Let’s start by clarifying one point about what is clearly Jamareo’s Motown moment: the studio version of ‘Just The Way You Are’ you’ve heard on the radio a million times and played as a first dance at hundreds of wedding gigs is a shining example of one of the most banal, over-produced pop ballads of the last decade.
This live version, however, is barely recognisable as the same song; suddenly we’re treated to a swing 16th groove, brass section and a bass player who definitely knows what’s going on (see what I did there?).
Whatever your feelings might be regarding the musical output of Jamareo Artis’ employer, some things are clear: the man can certainly play, and he’s definitely done his homework. Analysis of his part on this live performance reveals a heavy debt to James Jamerson coupled with a more modern, gospel-tinged approach.
The main groove is anchored by a line directly ripped from (in this author’s opinion) Jamerson’s finest hour: Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘What’s Going On’. If this is a song that you’re not intimately acquainted with already, then make it a priority to get James’ bassline into your musical DNA as soon as humanly possible. The tempo and feel of this performance are more closely related to Donny Hathaway’s version, but it’s definitely essential to go back to the source if you want to be a truly well-rounded bass player. There’s another nod to Motown’s bass genius in bar 8 – the major pentatonic unison figure is an almost direct lift from The Temptations’ ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’.
Jamareo develops his original line as the song progresses, with liberal use of slurs and slides to give the part a smooth, lyrical feel. His fills also become more rhythmically and melodically active, bringing in some chromaticism in bar 35 and stretching out over the Bbm chord in bars 55 and 63.
The bridge section features a temporary modulation to Db major; this is another nod to Marvin’s ‘What’s Going On’, which also changes key in the bridge section. Bars 77-81 showcases Jamareo’s busiest playing, exposing more Jamerson influence (and even a touch of Jaco) through the use of syncopation and chromaticism.
We’re treated to some high-register melodicism in the breakdown (bar 82 onwards). Again, articulation is the key to making the part sit correctly and compliment the vocal without stealing the spotlight too much.