Standing In The Shadows of Motown deserves its place in the library of every bass player. Subtitled ‘The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson’ this unique book is both a biography of James Jamerson and also a collection of transcriptions of his work at Motown, ranging from the simple to the downright impossible!
The book is split into 3 parts.
Part 1 deals with Jamerson’s life, and gives an insight into his personality and the whole recording scene at Motown. Part 1 is peppered with anecdotes and stories from the people who knew Jamerson best – The Funk Brothers (the group of session musicians who cut most of the great Motown hits) – and these stories really make Jamerson come alive.
My personal fave is the story of Jamerson being dragged into the Snakepit (Motown’s studio A) in the early hours of the morning drunk and playing one of the tunes that ended up on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going ON album lying down on the floor!
Part 2 – although brief – deals with Jamerson’s sound. There’s a few pages talking about his instruments – the legendary ‘Funk Machine – and his amps and how he recorded at Motown. And then there’s a 4 page appreciation of Jamerson’s style by Anthony Jackson – which includes a detailed look at some of Jamerson’s stylistic devices in the context of 3 songs (Uptight, I’d Be A Fool Right Now, and How Long Has This Evening Train Been Gone).
Part 3 features the transcriptions. Some of them are full, some are partials. Two CDs accompany the book and the transcriptions are played on the CD by some serious bad ass bassists (eg Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Rocco Prestia, Geddy Lee Pino Palladino, Anthony Jackson himself, Phil Chen, etc etc) with the mixes panned so that you can isolate the bass or remove it completely and use the track as your own backing track!
As I stated above some of the transcriptions are very easy – This Old Heart of Mine, Get Ready, Baby Love, Nowhere to Run etc – and some are fiendishly difficult – Bernadette, Home Cookin,’ For Once in My life – and there’s loads in between.
Whatever style of music you play, this is a must have book for all bassists. Jamerson influenced a generation of bass players in all genres – eg Jack Bruce, Billy Sheehan, McCartney, Geddy Lee, Rocco Prestia, Jaco, Marcus Miller, etc etc – and there’s plenty of mileage you can get from this book.
The book is spiral bound so it sits nicely on your music stand! The only caveat for non readers is that I don’t think there’s any tab – my copy is so old that it came with tapes instead of CDs! and I don’t think tab has been added to the latest reprint – but you can use that as your motivation to learn to read music in the next few months.