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BassPlayer 2017-02

BassPlayer 2017-02

CS 100 GREATEST BASS

CS 100 GREATEST BASS PLAYERS with the diverse influences of James Jamerson, Jack Casady, and French composer Olivier Messiaen—and a vision of the electric bass as a member of the guitar family, with the tone of a piano’s bass strings—Jackson invented the 6-string contrabass guitar in the early ’70s, launching the wave of extended-range basses. By then he had already made his mark musically with his pioneering use of a pick and flanger pedal on the O’Jays’ 1973 smash, “For the Love of Money.” Further years of perfecting his craft as a first-call session ace resulted in landmark sides with Billy Paul, Chaka Khan, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, Al Di Meola, Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Eyewitness, Michel Camilo, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Hiromi, and many more. Buried in that vinyl are such Jackson staples as his thumb-and-palm-mute technique, his use of a volume pedal (inspired by the early French electronic keyboard Ondes Martenot), and spontaneous reharmonization while improvising bass lines behind soloists—a skill at which he is without equal. Indeed, among bassists, one of the most reverential words spoken is “Anthony.” 9 Ray Brown Impeccable technique, gorgeous sound, and driving swing define Ray Brown’s contribution to jazz. Brown (1926–2002) was present from the inception of bebop in the ’40s, playing alongside Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell, and was a founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The traveling show Jazz at the Philharmonic brought him in contact with Oscar Peterson in the early ’50s, and he played in the Oscar Peterson Trio from ’51– ’66. The Ray Brown Bass Method, first published in 1963, influenced a generation of jazz players. In the ’70s, he worked with his group the L.A. Four, and from the mid ’80s onward with the Ray Brown Trio. More than any other bassist, Brown outlined CONCORD MUSIC GROUP his unmistakable style with flawless time and intonation, combined with an affinity for blues and bebop, setting a high standard for straightahead jazz playing. He maintained a rigorous performing, recording, and touring schedule throughout his career, and appears on hundreds of albums. He cited Jimmie Blanton, Walter Page, Israel Crosby, and Oscar Pettiford as early influences. 10 Marcus Miller Unlike Jaco’s spectacular rise (and fall), Brooklynborn Marcus Miller rose gradually through the ranks rise to become a universally copied, gamechanging bassist. Weaned on the New York City club scene, Miller broke in as a Gotham session ace—an invaluable training ground. From there he became a Grammy-winning composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist for the likes of Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, and David Sanborn, finally focusing on becoming a solo artist in the ’90s. By then, the bass-hero ingredients were in place: pocket-expanding phrasing for grooves, solos, and his trademark “singing” lead bass melodies; a new technical and sonic level of slapping that remains the standard for feel and tone; and deep, nuanced compositions in the tradition of Mingus, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco. All of which has led to the general consensus among thumpers that Miller is a modern musical genius who happens to play bass. 11 Jack Bruce When he was asked to play electric bass on a 1964 session, Jack Bruce immediately recognized the instrument’s potential. Classically trained at Scotland’s Royal Academy of Music, he had been playing upright in London jazz clubs—but also listening to James Jamerson and “striving to play melodies … while maintaining the bass’ function as an anchor.” He found the perfect vehicle for his vision of the instrument’s expanded role in Cream, where he could improvise freely within (and beyond) the chord progressions, creating lines that linked the blues-inflected guitar of Eric Clapton with the jazzinspired drumming of Ginger Baker. His playing in the trio’s legendary live jams liberated the bass for generations of players who followed. After Cream, Jack continued to explore what he called “the blues element” in a long solo career and many collaborations—always pushing the limits, always seeking the profound self-expression that was his life’s goal. 12 Charles Mingus The badass of jazz bass, Charles Mingus (1922– 1979) worked with everyone from Duke Ellington to Langston Hughes. His in-your-face style was informed by bebop, Ellingtonian swing, and the MICHAEL SHERER 24 bassplayer.com / february2017

