Several friends have asked me to play some Salsa tunes on YouTube. Since that's a style that I also enjoy a lot, I've decided to record my version of this cool bassline. "Escarcha" ("Frost") was released in 1987 on the "Héctor Lavoe Strikes Back" album. I was convinced that the bass player on this album was the great Salvador "Sal" Cuevas, but according to All Music Guide, Oskar Cartaya was the one in charge of bass duties. Also a terrific player.
It's not common to use a fretless bass guitar to record Salsa tunes. Actually, I don't know of a Salsa hit that features a fretless BG. But I've always liked the idea and that's why I decided to use my fretless Bongo for this recording. Of course, I'm not trying to mimic the tone on the original recording (which seems to be a Jazz Bass) but simply sharing my sonic idea of a bass guitar in a Salsa context. I don't play my fretted basses so close to the fingerboard, but I like to do it on the fretless, looking to emphasize the "mwah" factor. Roundwounds also help a lot, but I feel sort of paranoid about puting roundwounds on an uncoated fretless fingerboard. Anyway, I also like the darker tone of flats for this type of music. For sections in which I wanted more punch, I moved my plucking hand closer to the bridge.
Most slurred notes on this bassline are played with hammer-ons for sure, but I used slides instead, also trying to get the most of the distinctive qualities of the fretless bass. Playing an non-tempered (fretless) instrument over a tempered (fretted) one makes slight pitch differences even more noticeable, specially on the high register. I tried to do my best to sound the less out-of-tune possible. There's also a little rushing here and there (well, rushing is the reason why the song ends at a much faster tempo than the one at the beginning. But the recording doesn't follow me, so my mistakes are the most evident :=( ). The angle in which the camera captured the performance makes the fingerboard positions look farther from the headstock than one normally thinks they are (from the player's point of view).
Hope you find this new effort enjoyable and helpful. I know there are lots of bassists interested in learning to play Salsa and, although I still have lots of things to learn and this performance is far from "perfect", I think it may shed some lights. Anyway, remember that in most cases, playing Latin music isn't about technical difficulties or dazzling technique but playing with authority. Have fun! :=)