mast top Japanese

Jet Harris - "Nivram"

As featured on The Shadows by The Shadows
Columbia, 1961

Chaka Khan - What Cha' Gonna Do For Me

Ask any British muso of a certain age why they got into music, and chances are they'll get all misty-eyed and whisper "The Shadows" in a reverential tone.

I wasn't even a twinkle in my yet-to-meet parents' eyes when the pioneering UK band first rose to popularity in the late '50s, but I can still reel off a long list of their 69 charted hits, and probably sing many of them in their entirety!

Holding down the bass chair in the original incarnation of the band was one Terence "Jet" Harris, who passed away in March, 2011. A relative unknown beyond his native shores, Jet was nevertheless a genuine pioneer who championed the electric bass in the UK when it was still considered a novelty instrument (a fact recognized by Fender, when the company presented him in 1998 with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Jet also was likely the first electric bassist to record a bass solo in a pop setting, preceding John Entwistle's legendary outing on "My Generation" by a good four years.

The track is straightforward enough, though with a few interesting twists. Based in G major, it makes extensive use of the minor IV chord (C minor), borrowed from the parallel minor key of G minor. Jet was a consummate walker, and it's clear that he came from a jazz background. For examples, check out the classic falling triplet lines in bars 18 and 20, or the long descending turnaround line first heard in bars 14-15. His use of flat-5 substitutions in bars 46-47 are a dead giveaway, too.

The solo (at letter G) is a great lesson in how to spell out the harmony while still making a statement. And while, technically, it may not be up there with Jaco's "Donna Lee" or similar iconic tracks, it's important to remember that it was recorded in 1961, and also was the first time that anyone (in the UK anyway) had ever heard an electric bass solo!

Jet's influence on a generation of young British bassists can't be overestimated, and it's likely that many young low-enders from the '60s and '70s went through more than a few record player styluses while copping his lines.

If you don't have a copy of this classic track lying around, you can check out a low-res YouTube version here.

Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2011