Nate Marsh: The Influence of Jazz on R&B Electric Bassists of the 1960s and 1970s
Nate Marsh graduated from Berklee in 2012 and just finished his Masters of Music at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He’s just published his thesis, “The Influence of Jazz on R&B Electric Bassists of the 1960s and 1970s”, which is publicly available. The primary focus of the thesis is the work of James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder, and Nathan Watts.
Here’s the abstract:
“Many popular R&B recordings of the 1960s and 1970s prominently feature electric bass lines. The electric bass, first commercially available in 1951, has a compact physical design that allowed its early adopters to employ syncopation, chromaticism, and other idioms associated with jazz double bass performance in novel combinations and at rapid speeds. This unique, jazz-inflected R&B electric bass style was originally made popular by James Jamerson in the early 1960s and then developed further by bassists such as Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder, and Nathan Watts. This thesis draws upon literature, interviews, and transcriptions to highlight the significant influence of jazz double bass techniques on these four seminal R&B electric bassists.”
The thesis is an interesting read, covering the “salient features of jazz bass playing that were carried into the new R&B electric bass style of the 1960s and 1970s”, “the unique collision of musical genres and circumstances that led to Detroit session musicians synthesizing jazz with other popular genres to create the ‘Motown Sound’”, and “the influence of jazz on the personal backgrounds and performance styles” of the bassists covered, and more.
It is free to download at the the University of Colorado’s website.