From the early 1960s, in great part due to LaFaro's influence, bassists went beyond the instrument's traditional basic function in jazz of supplying swing and harmonic guidance. In many cases for better, in others for worse, virtuosity to the point of acrobatics became a part of standard bass operating procedure.
A consistently satisfying bassist from the pre-gymnastics era of the instrument, still at work, is Bill Crow. A trumpeter, then a drummer, then a valve trombonist, Crow became a bassist in 1950. A very few of the leaders he has worked with are Stan Getz, Claude Thornhill, Terry Gibbs, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn, Lee Konitz, Marian McPartland and Eddie Condon. I'm showing you a picture of Bill because in the clip that follows, you will get only a glimpse of him behind the front line of the Gerry Mulligan Sextet.
This was Rome in 1956, the same year the picture was taken. The other players are Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombone; Zoot Sims, tenor saxophone; Jon Eardley, trumpet; and Dave Bailey drums. The piece is Mulligan's Walkin' Shoes." The absence of a piano means that the bass is crucial to the harmonic life of the tune. The listener can let it be his guide without a redundancy of chords from a piano. You may notice that the members of the big band in the background are paying rapt attention. No wonder.