Larry Grenadier – “Number 19”

Well, this seems like a good time to finally get started on this, so here is the first of what will hopefully be a long series of transcriptions and discussions. First up – Larry Grenadier’s bass solo on “Number 19” from a live concert with the Brad Mehldau Trio. (“Number 19” starts at the 8:22 mark. The song was later released as the title track on Brad’s 2012 album Ode.)

Transcribing and learning this solo was a game-changer for me as a bass player in many ways. Technically, it is a great exercise for working on the middle register of the bass, especially navigating the break. The overall construction of the solo is a masterclass, particularly with Larry’s phrasing and use of space; his use of open strings to connect some lines while punctuating others; and the way he builds his ideas from chorus to chorus. This tune is a very long form (64 bars) with some unusual harmonies, and between the two choruses he takes you can see that he approaches many sections of the form in similar melodic and rhythmic ways, but with clever variations throughout that make it a truly incredible artistic statement from start to finish. If you watch the full video clip, the “yea man” Brad gives to Larry at the end of the bass solo says it all.

Larry is probably my favorite bassist around today, largely because his mastery of the instrument isn’t tied up in flashy runs or showy licks; his technique instead comes out in the clarity of his lines and the perfect construction of his ideas. Studying this solo really opened up my approach to improvisation.

(A side note on the chord changes: I took them from someone else’s transcription of Brad’s solo from the same live concert and made a couple of changes, they seem to mostly fit what’s going on but I can’t guarantee they are fully accurate.)

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