Jazz

Walking The Walk

30 JAN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI

One jazz adage suggests that if you don't notice the bass player, then the bass player is doing their job. But if you don't notice bassist Leroy Vinnegar, you're going to miss some of the best parts of Leroy Walks Again! (Original Jazz Classics, 1990).

Vinnegar served as a melodic timekeeper, so accurate you could set your watch to him, for Chet Baker, Shelly Manne, Stan Getz and other "West Coasters." But he also built several albums of his own -- beginning with the sextet Leroy Walks! (OJC, 1999), Leroy Walks Again! and then the quartet Walkin' The Basses (Contemporary, 1993) -- around his impeccable skill for laying down bass walks as solid as concrete.

Vinnegar's sound is so foundational to "Subway Grate" and "Motherland" that you feel his bass's strong strides through the music as much as you feel them, especially when "Subway" downshifts into a trio. "Restin' In Jail" breaks out in a much faster, forceful tempo, and he cranks up that walking bass from stroll to gallop to close down "Wheelin' And Dealin'."

Walks Again! features Vinnegar at the head (or is it bottom?) of two different quintets: One features Victor Feldman doubling on vibes and piano, the other features a fledgling Roy Ayers on vibes, and both feature the same trumpet (Freddy Hill) and sax (Teddy Edwards) soloists.

Vinnegar's considerable sideman highlights include Barney Kessel's classic Let's Cook! (OJC, 1999), Jimmy Witherspoon's The Concerts (Fantasy, 1989) and Sonny Rollins & The Contemporary Leaders (OJC, 1995).