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Rick Suchow: Music

Jaco's 'Donna Lee' featuring Bird & Miles

(click title for details)

Let me explain what this track is. For many bassists (like myself), our first time hearing Jaco was the opening track of his debut album playing Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" with only percussionist Don Alias accompanying on congas. Many agree that this track, and the album itself, was a turning point in our development as players, and forever changed the concept of what electric bass could be in the musical landscape.

I haven't attempted to create a 'remix' or simulate an actual performance. My purpose is simply to provide bassists who've been listening to Jaco's "Donna Lee" bass solo for years, but perhaps were not that familiar with the Parker tune itself, an opportunity to hear the solo with some 'harmonic reference', so to speak. You can also hear how Miles and Bird constructed their solos over the same changes for comparison.

You'll first hear Jaco playing the head with the Charlie Parker quintet, which featured Miles Davis on trumpet, then soloing over the rhythm section of Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Ben Riley (courtesy of Jamey Aebersold). Jaco is followed by Miles' solo over 16 bars, then back to the 2nd half of the head, and finally Charlie Parker soloing out.

The technical difficulties in doing this track were abundant. For starters, I had to sync up three different groups playing Donna Lee at slightly different tempos, although fortunately they all agreed on the original key. Add to that various time conflicts, in particular Jaco and Don rushing the end of his solo, and the Aebersold trio's occasional drifts. Furthermore, although all versions swing, Jaco and Don have a slightly different feel than the trio. The result of all these subtle time variations is that the congas tend to have an 'out of sync' feel with the rhythm section at times.

In any event, although it isn't perfect, you can at least hear Jaco's "Donna Lee" bass solo in a new way, and hear the chord changes that Jaco "heard in his head" when he actually played the solo in the studio.

Regarding the solo, consider this quote from Marcus Miller, as posted on the official website:

"I'll never forget when, just for kicks, I decided to walk the changes to "Donna Lee" on my bass while Jaco's version was playing. This was probably a year into listening to Jaco's album and I had finally learned "Donna Lee" at school. I was still assuming that, once Jaco stated Charlie Parker's melody, he pretty much was playing any ol' thing that he wanted and that it had nothing to do with the changes. Well I'm walking the changes under Jaco's melody and continue the changes under Jaco's 'crazy solo' and of course realize that it's not crazy at all! I realize that he's playing the changes -- and not just playing them. He was creating harmonies and lines that were so amazing it was sick! My appreciation of him grew so much that afternoon."
So here's your chance to discover what Marcus did, without having to play it yourself! Hope you enjoy it.

Don Alias, congas
Kenny Barron, piano
Ron Carter, bass
Miles Davis, trumpet
Charlie Parker, alto sax
Tommy Potter, bass
Bud Powell, piano
Ben Riley, drums
Max Roach, drums