Author Topic: Phil's Playing Style...  (Read 1471 times)

hieronymous

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2017, 02:12:38 PM »
I have never quite engaged in an analysis of Phil's playing style - I have heard a few people who have been able to incorporate some of the Phil Zone into their playing (Edwin, Wolf & Stephen come to mind) - to me he tends not to play what a "normal bassist" would play. In fact, I had a couple of lessons with Kai Eckhardt and he said he thinks that Phil does everything that he teaches his students not to do! I think that's an over-exaggeration but there's something to it as well - I saw Phil play at Terrapin Crossroads a while back and they played "Proud Mary" - during one of the turnarounds he seemed to be noodling around, not hitting the strong notes with the rest of the band - I remember being kind of disappointed - but at the end he did hit them, and they seemed to have more weight that way.

elwoodblue

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2017, 03:42:30 PM »
.. but at the end he did hit them, and they seemed to have more weight that way.


And if FOH is paying attention to Phil's ins and outs...we get those wonderful Phil Bombs,
like a huge velvet sledgehammer  ;)

mavnet

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2017, 05:20:04 PM »
I've always thought Phil's playing was perfect for the bands he played with. When I've seen him sit in other people's stuff, there's that Proud Mary noodley turnaround stuff that you pointed out. He wouldn't be my first call studio player or cover band player :)  But he's mind blowing on the stuff with the Dead and his own bands, and i've learned so much about how to play from listening to and, probably more, feeling what and when he's playing and not playing.


lbpesq

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2017, 07:21:48 PM »
To me, it seems Phil approaches the bass almost as a lead, or co-lead, instrument.  Bobby also often departs from classic rhythm guitar to almost playing lead, or co-lead, with chord voicings and rhythmic strumming, (Bobby has a helluva right hand).  Add that to Jerry, the keys, and drums and you get several co-lead instruments conversing back and forth in a Dixieland jazz fashion.  As a "Bobby" player, it is especially fun for me when I play with bassists like Wolf, Edwin, and Stephen who approach the bass' place in the band similarly to Phil.  Of course that formula thrives in a jam band setting, but doesn't work for a classic rock band and many other genres.   Judging Phil on studio bassist standards is the proverbial apples and oranges.
Just my $.02

Bill, tgo


cozmik_cowboy

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2017, 08:14:03 PM »
No, Harry, Phil doesn't do what a normal bassist does - because he's not one.
He started on classical violin as a child, moved to the jazz trumpet as a teen, and studied modern composition in college; he picked up bass after he became the Dead's bass player, and developed his style not by studying bass or listening to bassists, but by playing bass (from the aforementioned training) while tripping his brains out. 

Peter
"Don't take life so serious; it ain't no ways permanent"

Pogo

5a quilt top

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2017, 09:51:01 AM »
The Dead allowed Phil the freedom to be himself and the result defined their sound.


If you listen closely to the various stylistic periods they explored - blues, R&B and dance (mid-60's) to psychedelia (late 60's) to country and traditional (early 70's) to fusion ('73 - '76)  to what could be called pop and more structured compositions - at least for them - (late 70's - on), the bass and it's interaction with the percussion, IMO, was the defining instrumental force.


The rest of the group reacted and adapted to that foundation and welcomed the boundaries that were pushed and then collectively redefined.


If Phil would have been playing with musicians who were expecting him to play traditionally, or who were not open to adapting to his stylistic and theoretical "challenges", the result would have been much less successful.


His intentional unpredictability generates the energy that is required to inspire a group of open-minded musicians to creatively perform improvisational music.


"Keep It Weird" - INDEED!

hankster

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2017, 10:49:05 AM »
A good exercise - get together with some musical friends and play "Friend of the Devil". Then immediately play the Dead's version on your stereo, loud. Compare your bass line to Phil's. Weep, and repeat until you understand Phil's style. Good luck. Thanks

cozmik_cowboy

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2017, 12:41:29 PM »
A good exercise - get together with some musical friends and play "Friend of the Devil". Then immediately play the Dead's version on your stereo, loud. Compare your bass line to Phil's. Weep, and repeat until you understand Phil's style. Good luck. Thanks

This is why we need a "Like" button.

Peter
"Don't take life so serious; it ain't no ways permanent"

Pogo

hieronymous

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2017, 02:13:18 PM »
I found this a while ago but never managed to wade through the whole thing - the author engages in some cryptic academic-speak but if you look beyond that he makes some good points (though I still haven't read the entire thing all the way through) that mirrors some of what has been said here. Here's an excerpt:

Lesh’s playing, in a general sense, relies on long, non-repeating phrases composed of series of brief melodic figures which swing around the main harmonic downbeats, forming obtuse counter melodies to the implied central melody. At times the bass melody gives the impression that it knows in advance the harmonic changes to come and is playing through them irreverently while offering comment on the guitarists’ more conventional interpretations of the same progression. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir observed that Lesh “can hear you thinking and make sure he’s not supplying what you’re expecting” (Jackson 260), while Garcia noted that “the required stuff is about one percent of what he plays” (261). Seldom does Lesh articulate a chord change with a root-note punch on time, or support a specific guitar riff rhythmically. Most significantly, Lesh’s unpredictable phrasing pushes all the band members to “dance around” their expected parts, creating a kind of generative absence at the center of the band’s arrangements.

http://www.popular-musicology-online.com/issues/04/wood-01.html

David Houck

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2017, 03:04:43 PM »
... generative absence at the center ...

So, does he mean that at the center there is an absence of a generative principal, or does he mean that the absence itself is the generative principal?

      :)

(I think the absence itself is the generative principal)

elwoodblue

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #25 on: December 22, 2017, 05:29:41 PM »
Like voltage maybe?
(where there is a noticeable absence of electrons)



Kris
(who likes analogies)

pauldo

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2017, 05:43:11 PM »
... forming obtuse counter melodies to the implied central melody.  ...


Speaking of phrases and such - that one ^^^ is just fun to say.  I need to find away to slip that into a casual conversation.  :-D
1984 Distillate Zebrawood

David Houck

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2017, 06:29:55 PM »
Like voltage maybe?
(where there is a noticeable absence of electrons)

Ah; it's all about energy, and the connections made therein.

elwoodblue

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2017, 07:16:37 PM »
Ah; it's all about energy, and the connections made therein.


if I may add too that;

...and really nice with graceful instruments at hand  ;D
« Last Edit: December 22, 2017, 07:18:42 PM by elwoodblue »

rv_bass

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #29 on: December 23, 2017, 09:08:54 AM »
I get the impression that at times he takes more of a symphonic approach, with bass parts sort of like those of a bass section in an orchestra with counter melodies weaving through the piece that still provide foundational support.  I think songs like The Other One, Weather Report Suite, Terrapin Station, Playin’ in the Band, Here Comes Sunshine, Unbroken Chain, Dark Star, New Potato Caboose, and Crazy Fingers are a few examples of this, at least that’s my impression. In addition, part of what I enjoy about his playing is his ability to mix various styles (e.g., rock, jazz, blues, country/bluegrass, classical), and the substitution of the unknown or unexpected for the expected, which keeps it fun and interesting.