Slap Happy From March and April 1991

PLAY BETTER NOW, PROCLAIMED THE cover of BP’s second bimonthly issue. Inside, we offered five technique-oriented features, ranging from a primer on tapping to a duet arrangement of Debussy’s “First Arabesque” for extended-range basses.
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PLAY BETTER NOW, PROCLAIMED THE cover of BP’s second bimonthly issue. Inside, we offered five technique-oriented features, ranging from a primer on tapping to a duet arrangement of Debussy’s “First Arabesque” for extended-range basses. The coolest piece, though, was Chris Jisi’s “Slap Summit,” a dual interview/ lesson featuring Milt Hinton and Darryl Jones. Hinton—“The Judge”—was still an active jazz musician at the age of 81, and he offered choice insights into the upright slap style he had learned by watching New Orleans bassist Bill Johnson in the 1920s. Chicago native Jones—“The Munch”—was already a low-end star at 29, having worked with Miles Davis, Sting, Madonna, and other notable jazz and pop musicians. The Rolling Stones would hire him two years later. (Their manager called me asking for suggestions when they were looking for someone to replace Bill Wyman. I gave him a few names, but I honestly don’t remember if Darryl’s was one of them. Good choice, in any case.)

This article epitomized the editorial stance we were trying to establish for BASS PLAYER, bringing together acoustic and electric bassists from two generations, with two distinctive styles, who were united by their deep devotion to bass playing and their mutual respect for each other.
—JIM ROBERTS

Chris Jisi Milt, do you use slapping more in accompaniment or when you’re soloing?

Milt Hinton Very little for accompaniment, unless there’s no drummer. The first thing I did was a slap-bass piece called “Pluckin’ the Bass,” written by [trumpeter] Roy Eldridge. That was in 1937 or ’38, a couple of years before Jimmy Blanton was featured with Duke Ellington. I also played a slap solo with Louis Armstrong on “Indiana” [plays both pieces].

Darryl Jones Yeah! That’s sort of like what some guys are doing on electric. [Shows Hinton some similar rhythmic moves incorporating right- and left-hand slaps. Milt joins in, and the interview is interrupted as the two break into a spontaneous blues jam in F, taking alternate solos.]

Jisi Darryl, how do you use the slapping technique?

Jones I use it more as an accompanying tool now, but I’ve used it during solos, too. For me, the song, more or less dictates when it applies. I’ve moved away from the “thumbed-E-and-A-as-the-kick-drum and plucked-D-and-G-as-the-snare-drum” approach, because too many plucks can disturb the flow. I tend to play most of the line with my thumb, à la Marcus Miller, using a few plucks to break up the rhythm and make it funkier or more swinging. By using them as accents, you can better imply a feel or even layer different feels.

Jisi Although it’s clear that the acoustic and electric slapping techniques are quite different in some respects, there are certainly a lot of similarities, too.

Hinton Yes. And I’ve found from talking and playing with Darryl that we share a mutual concept with regard to our instruments as well. Whether we’re slapping or stroking, we both agree the primary function of the bass is support. When we started jamming, Darryl immediately laid down the bass line, because he understands that the bass is the foundation, whether you’re talking about a jazz duo or a symphony orchestra. Without that foundation, you couldn’t have all the other stuff that goes on top.

Jones Well, speaking of foundations, let me say it’s been a real honor for me to meet and play with you, Milt—one of the founding fathers of modern bass playing.

Hinton It’s been an honor for me, too. Meeting a young bassist from Chicago like you completes a cycle for me. The support, respect, love, and appreciation we’ve exchanged is what being a musician is all about. So thank you. As [drummer] Jo Jones used to say, “It was nighty mice!”

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