Transcribing Jamerson can be a difficult task. Even though the bass is often mixed as upfront as the vocal lines, there is almost always that moment where you would give anything to hear Jamerson’s line a little clearer. You ask yourself questions like, “Was that an open A or an Ab or the bass drum or Jamerson playing a dead string?”. Out of desperation you try little tricks, like tweaking the EQ, teeter-tottering the panning, or using Alan Slutsky’s trick of speeding up the record (works well on upright recordings, see. p. 16 of SITSOM). Although these tricks can help, sometimes you are left with a note or passage that has you scratching your head wondering, what’s going on?
Universal released a deluxe version of the Standing in the Shadows of Motown soundtrack that featured several instrumental re-cuts with brief moments of a capella Jamerson. These tracks helped answer some issues. The monster outro riff, for example from the Diana Ross version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is much more idiomatic after hearing the instrumental version.
Another answer to prayer came a few years ago when Rick Suchow made several Motown backing tracks available through his website. Motown classics like “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, “Standing in the Shadows of Love”, and “What’s Going On” stripped down to just the solo bass track was like unearthing the Holy Grail for many of us Jamerson enthusiasts.
Though many of you have probably discovered these recordings already, for those of you who have not, I have provided a list of links below. To access the recordings on Rick Suchow’s website you will need to contact Rick for the username and password. Enjoy!