lues of the church. Mingus’ early career focused on the swing and bebop scenes of the ’40s and ’50s. In 1956 he released his first noteworthy album, Pithecanthropus Erectus, which was followed by a string of groundbreaking recordings: The Clown, Mingus Ah Um, and Blues and Roots. In 1963, Mingus produced the large-ensemble album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and one of his best small-group efforts, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus. As a prolific composer, Mingus stood out with bass-friendly tunes like “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” “Haitian Fight Song,” and “Better Get It In Your Soul.” His style of playing was bold, exciting, and always grooving. Mingus had an uncanny knack for playing complicated harmonies, laced with blues. His willingness to explore all elements of bass playing—from free jazz to bop to down-home gospel blues—secures Mingus’ place in bass history. 13 Geddy Lee Rarely do bassists achieve such universal acclaim. The 21 studio discs and 11 live albums bearing Geddy’s singular voice and signature bass tone have garnered seven Grammy nominations and an estimated 40 million sales since 1976. The most impressive numbers, however, are related to Geddy’s multi-tasking chops: His ability to trigger samples, play keys, step on bass pedals, and sing vocal parts in odd time signatures while nailing Rush’s complex yet catchy bass lines will always be mindblowing. We’re sure his bass closet—packed with Rickenbackers, Jazz Basses, Wals, P-Basses, Steinbergers, Gibsons, Moog Taurus pedals, and even a fretless Ampeg AUSB-1—is pretty rad, too. And no stat could ever measure the depth and intensity of Rush’s worldwide fan family, which will most likely continue growing even though the trio has decided to stop touring. 14 Victor Wooten The initial technical impact Nashville-based Wooten had on the bass guitar—via the first handful of albums by Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, and his stunning 1996 solo debut, A Show of Hands—was simply seismic. But that was just the first set for one of the most profound and influential post- Jaco/Stanley bass heroes. Wooten’s 1997 side “What Did He Say” revealed the considerable musical depth behind the double-thumbing and countless other techniques he innovated. What followed includes Victor’s unique and alternate way of looking at music: his popular Bass & Nature Camps; his book, The Music Lesson; his Bass Extremesand-more partnership with fretless 6-string and false-harmonics phenom Steve Bailey; seven more solo albums; and musical growth via stints with SMV, the Word Of Mouth Big Band, Mike Stern, and Chick Corea. He remains a leading light and the instrument’s top ambassador. 15 Pino Palladino After four decades, here’s what we know: Every time the Welsh session giant reinvents himself, a legion of bassists follow. Pino began by putting fretless on the pop-music map with a Jaco-like presence, via soaring Music Man-issued subhooks on hits by Paul Young, Don Henley, and many others. Moving to a flatwound-strung Fender Precision and a fingerstyle technique rife with thumb-plucks, he connected with D’Angelo and sat way back in the pocket, setting the standard for neo-soul and hip-hop bottom. With calls from the Who, John Mayer, Paul Simon, and Nine Inch Nails, he has since elevated rock and singer/ songwriter bass, as well. 16 Scott LaFaro In his short career, Scott LaFaro (1936–1961) opened our ears and minds to the possibilities of jazz with no boundaries. His virtuosic chops and heartfelt delivery have influenced every modern jazz musician. LaFaro first attacked the jazz scene with a Ray-Brown-on-steroids walking and solo style, which he employed in the ’50s with Buddy Morrow, Victor Feldman, Ornette Coleman, and Pat Moran. LaFaro reinvented rhythm-section playing when he joined the Bill Evans Trio in 1960, which explored a conversational improvisation style that set a new standard for jazz rhythm sections. LaFaro’s unmatched solo flights inspire bassists to this day. In his brief tenure with Evans, LaFaro recorded several classic albums, including Portrait in Jazz, The 1960 Birdland Sessions, Explorations, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Waltz for Debby. bassplayer.com / february2017 25

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