74. Major and Slam

Posted on 09/11/2017

74. Major and Slam

Two string bass players of the same era: 1930’s to 1960’s developer an unusual but similar approach. They both played conventional string bass most of the time, but also did bowed (‘arco’) bass solos with humming and singing thrown in, to produce a unique noise. Not heard before or, so far as I know, since. It was a fad.

Here they both are together:

The first of the two tracks here shows the pianist Wiggins playing very nicely with bass and drum accompaniment. Teh second track is completely off the wall as Holley sings, hums and bows his bass in a completely unconventional way. Teh bowed bass is called ‘arco’ but the humming and singing are entirely his own.

This is rather long, but includes a wonderfully comic section of playing and singing from Holley. Its his quintet and he dominates proceedings. His singing of ‘motorcycle’ (sickle in this case) at about 10 minutes is a wonderful little gem. He was absolutely full of fun. And he was 66: the year he died. So he went out arcing.

Here is Slam Stewart, similarly late in life, doing ‘Flat Foot Floozy with the Floy Floy’ with similar arco bass and singing, but a different style entirely from Holley’s. Holley was a grander musician, teaching at top jazz colleges, but seeing him at work does not suggest high flown musical theory so much as knockabout. SLam died in 1987, three years before Holley but he was older: 73. So he was 71 for this performance: pretty good going!

Here is a much younger and livelier Slam Stewart doing ‘oh me oh my oh gosh’ in his youth. As you will notice, his bow is on the point of putting out the eye of the beautiful girl who is sitting by his side!

And here is Slam with his more familiar partner Slim Gaillard in what turns into a great band occasion with lots of fantastic dancing: the jitterbug dance  of Wartime. Not much arco bass in this one, but what the hell!

And a contemporary tribute to Holley by someone re-creating, very ably, Holley’s solo in ‘Joshual fit the battle of Jericho’.


Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. For a very arcane arco.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!