Who are the most innovative bassists?
May 1, 2010 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Which bass players really redefine the instrument?

I tend to think of bass players a existing along a spectrum, with soulful/funk bassists like Bootsy Collins (and James Jamerson, Larry Graham, Flea, etc.) on one end and technical bassists like Steve Harris (and Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, John Myung and Tony Levin) on the other.

There are a few, like Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten, who seem to cover the whole range. More importantly, there are probably others who take the instrument in a whole new direction.

Who should I be listening to?
posted by tomwheeler to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Les Claypool
posted by disaster77 at 10:20 PM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


well, motown (james jamerson), philadephia/aretha franklin (jerry jemmott) and the beatles. that'd be my holy trinity.

did you mean like now? meshell ndgeocello
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:23 PM on May 1, 2010


Gotta have John Entwistle in there.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:25 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clint Conley, Mike Watt
posted by equalpants at 10:26 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always been partial to Phil Lesh, but then I'm a huge Head. I can't tell you anything about how technically proficient he is or whatever, but Phil was definitely one of the driving sources of the Dead and is still going strong.
posted by friendlyjuan at 10:31 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Off the top of my head, going for most to least recent: Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Carol Kaye.
posted by pts at 10:33 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Scott Thunes (zappa band in the 80s..incredibly talented...)!!!

and yes Tony Fucking Levin..yes!!!
posted by supermedusa at 10:33 PM on May 1, 2010


On preview, you already mentioned Wooten. Oh well, the others still stand.
posted by pts at 10:34 PM on May 1, 2010


also check out Mick Karn
posted by supermedusa at 10:35 PM on May 1, 2010


Rob Wasserman
posted by domographer at 10:41 PM on May 1, 2010


Justin Chancellor (Tool) and Martin Mendez (Opeth) are two metal guys doing much more interesting things than almost all their peers.

McCartney was a monster at combining melody, rhythm, and harmony (while singing!).

One guy who's surprisingly awesome is Chris Wolstenholme from Muse. On some of their older songs, he lays down these relentless, effects-soaked lines that dominate the songs. He might not have the sheer chops of some of the other guys, but he's got one hell of an imagination for tone.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:42 PM on May 1, 2010


Greg Lake of King Crimson and Les Claypool. At least to the extent that they can imagine a sound and reproduce it. But mostly you should be listening to yourself.
posted by vapidave at 10:44 PM on May 1, 2010


Crap, how could I forget: Jah Wobble
posted by equalpants at 10:49 PM on May 1, 2010


Berry Oakley was one of the best -- or he would have been, if he hadn't died in a motorcycle crash.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:53 PM on May 1, 2010


...well, actually, only half-credit for Mr. Wobble--he was pretty original within a rock context, but owed plenty to dub.
posted by equalpants at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2010


Joe Lally (Fugazi)
posted by scody at 11:10 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michael Manring really pushes the envelope as far as solo bass performer. One os his signature instruments is the Zon Hyperbass. Custom designed for him, the Hyperbass allows for on-the-fly changes on individual string tuning.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:18 PM on May 1, 2010


Cliff Burton.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 11:53 PM on May 1, 2010


Squarepusher?
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 12:06 AM on May 2, 2010


Bruce Thomas, formerly of Elvis Costello and the Attractions
posted by bardic at 12:24 AM on May 2, 2010


Peter Hook.
posted by Crane Shot at 12:26 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Esperanza Spalding is pretty damn amazing.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:29 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paul McCartney was an incredible bassist, melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically. Easy not to notice, but for serious.

I'm going to have to rep the great Henry Grimes, though. Different area of music, of course...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:38 AM on May 2, 2010


Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose)
posted by Gilbert at 12:47 AM on May 2, 2010


mark sandman of morphine

and it hardly seems fair to mention mike watt and not kira roessler.
posted by nadawi at 1:56 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mark King
posted by nimsey lou at 1:59 AM on May 2, 2010


Jaco Pastorius
Charles Mingus
posted by availablelight at 3:16 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pino Palladino (link goes to an extended shot of Pino groovin', just ignore John Mayer's voice in the clip...)
posted by avidreader at 3:26 AM on May 2, 2010


Barry Guy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDUtNYp4pzg&feature=related
posted by Zebtron at 3:45 AM on May 2, 2010


Try Renaud Garcia-Fons and Christian McBride. I also second Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus.
posted by epimorph at 3:47 AM on May 2, 2010


Chris Squire of Yes
Zac Smith of Three Mile Pilot
posted by saladin at 4:03 AM on May 2, 2010


