Transcription: Colin Hodgkinson’s Catcote Rag
This month’s transcription ties in nicely with the recent feature on underrated bassist Colin Hodgkinson. Colin is a superb bass player, and very unique. During the late sixties and early seventies, he played some truly astonishing bass parts with his trio Back Door, and was even said to have been a big influence on Stanley Clarke when Back Door opened for Return to Forever at Ronnie Scotts back in the early seventies.
Regardless, Colin possesses some truly astonishing bass chops, and is certainly worthy of further investigation. In addition to this month’s piece (which can be heard in the video below), you should also check out Colin’s performances of “San Francisco Bay Blues” and “Snab’s Rag”.
“Catcote Rag” is a solo bass composition that was recorded for Back Door’s self-titled debut album back in 1972. The track finds the criminally underrated bassist using open string tenths, double stop chords, and blues lines to perform a captivating solo piece, one which is surely one of the earliest solo electric bass compositions.
Colin opens the piece with an F#, played at the eleventh fret of the G-string. He immediately harmonizes this with an open D (implying a D major chord in the process), then plays two further notes against this D, a B and an A. These notes, and the open string tenth in the following bar reiterate the D major sound. In bar three Colin outlines an A5 chord in the first half of the bar and another D chord – this time in second inversion – in the second half. In the fourth bar, another phrase based around the A chord is played to complete the first half of the main melody section. The next four bars are performed in a similar manner. It is recommended that you play this section using the chordal fingerstyle technique, using your thumb for notes on the A-string, and your first and second fingers for notes on the D and G-strings respectively. At the end of the eighth bar Coin plays the first of several bends, on this occasion from a C to a C#. As these notes ring against an open A-string, it’s important that you arrive accurately at the C# as this creates an A major chord with the open string. Be careful not to bend the note too high. Further string bends can be found in bars 13 and 14. The bends in bar 13 are quarter tone bends, so take care to only bend them upwards very slightly. The bend in bar 14 should move accurately from an Eb to an E and back again – try playing this using fretted notes initially in order to understand exactly how it should sound. The Eb is the blue note in the phrase here, which is based on the A blues scale.
The second theme, beginning at letter B can be tough to play accurately, particularly the pull-off phrase in the first bar. I recommend barring across the E and A at the fourteenth fret with the first finger of the fretting hand, then using the fourth finger to play the descending G-F# as a slide, then pulling off onto the E. If you able, you can use the fourth finger on the G and the third on the F# before pulling off onto the E, but this is uncomfortable for some people.
The remainder of this piece is performed using the techniques described here. This is a deceptive piece of music: it initially seems quite straightforward, but as you begin learning it, you’ll likely find that it’s considerably more challenging than you might have thought!
Stuart Clayton writes for and runs Bassline Publishing, a small company who specialize in bass guitar tuition and transcription books. Check out basslinepublishing.com for more.