The legendary bass player Gary Willis is in my opinion one of the most unique bass players out there. He has his own unique approach to the bass guitar, not only in the way he plays but also his sound. He is one of the few bass players that is instantly recognizable when you hear him play.
I was actually lucky enough to study with Gary in Barcelona, and as you can imagine during that time I was ‘Willis mad’… transcribing and absorbing everything I could get from him! Throughout all the transcribing and research I carried out, I quickly learned that Gary used the pentatonic scale extensively when soloing. In fact the pentatonic scale has a huge part to play in his instantly recognizable sound. Once I had made that discovery I spent several months weaving the pentatonic scale into my vocabulary so I would be able to access the same type of harmonic material he was using. At first I was using it on static grooves where a one chord vamp would last for an extended period of time, and then later on I was applying it to the jazz standard repertoire where I had to start dealing with multiple key centers and therefore multiple pentatonic scales throughout each piece.
In this tutorial I demonstrate a great lick that is based around the pentatonic scale and is very ‘Willis’ when played up to speed. It’s simply a three note pattern moved throughout the scale. Take it slowly to start with, then start to crank up the speed maybe 10bpm at a time until you reach a speed you’re happy with and can play it comfortably.
Check out ‘Gary Willis Style Pentatonic Bass Lick’ on YouTube