Bass Walk of the Week: Ray Brown on Oscar Peterson's "Work Song"

When 20-year-old Ray Brown first moved to New York City in 1945, he immediately got a job with bebop luminary Dizzy Gillespie. From that auspicious debut, Brown would become one of the best bassists of the bop and post-bop eras. His enthusiastic bass runs of thick, well-defined notes were captured on more than 2,000 recordings before his death in 2002.

Along the way, Brown would marry, divorce, and continue to work with Ella Fitzgerald, become a mainstay in the Milt Jackson Quartet, and develop a musical partnership with Oscar Peterson. It's this work with Peterson and Jackson that we've highlighted in our latest installment of Bass Walk of the Week.

The ascending bassline Brown played on "Work Song" from the Oscar Peterson Trio with Milt Jackson album Very Tall has a strong sense of direction but no rush to arrive, as Jake Hawrylak demonstrates in the video above.

The part begins on a low Bb, and, after a steady climb, begins to go one step down for every three steps forward, falling back incrementally as it nonetheless moves up the neck in a harmonic minor scale. Like Jake says, the use of that scale adds colors that others just wouldn't match. As with so many of Brown's recordings, the bassist's sensitivity and enthusiasm combine into an swinging, affecting line.

Be sure to learn his tune in the video above. And for other great basslines from the history of jazz, check out our previous Walks of the Week with Paul Chambers on Miles Davis' "So What" and Christian McBride on Benny Green's "McThing."

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