Bottoms Up: Another Look at Paul Chambers – “Tale of The Fingers”

Paul Chambers: Tale of the FingersThis is your friendly neighborhood bass columnist bringing you the second half of a look at Mr. Paul Chambers (or for short, “Mr. P.C.”)

I hope you got a chance to play through “Mopp Shoe Blues” from last time, and try a bit of Chambers’ solo. As I said last time, this is one of Chambers’ tunes he played pizzicato for both the melody and solo.

This time, thanks to Mr. Bart Tarenskeen who was kind enough to send me his transcription of “Tale of the Fingers”, we can now take a look at a tune that Chambers played arco, for both the head and his solo.

Lets take a look at “Tale of The Fingers” (PDF download), which is what David Baker refers to as a “Contrafact” – a tune whose melody is based on the harmony of another song. Just like “Visitation” (from Chambers’ Music) is based on “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm”, this song is based on Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band”. It’s also similar to the A section of “S’Wonderful”, another Gershwin classic. I think if you listen carefully, you can hear Horace Silver quoting a bit from both tunes in his comping.

Now, what holds this tune together? It’s a fairly busy melody we are talking about here. As one might expect, the melody outlines the harmony extremely well; I don’t know that you really need to hear the comping to get a good idea of whats going on harmonically. There are a also a number of lines which typify what we call ‘Bop’ – long phrases, surrounding notes, and lots of eighth notes. I think the most unifying element in the piece is the way Chambers consistently ends his phrases with a similar answer that is to me, very memorable, and effectively punctuates the phrases.

Look at bars 3 and 7-8 in each of the A sections. To me, the melody may change between the first sections, but the reply is the same or similar. I’d even go so far as to say the bridge is pretty similar, although with slight alterations, especially at the end of the bridge.

I’d like to mention just a few of the recordings that P.C. played on that I’d consider required listening:

Any of the many Miles Davis sessions with fellow rhythm section greats Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones, or Wynton Kelly, Art Taylor and Jimmy Cobb; recordings such as Giant Steps (John Coltrane), Blues and The Abstract Truth (Oliver Nelson) and Tenor Madness (Sonny Rollins).

Believe me when I say I’m just scratching the surface here.

Thanks again Bart. I think next time, I’ll take a look at a great bass player, Leroy Vinnegar, and his tune “Walk On”.

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