a song from Cohen’s Continuo album featuring Sam Barsh playing keys
(coincidently, he also appears on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu) and Mark
Guiliana on drums. Compared to most other tracks, Calm has a relatively
simple bassline and is driven mostly by arpeggios played by the piano. Grab the
transcription and follow along:
José James, and this particular track, is one of those gems found in my weekly
Spotify discovery list. Thanks Spotify! Anyway, José James is a Jazz singer but
turned to a more RnB and Neo-Soul style with his Blue Note debut record No
Beginning No End which contains this week’s track Trouble. To get an idea
about the entire record and James’ past, I highly recommend you to check out the
review Pursuing Many Paths to Find His Own in the New York Times.
I have no verification, but the bass on this track might come from the venerable
Pino Palladino. In the vein of D’Angelo and J Dilla, it features a relaxing laid
back rhythm during the main riff played by drums and bass and propels forward
during verse and chorus incorporating nice eighth note anticipations. Unlike
most RnB and Soul which tends to be harmonically simple, Trouble features an
interesting almost Jazz-like chord progression over four different parts. Here
is the main riff from the entire transcription:
Based on this transcription, I made an out-of-focus rendition with a badass Bruce
P.S.: I forgot to mention last time but all the YouTube videos are served
without tracking them you!
As announced previously, this is the first post that will be a major shift of
content here on this blog. Music is and has been a big part of my life but, as
you can see, never really reflected here. To change this, I will start a series
of posts containing transcriptions of basslines I deem worth to learn, be it for
historical or musical reasons.
This time, I want to start with my favorite’s musical discovery this: Anderson
.Paak (born Brandon Paak Anderson) and his second
album called Malibu. Even though it draws a lot from all those classic funky
and electronic rhythms, his vocals are a refreshing change from typical RnB
singers you can hear on the radio. Even though he’s on the scene for a while, he
became most famous for collaborating with Dr. Dre on Compton.
Compared to the rest of the songs, Celebrate is a bit of a different beast on
“Malibu”. Whereas most songs feature the laid back drum and bass grooves that –
with the help of drummer Questlove and bassist Pino Palladino – made
D’Angelo neo-soul style famous, Celebrate sounds
like a reminiscence to soul and R&B songs from the 60s with a hint of Gospel.
There is – together with drums and piano – a strong emphasis on the one of the
beat and occasional eighth note syncopations. Even though these could be the
ingredients for a funky beat, it is actually way more relaxed due to the slow
tempo and the way the bass plays slightly behind the beat. So my tip to getting
this one right: listen to the record!