Isolated Jamerson

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!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

Ain’t That Peculiar

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

Bernadette (Not the original version; compare the bridge section)

I Can’t Help Myself    

I Can’t Get Next To You

I Heard It through the Grapevine

Reach Out I’ll Be There

Standing in the Shadows of Love

What’s Going On

You’re My Everything

7 Responses to “Isolated Jamerson”
  1. Breen says:

    I’ve transcribed some of Jamerson’s recordings for personal use over the years, and have gone through exactly the same issues. Rick’s backing tracks are an amazing resource in trying to figure out what is going on.

    I love your transcriptions; keep up the great work!

    • hookmaster says:

      Thanks Breen!

      I really appreciate the kind words and encouragement. I have no idea how Rick got a hold of those tracks, but I am so thankful that he released them to the general public. It is an amazing resource. Thanks again for the comment. — DG

  2. eddie harsch says:

    i was in the middle of transcribing save the children when i subscribed to your site
    funk moves in mysterious ways – thanks for saving me a lot of trouble
    a trick ive used to hear the bass better is listening to my system from the basement in my house
    only the muffled sound of the bass vibrates through the floor
    not very clear on the notes themselves but good for timing and establishing whether its the bass or kik drum
    listening from the bathroom with the water running is good too
    the water masks the higher frequencies
    ill try anything to get closer to the heart of this man
    btw – if you have a line on some my cherie amour b-side transcriptions i would appreciate a heads up – stuff like – at last – somebody knows – etc
    some for once in my life b-sides too
    – e

    • hookmaster says:

      Thanks Eddie!

      Uptight, For Once in My Life, and My Cherie Amour are classic albums. I believe Jamerson plays on every track. If you haven’t already, you should check out Eivets Rednow (Stevie Wonder spelled backwards). This is a great instrumental album with the Funks all over it.

      I’ve transcribed the entire FOIML album and have been meaning to do MCA. Maybe next week I’ll put up “You Met Your Match”. Until then, here is a recording I made of that tune using the sponge mute from my article (Bass Mute 101).

      Thanks for the tips. Keep transcribing and diggin’ in! — DG

      • eddie harsch says:

        thanks for the reply
        the you tube clip shows youve done youre studying – very nice – smooth
        thanks again for the you met your match script

  3. Doug kauffman says:

    RIP Eddie Harcsh. I’m assuming this is the same gentleman that played B3 in The Black Crowes and bass in The Detroit Cobras. If I’m mistaken then my apologies. I got to hang with him a couple times and didn’t realize he was quite so deep into the alluring Jamerson groove. Great musician and a kind man. Doug Kauffman

    • hookmaster says:

      Doug, I don’t know if this is the same person. Hadn’t put that together. If so, I had no idea he was so into James. So sad to lose such great musicians.

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