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120 THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
the early 1930s most of the leading bass players were required to double on tuba.
The bass strings are tuned upwards in fourths (E, A, D» G), starting an octave and a sixth below middle C; in rhythm section work these strings are usually "walked"; that is, played continuously, four notes to the bar. The pizzicato (plucked) use of the bass strings in the rhythm section "came up with the boys from San Francisco," according to Eubie Blake; other sources credit it, in what is doubtless an apocryphal story, to an incident that occurred around 1911 when Bill Johnson, playing with his Original Creole Band, one .night forgot to bring his bow and was constrained to spend the evening plucking the strings. Many jazzmen feel that the use of the string bass in this manner antedates the turn of the century. At all events, it was commonplace by the time recording began; several of the original records by Negro jazz orchestras use string basses. The earliest exponents included Ed Garland, with Kid Ory; Bob Escudero, with Fletcher Henderson; George "Pops" Foster, the New Orleans pioneer who played at one time or another with every legendary leader from Bunk Johnson to Louis Armstrong; and WeHman Brand (Ellington, 1926-35).
During the 1930s the number of well known bassists swelled in proportion to their use in jazz groups of all kinds, but although many were skilled craftsmen (Walter Page with Basie, John Earby with Henderson, Bob Haggart with Bob Crosby were among the best known), none attempted to fill any but a subsidiary function, and none seemed ready to acknowledge that the bass was not limited to endless strings of quarter notes or, occasionally on slower tempi, dotted eighths and sixteenths.
There is a curious parallel between the history of the guitar and the bass in jazz. Each underwent a sudden and radical change at the hands of one musician who revolutionized the concept of the instrument's capabilities. In both cases the year was 1939; hi both the innovators were young men destined to die within three years, victims of tuberculosis. What Charlie Christian did for jazz guitar, and for modern jazz itself, Jimmy Bknton did for the hitherto almost unexploited bass violin.
Blanton joined the Duke Ellington orchestra in October 1939.