My Favorite Bass Line

A couple years ago, I was watching an animated movie with the kids. And during this movie, there was a montage sequence that had the happiest, catchiest background music. I waited through the credits to find out what it was, and learned it was “Do Your Thing” by Basement Jaxx. Here’s a link to the very cute music video:

The thing that sticks out about that song is the bass line:

You may recall from earlier posts that there is a scale called the “blues scale” which is derived from the pentatonic scale, or the black keys. Well, the scale the bass is playing here is not that, but it’s related.

It starts on G and goes up to B. That’s a major third. The first step in a blues scale would be a minor third, to B♭. Minor is sad, major is happy. So this is the opposite of the blues, in a way. But from there, it uses the next three notes of the G blues scale: C C♯ D. That’s 4, a raised fourth (which, you may recall is what makes the blues scale different than the pentatonic), and 5.

The rest of the sequence is EADG, or 6251. That’s just kind of a nice way to work your way back down, so you can start the sequence over. So this is the repeating sequence: G B C C♯ D E A D

It turns out this sequence is common in a certain style of jazz. Let’s call it “Island Jazz.” I’ve found three examples, although there are probably hundreds.

Let’s start with the Ahmad Jamal’s Back to the Island:

This is the solo section in the middle of the song. And if you listen to the bass line, you’ll hear it is the same.

How about Mama Lela. It’s a song by Herman Riley. Although this clip is from Henry Franklin:

You’ll notice the transition back down is slightly different. But it’s basically the same bass line.

And one more. Kitch’s Bebop of Calypso played by Etienne Charles:

This is a cover of Bebop Calypso by Lord Kitchener from the early 1950’s. You can hear the progression there, too, but it isn’t quite as clear:

So what’s the point? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t one. But I think there is something a little magical about this progression. It is hip, because of the raised fourth, but it isn’t blue, because of the major third. In the three jazz clips, it sounds like it comes from Calypso, but in the Basement Jaxx clip, it doesn’t sound like Calypso at all. I heard this progression in another song that I can’t find  (believe me, I’ve searched). It was a big band tune, and it had something to do with toast or coffee or eggs or something. If you keep an ear out, I suspect you’ll start to pick up on it.

Maybe it can be your favorite bass line, too. That’s a thing, right? I think that should be a thing.


5 thoughts on “My Favorite Bass Line

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