Quote: Ray Brown on string action and sound

A student of the Brown effect since his middle teens, McBride met the maestro around 1990, when Brown came to hear him play duo with pianist Benny Green at the Knickerbocker, a raucous piano bar-and-grill on University Place in Greenwich Village. At the time, he recalls, he was focused, as I wrote, on the unamplified, raise-the-strings approach to bass expression which, as McBride puts it, “seemed to be the new religious experience for young bass players coming to New York.” Ray said, “Why are you young cats playing so hard? You don’t need your strings up that high.”Before I responded, something said, “Shut up, and listen to Ray Brown. Don’t say one word.” Benny and I saw him at the Blue Note a few nights later, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Ray seemed to be playing the bass like it was a toy. He seemed to be having fun. Playing jazz, he had that locomotion I heard in the great soul bass players, like James Jamerson and Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham. He wasn’t yanking the strings that hard, and he had the biggest, fattest, woodiest sound I’d ever heard, and I could tell that most of it was coming from the bass, not from the amp. At that point, I slowly started saying to myself, “It’s not about what they think. It’s about what’s best for the music that I’m trying to play. It’s about trying to get the best possible sound out of the instrument.”from: www.jazz.com

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2 Responses to Quote: Ray Brown on string action and sound

  1. Al T. says:

    when a legend speaks, you have to listen

  2. Ethan says:

    With today’s amplifiers, there isn’t any reason to be playing extremely, “yank-the-strings” hard. Just enough to get a big sound, let the amp take care of volume.

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