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The Bass
The following month he recorded two bass-piano duos with Ellington: Blues and Plucked Again: During the next year he was a central participant in arrangements played by the full band, notably Jack the Bear, and was heard in four more duo perform­ances: Bitter Tanther Batter, Sophisticated Lady, Body and Soul and Mr. J. B. Blues, in which he was heard in both arco (bowed) and pizzicato solos.
It is as hard to set in perspective the contribution of Blanton as to remind oneself that as recently as 1939 society was without penicillin; the precedent he set seemed so logical, so necessary and so natural that within a few years the exception had become the rule. Blanton had simply shown that the bass was a melody instrument, that flowing harmonic patterns and melodic lines could be improvised on the four strings just as on a trumpet or saxophone and that with the genius born of painstaking practice it could be opened up to sixteenths and even to thirty-second notes.
Almost two decades later, Blanton s contributions, heard sub­jectively, seem less extraordinary than they were in their era; faulty intonation becomes apparent, especially in the arco pass­ages, and the listener recalls dozens of skilled bassists who today are able to coax from the once-recalcitrant strings passages that seemed technically out of reach in the pre-Blanton days. Among these dozens one can only arbitrarily name a few who have struck this observer as singularly well equipped. They are Paul Cham­bers, the amazing youngster from Detroit, heard in recent years with Miles Davis; George Duvivier, whose tone is clear and clean, and who has supported Bud Powell in the best of the latter's recordings; Nelson Boyd, Ray Brown, Percy Heath, and Al JVfcKibbon, all alumni of the Dizzy Gillespie band; Milton Hinton (Calloway 1936-51), one of the first after Blanton to develop the instrument's full solo use; Charles Mingus, active also as a composer and catalyst of atonal jazz; the brothers Red and Whitey Mitchell; Oscar Pettiford, who in the years after Blanton s death seemed to be his first logical successor; Tommy Potter, heard often with Charlie Parker in the late 1940s; and Eddie Safranski, who as Stan Kenton's bassist (1945-8) enjoyed several years of poll-winning popularity.