In 1991, after the success of his two world music albums Graceland and Rhythm of The Saints, Paul Simon staged his second famous concert in Central Park NYC, 10 years on from the famous Simon and Garfunkel concert of the same name. This 1991 gig featured a host of musicians from South America and Africa, many of whom had contributed to the brilliant cultural mix of sounds on the aforementioned LPs.
On August 15th 1991, over 750,000 crammed into central park to witness an epic show – amongst the throng was my own sister Mo (now also a bass player!). I have it on good authority from Mo that it was an amazing show, and i’ve watched the video of the gig plenty of times. The band that day reads like a who’s who on their respective instruments at that time and featured greats like; Steve Gadd on drums, Michael Brecker on sax, Richard Tee on keys, Cyro Baptista on percussion, Ray Phiri on guitar amongst many others of equally high standing.
The bass player on that day was Cameroon born bass legend Armand Sabal-Lecco. It’s well worth checking out the CD of the gig where you can here Armand grooving his ass off, playing the sweetest fills and also interesting to see how he plays Bakithi’s bass parts with his own spin and where he stays the same and where he puts his own stamp on the gig. If you can find the video, even better. The dance Ray Phiri pulls off near the end is legendary!
My favourite track from the show was ‘Proof’ a driving 12/8 tune with some classic west-african played rhythms running right through it.
Although there’s no bass on the intro I included it because it was a good challenge for me trying to figure out how the pulse worked and where all the guitar stabs fitted in with that pulse. Heard on its own, the syncopations and off beat notes threw me off the scent for a while until I sat down, tried learning all the notes, fitting them over 12/8 and then went……..”aaa”. It’s prob easier to hear, looking at the music and playing along with the slow versions on my video. When you do get it, be wary, you may start shaking your ass like a violently funky mofo!
Also, watch the bass pick up at the end of the intro. It’s on the 2nd beat of an 8th note triplet. The hit on the drums half way through the guitar intro also has a low G (3rd fret E string). Once you’ve nailed this part over the pulse, maybe have a go at landing on the hit and Steven Gadd’s lone kick drum.
It’s hard to come in on the right place of this intro as there’s no count on the record. I did it on the video by pretty much guessing – which you might be able to tell. ;-)
The chords for the A section are G for 4 beats, then C for 2 beats and D for 2 beats. The bass only plays the Root on beat 1 and then bounces between the higher and lower 5th on the other beats. This happens quite a bit in African pop – I saw Makomborero Fungisai with the Zimbabwe Gospel Choir recently and the bassist was doing this a lot with her too. On the C the bass outlines the chord with a R, 3rd then low root pattern and then moves this up for the D. The fills at the end of each phrase follow the sweet syncopation of the main guitar line. Getting them to groove, especially any that fall on the 2nd or 3rd triplet is the challenge.