What’s Standing In The Shadows of Motown About?
Standing In The Shadows of Motown is a book about legendary Motown bass player James Jamerson. The book is part biography (part 1), part analysis of his style (Part 2) and a collection of 50 or so transcriptions of Jamerson’s bass parts (Part 3).
How Is It Presented?
Standing In The Shadows was originally published in my preferred format with spiral binding. my original copy is nearly 20 years old and is still in great condition, despite heavy use. However I bought a copy for a friend and was dismayed to find that Hal Leonard have reverted to a solid binding.
Each of the transcriptions in part 3 of the book has been recorded by a ‘name’ player, along with a backing track. The recording has defined stereo separation so you can pan to one side and hear just the bass, or pan to the other side and play along with the now bass less backing. Contributors include Pino Palladino, Anthony Jackson, Will Lee, Paul McCartney, Gerald Veasley, Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, John Patitucci, David Hungate, Rocco Prestia and a whole lot more.
How could This Book be Better
There are a few ways this book – which is already outstanding – could be made slightly better.
Firstly the transcriptions are presented in a random order. It would make more sense in my opinion to order the transcriptions either chronologically – so the development of Jamerson’s style becomes clearer to the reader/bass player – or the transcriptions could be presented in order of difficulty from easy to hard.
When I wrote my book Deliberate Practice I used this book as an example in the practical section, and I’ve done the work of ordering the transcriptions in a notional easy to hard order, so if you’re interested you could check it out.
A second way the book could be better would be by updating it and including some examples of Jamerson’s isolated bass parts from the original masters. There are several performances like this on the Deluxe CD that accompanies the film of the same name – and the author was heavily involved in that, so permission shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s an extremely informative exercise following along with transcriptions when we can hear Jamerson’s bass line front and centre.
A third way the book could be better would be the completion of some of the transcriptions. for example there is a fragment of Cloud 9 – but from a personal point of view I’d like to see the complete transcription
A fourth way the book could be better – and this is purely subjective – is the inclusion of some transcriptions of more tunes Personal favourites that I’d like to see included in an ideal world include Different World by The four Tops, At Last by Stevie Wonder, Fever In The Funkhouse credited to Jamerson himself, Love’s gone Bad by Chris Clark, Living in Shame and Love Child by The Supremes. and a bunch of others.
Standing In The Shadows of Motown is a great book. you could spend years studying it and devising exercises to incorporate elements of what Jamerson did into your own playing. for bass players serious about getting better – irrespective of their current ability level – Standing In the Shadows is a must. my spiral bound version gets a 5 star review. The hard bound version is still great – but once you get into studying with this book it will fall apart. my recommendation is that you carefully remove the binding and take it to a Printers and get them to spiral bind it.
One Caveat: this is one of the few bass books out there with no tab. so you need to learn to read music to use it.