Bass Transcription: Jerry Jemmott on "The Weight"

Jerry Jemmott is the bass player's bass player. He was first inspired to start playing bass after hearing Paul Chambers, and later Charles Mingus (and Sam Jones, and Percy Heath, and Arvell Shaw, and Ray Brown, and Eddie Jones, and Leroy Vinegar, and Doug Watkins, and Edgar Willis, and Aaron Bell, and Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and John Ore and Wilbur Ware and many others), but quickly moved on to the electric bass and started working more doing soul and R&B. Jaco Pastorius even said "I’m just an imitator man. I’m doing a very bad imitation of Jerry Jemmott." What an amazing cat - the missing link between Paul Chambers and Jaco!

Jemmott's playing on Aretha Franklin's recording of "The Weight" is a perfect example of a line that probably influenced Jaco. More Jaco on Jerry: "He was my idol. That stuttering kind of bass line, bouncing all around the beat but keeping it right in the groove — well, they don’t call Jerry the Groovemaster for nothing.” Jemmott's line on "The Weight" is exactly that 16th-note, syncopated stutter-funk groove. 

Some of my favorite things about his playing on this recording:

  • Balance between repetition and improvisation: He plays the exact same thing over the I chord every time (until the modulation), but never repeats himself on the IV chord. Totally grounded, and yet totally loose at the same time.
  • Compositional playing: Jemmott uses range in a very clever way to build momentum throughout the song. In the first two verses, he never hits an octave on either chord. By the third verse, as the song starts to build, he starts hitting octaves on the IV chord. And after the modulation, the song really takes off as he starts adding the octave on the I chord as well. (Note that now he has a new line over the I chord, but he doesn't vary this new line, following the rule he set for himself at the beginning of the tune.)

Click the image for a PDF of the full bass line transcription. Play along, and please let me know if you spot any mistakes. Thanks!