Even though I am exclusively an electric bass player, I don’t really listen to electric bassists all that much. There is of course a huge list of electric bassists who I love and are a deep part of my playing, it’s just not all that often that I hear a electric noise downstairs that makes me get out of bed to go investigate to see if someone has broken into the house.
I do listen to tons of music, both new and old. Nowadays the things that draw my ear are more often ‘the other’: a song form, drums, piano, the harmony, mysterious sonics of one kind or another, a great mix. If I think about bass it’s more likely to be how electric bass playing (my electric bass playing specifically) might work within whatever music I am hearing. I practice. I work with my sound. I scheme to get what’s in my head to come out of the speaker cabinet. I am just busy with my own thing and by now I suppose the die is cast in that department.
However, I do zero in quite often on the acoustic bass. A sizable majority of the music I listen to has upright bass as it’s anchor. This has always been a bit of a personal paradox as I am an electric player who loves to play improvised music. So why not play upright? I have always felt that you kind of have to choose one or the other, acoustic or electric- or it chooses you. The sheer amount of time that it takes to really develop your own voice kind of makes this choice a necessity. And there are few bassists if any that I can think of whose playing on both instruments I care about equally.
It seems that Ron Carter feels this same way about doubling to some degree:
He only briefly dabbled on electric in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, approaching it in a way that I absolutely love (including improvising using harmonics with Joe Henderson on Power To The People as early as 1969- Jaco fans step back!) While everyone knows what a master musician he is and the stunning breadth of his work on acoustic bass, I have only recently come to really love his brief turn around the room with the red-headed stepchild of jazz music. Earthy and elegant, just like his upright playing.
With Joe Henderson:
With Gary Bartz: