Gary Willis has to be one of the most virtuosic, original and unique sounding bass players of the last twenty years. From his early work with Wayne Shorter, the groundbreaking fusion band Tribal tech through to his more recent projects like Triphastic, his bass playing is never less than breathtaking. I was lucky enough to study with him in Barcelona for just over the duration of a year, an experience I will never forget!
Among all the lessons I took with Gary there was one that particularly stood out. In fact it was from this very lesson that all my further lessons with him seemed to be directly connected to. It was almost the foundation of my study with him.
This specific lesson covered the superimposition of major pentatonic scales on top of minor chords and other more complex chord sequences from the jazz standard repertoire. Not only was this eye opening for me, but it also gave me a great insight into why Gary Willis sounds so unique and is instantly recognizable in his soloistic approach.
The superimposition of major pentatonic scales within a soloing/improvisational environment is a large contributing factor to the ‘Gary Willis’ sound. If this is something you want to be able to access and use in your own improvisations I suggest starting with static minor chord vamps to begin with, and then later on when you feel confident doing that move onto more complex chord progressions.
See you in the shed ;)
Check out ‘The Gary Willis Approach – Bass Lesson #1′ on YouTube