Why do some songs become standards while others don’t? “Cantaloupe Island” resides on the “go to” set list of many jazz-funk-pop bands, and the song, with its iconic bass line, is a main menu item at jazz camps around the world. “Cantaloupe” provides a nice harmonic playground—not too complicated, but with just enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested. Master players and beginners alike can play the song and get their mojo on. For definitive proof, listen to the original track [Herbie Hancock, Empyrean Isles, 1964, Blue Note], watch Brian Bromberg play it (see weblinks), and check out the countless student bands jamming through “Cantaloupe Island” on YouTube.
Last month, we learned the basic “Cantaloupe Island” bass line pattern, along with some fills. Now let’s look at a solo étude, “Yes, We Can-taloupe!,” that’s chock full of arpeggios and patterns over the harmonic structure. The beauty of the harmony lies in the distinct sounds of three chords: four bars of Fm7, four bars of Db7, four bars of Dm7, followed by a recap of four bars of Fm7. The entire form is 16 bars long. Although we can use almost any notes for improvisation, certain arpeggios and scales clearly outline the sounds of the Fm7, Db7, and Dm7 chords when used in a solo line:
Fm7 Arpeggio: F, Ab, C, Eb
F Dorian scale: F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
Db7 Arpeggio: Db, F, Ab, Cb (Cb is the enharmonic equivalent of B)
Db Mixolydian scale: Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db
D, F, A, C D Dorian scale: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D
“Yes, We Can-taloupe!” is a two-chorus solo, based on the original harmony of “Cantaloupe Island.” Note the following:
Bars 1–2 This is the classic bass pattern on “Cantaloupe Island,” played here in the upper register. Starting a solo in the upper register signals that you’re taking the lead, and not just continuing in bass line territory.
Bars 3–4 The line in bar 3 begins on the 9th of Fm7 (the note G) and lands on the 3rd (Ab) in bar 4.
Bar 5 Another quote of the bass line.
Bars 7–8 The ascending line in bar 7 uses a G natural, which implies a Db7(#11). The note G sounds better in this instance than the note Gb, which is found in the Db Mixolydian scale. This underscores the point that there is often more than one scale choice for a chord. If you want to impress your keyboard player, tell him that you’re using the Db Lydian-dominant scale to get that hip sound of the #11.
Arpeggio: Db, F, Ab, Cb, Eb, G Db Lydian-dominant scale: Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db
Bar 9 The high E on the last eighth-note of the bar is the 9th of the Dm7 chord. It’s understood in the jazz world that even when the chord symbol says Dm7, we can still add the upper extensions: E (9th), G (11th) and B (13th or 6th).
Bars 11–12 The line moves down a Dm11 arpeggio starting on the high G. Think of this as a C triad on the top of the Dm chord.
Bars 13–16 On the repeat of the Fm7 in the last four bars of the form, the line again starts on a high G (the 9th of Fm7), then moves down the Fm7 arpeggio.
Bars 17–18 The second chorus begins with a solid rhythmic figure on the low F, then moves up the Fm9 arpeggio to the 9th (the note G).
Bars 21–22 The line on the Db7 mirrors bars 17–18, transposed here to fit the new chord. This is a great way to outline changes—play something over a chord, then play the same melodic shape, transposed to fit the harmony of the chord that follows.
Bar 24 The last two beats of bar 24 set up a 16thnote rhythm that will continue in the next measure. The main groove of “Cantaloupe Island” is straight eighth-notes, so by playing 16ths, you imply a double-time rhythm.
Bars 25–28 The double-time top line is anchored by a low, open D string—the root of the Dm7 chord. You have to play the top line entirely on the G string to let the low D ring.
Bars 29–30 This is the original bass line pattern. It’s sometimes good to bring down the energy in the last few bars to signal the end of a solo. Playing the bass line again indicates that you’re wrapping things up.
Bars 31–32 The line hangs around the 9th of the chord (the note G), and ends with a fat minor-10th double-stop (the notes Ab and F, played together).
Check out John’s new video lesson series, The Upright Bass Handbook.