Felix Pappalardi?
posted by Bruce H. at 4:16 AM on May 2, 2010


Seconding Peter Hook.
posted by 4ster at 4:43 AM on May 2, 2010


Surprised no one has mentioned Jack Bruce yet.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:03 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Edgar Meyer.
posted by usonian at 5:15 AM on May 2, 2010


Seconding:

- Paul McCartney (listen to how his basslines become an integral part of songs like "Taxman," "With a Little Help from My Friends," "Getting Better," "Something," "Rain")

- Esperanza Spalding (here's a full concert, starts 2 minutes in)

Adding:

- Avishai Cohen

- Kim Gordon

- Scott LaFaro
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:26 AM on May 2, 2010


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Aston "Family Man" Barrett
posted by jlowen at 5:33 AM on May 2, 2010


upright players:
Charlie Haden
Jimmy Garrison
Reggie Workman
Paul Chambers
Milt Hinton
Ray Brown
Oscar Pettiford
Guy who played with Duke Ellington in the 20s...can't remember his name


Electric:
James Jamerson
Jaco Pastorious

Well...between those two, you could spend a lot of time listening. Check out Stevie Wonder "I was made to love her" and Jaco on Joni Mitchell's "I'm Don Juan's Reckless Daughter"
posted by sully75 at 6:17 AM on May 2, 2010


A lot of my favorites are listed here but I wanted to add in Stu Hamm.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:37 AM on May 2, 2010


Doug Wimbish of Living Colour.
posted by theKik at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2010


Gene Holder from the dB's is effing amazing. The only bass player I've heard that sounds remotely like him is Bruce Thomas from the Attractions.

Also, Dee Dee Ramone. Seriously. Who played like that before him? And after him a million punk bassists poured into the world.
posted by cropshy at 7:28 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Guy who played with Duke Ellington in the 20s...can't remember his name

Jimmy Blanton. Revolutionary.
posted by Wolof at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2010




I don't know if he's the most innovative bassist, but my friend Uriah (bass player for Whitesnake) is pretty damn good. Worth checking out, anyway!
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2010


Seconding Jack Bruce, listen to the live side of Wheels of Fire.
posted by jara1953 at 8:45 AM on May 2, 2010


Brian Wilson. McCartney himself is on record as saying that Wilson's playing changed the entire way he approached his instrument.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:01 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brian Wilson. McCartney himself is on record as saying that Wilson's playing changed the entire way he approached his instrument.

Well, the Beach Boys album that really got Paul McCartney's attention was Pet Sounds, which has not Brian Wilson but several session musicians (notably Carol Kaye) on bass. (Incidentally, here's a nice little YouTube of her explaining the theory of basslines.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:33 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, Carol Kaye's Wikipedia entry is a more useful link, since it lists many of the famous songs she played bass (and guitar) on. It's pretty amazing how ubiquitous she was, yet most people haven't heard of her.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2010


Dave Holland is a brilliant jazz bassist. Check out Conference of the Birds or his solo recording Ones All.
posted by amb at 10:10 AM on May 2, 2010


John McVie of Fleetwood Mac
posted by BradNelson at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2010


nthing Mike Watt
posted by werkzeuger at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2010


Although he died too early, you should not miss out on Niels Henrik Ørsted-Pedersen, also known as NHØP.

I skovens dybe stille ro
posted by KimG at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2010


David Wm. Sims
posted by sad_otter at 4:01 PM on May 2, 2010


Seconding Scott La Faro. As I understand it, the man redefined what the instrument could do in jazz. It's a shame he died so young.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 7:28 PM on May 2, 2010


Gail Ann Dorsey
posted by littleredwagon at 9:30 AM on May 3, 2010


Ron Carter Ron Carter Ron Carter ... (and Jack Bruce)
posted by Logophiliac at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2010


I saw Mike Watt with Firehose in the mid-90s and found it to be the most transfixing performance by a bass player I'd ever seen, or probably will ever see. I don't think I watched anyone but him for their whole set.

Not relevant to his bass playing, but he broke the lowest string mid-song, how the hell you do that I don't know, and changed it in like 30 seconds without stopping his play on the other three strings. At least that's how I remember it...
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:35 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Late to the party, but have to mention:

Otiel Burbridge
posted by GPF at 9:32 PM on May 7, 2010


Billy Sheehan of Talas, Mr. Big, and most recently, Niacin.
posted by GPF at 9:34 PM on May 7, 2010


John Patitucci
posted by GPF at 9:36 PM on May 7, 2010


Chuck Rainey
posted by GPF at 9:37 PM on May 7, 2010


Nathan East

Will Lee

Rozano Zamorano

Chris Wood (of MMW)
posted by GPF at 9:43 PM on May 7, 2010


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