Bakithi Kumalo’s propulsive part on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ is one of the most popular transcriptions in the archive. I did the original transcription some years ago, and as I was recording the play along video I noticed a few areas that could be improved upon to help convey some of the nuances that are vitally important to making the groove sit correctly.
The improved transcription can be found here:
UPDATED GRACELAND TRANSCRIPTION
One of the main changes concerns the ghost notes that feature through out the verse sections – I feel that they work best using the open E string throughout, using horizontal position shifting when the harmony changes. The staccato markings (indicated by a dot above the note head) are achieved by left hand muting – again, this is a small detail that helps to give Bakithi’s line its signature ‘bounce’. The play along video shows how I’m using my fretting hand to regulate the note lengths throughout the track:
And yes, I’m aware that I really should have played a fretless on this. Regular readers might have already seen this post on my fretless history and my reasons for not owning one…
Last year I got a call to play some bass on some tracks for Records On Ribs artist Talk Less Say More. The plan was to make a record with a decidedly 80s feel, which meant that I got to stretch out and take some risks doing things that I don’t usually do as part of my ‘day job’. I seem to remember the conversation going something like this:
“It’d be great to have some fretless bass. Do you have a fretless bass?”
“Oh ok… Do you play fretless at all?”
“Sorry, I’ve never played fretless…”
“Ok no problem, we’ll hire you a fretless. It’ll be fine.”
In almost 15 years of playing this was the first time I’d had someone ask for fretless. So, the night before the session I take delivery of an unlined Fender P/J and do my best to get my fingers (and ears) around it.
On the day I tried to channel the spirit of Pino Palladino/Jaco/Bakithi Kumalo and other fretless players that I’d grown up listening to. Here’s how some of it turned out:
So, did the experience persuade me to take the plunge and go fretless? In a word, no.
In spite of the fact that I really enjoyed the session I don’t feel that fretless fits with my ‘voice’ as a bassist – although I’m heavily influenced by fretless players I’m sure if I made the switch then I’d end up sounding even more like a sub-par Jaco or Pino clone.