Daily Licking 036: Jeff Berlin's Part on Valse Nobles et Sentimentales


And now for something completely, completely different.

Classical music for the electric bass? What? Sacrilege! Blasphemy! An amplified fretted instrument? Why, it just isn't done, my good man!

Oh yea?

Electric bass players have been playing classical stuff, oh, excuse me, *ahem*, etudes for quite a while. Various solo cello parts, Bach inventions and string quartet parts have all been adapted by those with profundo ridiculoso to be playable on bass. Jaco and John Pattituci have done it, not to mention countless other really great players that no one knows up on the YouTube.

Enter Mr. Jeff Berlin. He is easily in the top 5 of those who learned their way around the monkey wrench of an instrument that is the electric bass, and Mr. Berlin is no stranger to music written by dead foreigners from Euro-pia. He busted out an arrangement of a Bach prelude on one of his previous records, and even doubled-down on the sacrilege by putting a solo section smack dab in the middle of it. AND it had an electric guitar solo too.

On his most recent album, "Higher Standards" Mr. Berlin sets his musical wayback machine to only the beginning of the 20th century this time and plays a movement from a collection of waltzes "Valses nobles et sentimentales" by Maurice Ravel. Mr. Berlin plays the role of the bass player in a duet with Richard Drexler on piano, and himself on the electrified, fretified bass guitar.

This piece is less baroque and much more lush and romantic compared to his previous Bach renditions and the movement he plays, Number IV, is both pretty and delicate yet also ominous and spooky all at the same time.

Here are some versions of it on piano, one even by Maurice Ravel himself, who was recorded using the state of the art (in 1913) new-fangled technology of the player piano.

Here are some recorded versions of it with just piano. It is not the entire suite, only Number IV that you want.

The Bass Part
The good news: This is the easiest thing to play on his latest record.

The bad news: This is the easiest thing to play on his latest record.

And it is not easy.

Here are a few places you can hear snippets of Jeff's version online:



This is one that is going to take repeated listening and lots of slow, and I do mean  s l o w   practicing to get it together.

Even though this is for bass, it has some serious finger twisters in it, fingerings that are not going to feel very familiar at all. This ain't "Mustang Sally". In some measures it changes between e flats and e naturals, b flats, and b naturals and g flat and g naturals. When you work out the fingerings for this, prepare yourself for saying "You have got to be kidding me" a lot.

Rhythmically, they do it very rubato-y in places. But just when you think they are going to break tempo, they really don't, but it is very rolling and fluid. Don't play this like a sequencer part, it has to have some lilt in it and it has to breathe in certain places.

You can also see a full score version written out if you want at the ISLMP site. There is both an orchestral version and one for just piano as well.


As far as I could tell, Mr. Berlin's part is a mixture of the left and right hand.

And if anyone finds any mystery notes, let me know. There may be a few in there, my fingers and eyes were blurring after a while. 

Good luck!

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