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BassPlayer 2017-02

BassPlayer 2017-02

CS 100 GREATEST BASS

CS 100 GREATEST BASS PLAYERS 1 2 JON SIEVERT 3 James Jamerson The most important and influential bass guitarist in the 66-year history of the Fender Precision he played, South Carolina-born, Detroit-raised James Jamerson wrote the bible on bass line construction and development, feel, syncopation, tone, touch, and phrasing, while raising the artistry of improvised bass playing in popular music to zenith levels. As Funk Brother #1 in Motown’s “Snake Pit,” Jamerson customized his approach to fit the style of each artist he cut with, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, the Temptations, and the Jackson 5—resulting in such masterworks as “Bernadette,” “I Was Made to Love Her,” “I’m Wondering,” and “What’s Going On.” That he tops our list adds to the irony of his dying in relative obscurity in 1983, at age 47, considering all of the accolades since then that have shined a light on his genius. It also speaks to a collective bass player understanding that the instrument’s function is still about support. Or as Stanley Clarke said in his March ’15 BP cover story, “Creating a great bass line is much harder to do than soloing. The true genius bassists are not the ones who play a million notes—it’s the ones whose bass lines are loved worldwide and remembered through history.” Jaco Pastorius After a year in which the music community suffered the loss of so many heroes, it’s sobering to realize just how drastically Jaco Pastorius changed our world in the short time he was here. In seven years, between 1975 and 1982, Jaco’s staggering contributions to discs by Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and Weather Report radically upended our expectations of electric bass, and he further cemented his legend on records by Herbie Hancock, Albert Mangelsdorff, Michel Colombier, Al Di Meola, and others. In his own work, the charismatic Philadelphia native fused seemingly disparate elements—big bands, Motown, the Caribbean/ Latin flavors of his South Florida upbringing, the influences of jazz heroes like Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers, the funk of James Brown’s bassists, Western classical, the innovations of contemporaries like Jerry Jemmott, and Paul McCartney’s melodicism—into a hip, soulful, signature cocktail with more than a twist of rock & roll attitude. Three decades after Jaco’s death at the hands of a South Florida bouncer, he’s still the gold standard for expressiveness and intonation on fretless bass, Jazz Bass back-pickup tone, and 16th-note stamina, but few can match his effortless blend of abundant technique and earthy groove. Paul McCartney While Jamerson and Jaco were changing the electric bass in their own way, Paul McCartney was doing it with extreme visibility, front-andcenter with the Beatles. Early on, his bass lines were highly effective but fairly conventional, such as the energetic “I Saw Her Standing There” and “All My Loving” (1963). By 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney was creating unique ear-catching statements—from the loping swingoffbeats of “With a Little Help From My Friends” to the loopy, sliding lick on the choruses of “Lovely Rita.” Later Beatles bass masterpieces include the bouncy, sliding subhook on “Dear Prudence” (1968) and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” (’69), which goes from stately in the first verse to funky and syncopated in the second. And, of course, there’s “Come Together,” one of those songs where every lister knows that the bass is doing something special. A few of Macca’s most memorable machinations came after the Beatles, with Wings. Who could forget the ultra-catchy subhook under “Silly Love Songs” (1976)? It’s good enough not only to anchor the verses, but also choruses that would otherwise be about as melodically and lyrically powerful as boiled lint. Perhaps most important, McCartney inspired an entire generation to play: The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan appearance—opening with “All My Loving”—launched the careers of more rockers than any other moment in popculture history. 22 bassplayer.com / february2017

4 Larry Graham The story goes that as a teenager gigging with his mother, Larry Graham played organ pedals and guitar alongside a drummer. When the organ broke, he switched to bass until the organ could be fixed—and then the drummer left the band. “That’s when I started thumping with my thumb,” he said, years later. “It was the only way I could get that rhythmic sound.” That rhythmic sound changed the world, inspiring millions of wouldbe (and wannabe) bass heroes. Nearly half a century after Graham and his Jazz Bass invigorated Sly & the Family Stone standards like “Family Affair,” “Everyday People,” and “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”—followed by stonecold Graham Central Station classics like “Release Yourself,” “Can You Handle It,” and “Hair”—ageless, dapper Graham is still the baddest thumbslinger around. As Victor Wooten says, “He is to funk bass what the Bible is to religion.” 5 Stanley Clarke The first superstar of playing the bass, Philadelphiaborn Clarke revolutionized and liberated the low end for a boundless wave of followers—including his SMV bandmates Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten—in myriad ways. This includes the artistic and economic feasibility of becoming a doubling, bandleading, composing, touring, and recording bass solo artist. More specifically, the Coltraneinspired Clarke took the acoustic bass to new technical and musical heights, and with Trane and Hendrix in his ears, innovated by reaching upward on the bass guitar via tenor and piccolo versions. From Return To Forever, his seminal solo sides, and his funky pairings with George Duke, to the Rite Of Strings, his composing and conducting film scores, and producing, Clarke remains the Lord of the Low Frequencies. 6 Ron Carter Ron Carter has anchored the jazz scene since the late ’50s. With early influences including Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers, in 1961 he made his first recording with avant-garde legend Eric Dolphy. Carter is best known for his work with the Miles Davis Quintet, which he joined in 1963. The quintet recorded many landmark albums, including Seven Steps to Heaven, Miles Smiles, and Live at the Plugged Nickel. Along with Tony Williams (drums) and Herbie Hancock (piano), Carter explored and established innovative rhythm section techniques that set the stage for all modern jazz to follow. He recorded albums with Herbie Hancock (Maiden Voyage), McCoy Tyner (The Real McCoy), Sam Rivers (Fuschia Swing Song), and Freddie Hubbard (Red Clay). Playing double bass and often featuring himself on piccolo bass, Carter has led his own groups since the ’70s. His recordings as bandleader include Piccolo, When Skies Are Grey, and My Personal Songbook. Carter penned several bass method books, and taught at City College of New York, where he remains Professor Emeritus. 7 John Entwistle Rock’s original lead bassist was also a highly influential cornerstone of the instrument, despite his unique style, having impacted Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Billy Sheehan, and countless others. Among Entwistle’s trailblazing musical and sonic efforts as a founding member of the Who include the use of treble frequencies, the development of roundwound strings with Rotosound, technical innovations such as “typewriter” tapping and strumming, and bi-amping, splitting his signal between overdriven high end and clean low end. Maintaining he was not a “proper” bass player, the West London native started on piano, trumpet, and French horn before the attraction to rock & roll led him to bass. Inspired by the twangy guitars of Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, and the Ventures, and the featured role he had on horn, Entwistle formed a fresh approach best captured on Who songs like “My Generation” (with its landmark bass solo breaks), “Sparks,” “The Real Me,” and “Dreaming from the Waist.” 8 Anthony Jackson New York City-born Anthony Jackson is one of the most important bassists in history, with an uncompromising approach to his art. Starting bassplayer.com / february2017 23

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