A fellow on Talkbass was bashing Jazz. This was my response.
Jazz is a rich and subtle art. At it’s best it is an interplay of time melody and harmony with relation to a standard form that creates on the spot composition that is different each and every time it is performed. It is best enjoyed at the moment of performance in the room where it happens. Many listen and have no understanding. It requires quite a bit of energy to listen at the level where the musicians are trying to communicate. It has taken me decades of listening to Jazz to begin to appreciate the complexity of what I’m hearing.
If you wish more understanding continue to listen and study. If not you can return to it later in life and perhaps see things you can’t at the moment. There are several fellows that work with me ages 16, 20, 26, 50. We are all musicians and all hear Jazz differently. Admittedly the youngest of those have no patience with it and the oldest of us at times stop working for moments when caught up with the sublime.
Take it or leave it as you choose. To diss it as ego driven selfishness is to miss all the good stuff. While I’m sure you will find ego driven stuff in there, you will also find the depth of the human soul in all its power, frailty, ugliness and beauty, revealed moment by moment as the players work around each other in reference to this often silent structure swimming underneath.
The bass player’s role in Jazz is exactly what he makes it. No more, no less. If you are a metronome and that’s it, I’d get bored too. I suggest a bass player listen and practice enough that they can transcend their role and speak clearly with their instrument in a conversation of equal weight with their playing partners. The subtle dance is to understand the form, understand the role and then dance around both with whatever feeling is in you at the moment. It is in those moments you will be truly connected to the muse.
I am working a lifetime to achieve this and will never do it as well as I’d like. When I look back in the mirror from whence I came I can see the growth and it’s reflection in my life around me.
Thats how it is for me.