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In Lewis and Sacha Distel version of Afternoon in Paris, Distel only played section A and repeat when his solo ends at 4:41, then was the break. After the break, Lewis picked up the rest of the section B and A to complete the AABA form (4:52), then started his own soloing from A again.

The bass line from 4:52 is rather strange. I can sense the chord progression being:

Dm7 > G7 > CM7 > Am7, which is the original progress from section B. This sounds okay with the solo melody when I note them in score app, but feels different from the original music.

However, the bass line goes:

(C-E-G-C) > (G-Eb-F-A) > (Bb-C-F-G) > (Bb-Bb-D-G), which vaguely suggests C > Cm-F7 > Bb? > ?. This sounds very wrong when noted as blocked chords, and does not make much sense in context of the original chord progression.

How should I interpret the bass line and the harmony? And generally how do you tell the actual chord / root note from an active walking bass line?

Thank you very much!

1 Answer 1

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The problem is that the bass player, instead of playing the bridge, plays the first four bars of the A section before realizing the mistake and catching up on the second four bars of the bridge. That's why your transcription of the bass line matches up with the A section.

In general, it's a reasonable guess that a walking bass line will play chord tones on the strong beats — not always, but it's a good starting point. This, plus hints from the soloist and/or chording instrument will let you know what the chord is and, hence, where/what the root is.

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  • Thank you! A mistake...that never came across my mind. It didn't sound too mistake too me, just sound very novel. Is it normal that the one solo ended prematurely and to be continued by another instrument after a break? Or is this just some accident-turned-into-beauty thing?
    – dz902
    Jul 17, 2023 at 8:44
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    @dz902 - that's jazz for you - and the ability for jazz players to turn mistakes into wonders..!
    – Tim
    Jul 17, 2023 at 8:49
  • @dz902 Yes, it's not unusual for one solo to last half the form and then another solo takes up the other half. Where it occurs most often is probably when there's a singer. The soloist might take the two A sections, then the singer would return on the bridge.
    – Aaron
    Jul 17, 2023 at 15:22

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