Since publishing the Low Down Vol. 1 & 2, my interest in studying and teaching the art of walking bass has grown with fervor. I believe thorough examination of walking bass can teach one more about the fingerboard geography and harmonic function than many areas of musical study. Learning walking bass includes transcribing, improvising, composing, learning melodies, and developing a beautiful sound; all skills that contribute to building the whole musician. It also instills a sense of musical empathy, reinforcing "How can I say the most while playing the least?" Through study of walking bass, students soon begin to demonstrate two necessary components to being a musician: awareness of how harmony functions through the instrument, and how they relate to other musicians in a group setting.
One question I've often asked of my own musicianship is: "How can I create the most informed bass lines with the most basic harmonic information?" What does informed mean exactly? Simply put, being able to play with total harmonic awareness and understanding the implications of every note choice to avoid interfering with the melody, comping instruments, or soloist. I'd like to imply in one note what a pianist does in five—with the same intent and understanding. It's easier to influence the shape and direction of music when you have control over the most fundamental choices first. Topics in Jazz Bass: Harmony is born out of the desire to develop total harmonic control.
The idea of harmonic simplification came together after years of reflecting on my performance experiences and lessons with mentors, learning piano, and composing bass lines. Though I am not currently aware of pedagogy in the bass world addressing similar ideas, Barry Harris and his teachings were an influence on much of my conception of harmony. Please watch his videos online if you have not already—they are timeless.
This book assumes the reader is familiar with the bass and has fundamental walking skills. Be sure to spend plenty of time exploring each concept. Though initial core concepts will be reinforced in each chapter, they need time to dink in and form a big picture. As a part of your practice, it is imperative that you compose bass lines to better understand these concepts, and learn the melody to as many tunes as you can—these tasks will solidify your walking vocabulary and guide your note choices.
No one book or source has the answer. Books are a tool. There are many great tools available to guide your learning; treat them all as supplements to one another. And while these concepts will deepen your understanding of walking bass, there is simply no substitute for listening and transcribing jazz greats. Many questions can be answered by spending time absorbing the lineage of recorded jazz history. As you practice and play, find ways to infuse the concepts from this book into the more traditional bass vocabulary. For any instrumentalist, a wide palette of harmonic color and vocabulary will have the greatest impact.
Please know that it is a privilege to join you on your musical journey--thank you for trusting me to lead you further.