[Dixielandjazz] Re: Bass Solos

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Fri Jul 23 10:09:58 PDT 2004

     And another thing--
     95% of audiences can't distinguish a good 
solo from a bad one.  Hell, most of 'em are not 
musicians, and i suspect that they don't even 
CARE as we do about notes and technique and 
ideas.  They have NO IDEA how hard it is to play 
notes with good technique and interesting ideas, 
and hence they don't care.
     What the audience is looking for is 
Entertainment (as Brother Wiggins has been 
correctly shouting down our pie-holes for years): 
soloists SEEMING to play with emotion, which 
translates in their furry little minds to bodily 
movement, facial tics, and the like.  They don't 
know from notes (as they might say in Noo Yawk). 
So if you play your standard-Bb solo standing 
there stiff as board, with  no body movement or 
facial expressions, it might be the greatest 
extemporaneous musical utterance since Louis 
Armstrong, but odds are the audience won't know 
it.  They've grown up watching rock stars (not 
necessarily 'musicians') playing ear-destroying 
solos and contorting every available muscle-group 
into an ecstatic rictus, so they think that's how 
one should play solos.
     That's one reason it's difficult for them to 
appreciate the odd tuba-solo, even more than the 
odd string-bass solo (who at least is standing up 
and moving his arms).  The tuba-picker sits in 
the back of the bus--whoops, sorry, back of the 
band--behind the other players, and his face is 
hidden by the tuba bell.  All you might be able 
see (as if you cared) is his fingers moving. 
He's got a much better chance of being 
appreciated if he plays a sousaphone or helicon, 
because he's standing up and you can see his 
face.  Make a dancing bear out of him and you've 
got yourself an ace tuba-soloist.

Rebecca and DJML--
     Indeed, i agree, but go further: why should 
ANYONE solo?  95% of the solos i hear, even in 
so-called professional bands, are just noodling, 
have nothing of musical interest, repeat stale 
musical motifs, have no originality, and are not 
even very good technically on the instrument.  So 
why do people feel forced to take solos when they 
have nothing good or original to say? Most solos 
don't even remind one much of the original tune, 
unless the player is good enough to use parts of 
the original melody in his solo.  Talk about ego 
and solos?  Bass/tuba players have (and have to 
have) less ego than the front-line players.
     "Just hoping it would get better, man", as 
the sax-soloist said in response to the question 
of why his solo lasted for 20 minutes.
     Now, 5% of the soloists consistently have 
something good, or original, or technically 
impressive, or just different to say, most of the 
time.  So why should the audience have to listen 
to 16 bars of the original tune, followed 
automatically in every tune by 32 bars of solos 
by the clarinet player, the trumpet player, the 
trombone player, the piano player, and the banjo 
player, with a final 16-bar reminder of the 
original song at the end?  Very boring. Bands 
play different songs because they like the songs 
and the songs are different from each other (one 
hopes), so why not play more by the whole 
ensemble?  That's when actual 
'dixieland'--improvised polyphonic 
counterpoint--occurs.  There's no dixieland in 
solos, which have no counterpoint.  There may be 
jazz (not bloody likely, usually), but no 
     With regard to bass/tuba-players (not "with 
respect to", since they don't get any), 99% of 
them can't take a good solo (including me, which 
is why i don't). However, the 1% that usually do 
play good solos are better at it than 95% of the 
solos by the other instrumentalists, so i'd 
rather hear a solo anytime by Dave Gannett than 
one by the trumpet player in band X.  Bass/tuba 
players are not necessarily worse or 
less-talented musicians than any other 
instrumentalists, but they're treated that way in 
bands, and are written for that way by composers 
and arrangers.
     That should be enough for a while.  End of rant.

>From: "Thompson" <rebecca.e.thompson at verizon.net>
>To: "'dixie'" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
>Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 07:44:55 -0500
>Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Bass Solos
>Which leads me to ask the question.  Why are bass players given a solo?  Is
>it just for their ego?  Or just a way to give the other players a rest?
>Seems no one really appreciates them...
>I LOVE the bass line when played with other players.  BUT solo?  Very
>Rebecca Thompson
>Flower Mound, TX

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**              "Do not try to be a genius in every bar."             **
**         -- Advice to students by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)         **

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**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**              "Do not try to be a genius in every bar."             **
**         -- Advice to students by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)         **

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