(Pictured – Ron Carter)
Sometimes as a blogger you either have no particular post in mind or perhaps some other one entirely. And then something comes your way that compels you to write a post. Such an occasion happened today when Rolling Stone – a magazine I know you all love(?) – released their 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time list. If I have any disappointment, it is that the Allmans’ bassist Berry Oakley did not make the cut. Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from the list.
[RS]. “My name is John Francis Pastorius III, and I’m the greatest bass player in the world.” That was Jaco Pastorius’ opening line to Joe Zawinul when he met the Weather Report keyboardist backstage at a 1974 Miami show.
Wikipedia: Jaco Pastorius was an American jazz bassist who was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He worked with Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell and recorded albums as a solo artist and bandleader. His bass playing employed funk, lyrical solos, bass chords, and innovative harmonics. As of 2017, he is the only electric bassist of seven bassists inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame.
From Heavy Weather, here’s an example of his tasty playing on “Teen Town.”
I’ve always dug the Red Hot Chili Peppers and was, frankly, disappointed when I wrote about them a while back and no one seemed to care. Are they passe? Hell, I think they’re great. That funky rap sound they produce so eloquently and often shirtlessly is driven like a freight train by Flea as much as anyone else.
[RS] “My goal was to become a jazz trumpet player, but then I got into my early teens and I had to rebel against my parents. All I wanted to do was be a punk rocker and play the bass.”
Flea has done some outside work but it’s his playing with the Peppers that’s made him so beloved, from his Bootsy Collins–inspired slapping work (“Higher Ground,” “Sir Psycho Sexy”) to his poignant melodic moments (“Soul to Squeeze,” “By the Way”). “The Red Hot Chili Peppers are Flea,” Anthony Kiedis told Rolling Stone in 1994. “He’s such an essential portion of this pie that it’s impossible to think that the band would exist without him.”
From Mother’s Milk, the crazed “Stone Cold Bush.”
In my series on the Talking Heads, ME said this: Tina Weymouth’s bass playing is the propulsive engine of this band. Listen to her on any of these tunes and tell me I’m wrong.” She is the mistress of the deep, soulful, sexy bass.
[RS] “And it’s a grave injustice that Byrne has always gotten the lion’s share of the credit for their accomplishments. Weymouth was a critical part of Talking Heads’ songwriting team — even if she didn’t always get credited — and she brought an effortless cool to everything they did. “Had there been no Tina Weymouth in Talking Heads,” said the band’s drummer and Weymouth’s husband of the past 40 years, Chris Frantz, “we would be just another band.”
Coincidentally, Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the Pepper’s Anthony Kiedis.
Here’s their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” from More Songs About Buildings and Food.
James Jamerson is a name that was, frankly, unknown to most of us back in the day. Other than the featured performers on Motown songs, the background guys’ names were largely a mystery. Nor frankly were most of us thinking about it as we were too busy getting our groove thang on. (I don’t even know what that means but I figure it makes me sound hip.)
In its special issue The 100 Greatest Bass Players in 2017, Bass Player magazine ranked Jamerson number one and the most influential bass guitarist. In 2011, Jamerson ranked third in the “20 Most Underrated Bass Guitarists” in Paste magazine. And Rolling Stone has him at Numero Uno.
Listen to how the bass rolls in Gladys Knight’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and ask yourself what the fuck happened to music like this? And why do people always say to me, Man, you’re a real pip. You know that?
For a guy (yours truly) who purports to play guitar, I sure haven’t written a whole hell of a lot about jazz guitarists. Certainly not, to my recollection, about Wes Montgomery who was probably the first jazz guitarist I ever heard. To this day, one of the most influential guitarists ever. But since this post is about bassists, let’s focus on his bass player, Ron Carter, for an album called SO Much Guitar!
[RS] “With more than 2,200 credits to his name as of fall 2015, he earned a Guinness World Record a year later for the most recorded bassist in jazz history. Beyond the raw numbers, the range of Carter’s CV is astounding, from anchoring the Sixties Miles Davis quintet that reshaped jazz on a molecular level to bringing an unshakeable drive to classic Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin sides, providing a plush rhythmic bed for bossa nova pioneer Antônio Carlos Jobim, and finding the swing in Bach.
Here are Carter and Wes together on “Twisted Blues:”
Lastly, what can I say about the Ox that hasn’t already been said? John Entwistle of the ‘oo is ranked #3 on Rolling Stone’s list (behind Jamerson and Charles Mingus. Rolling Stone says this: The Who’s John Entwistle had a lot of nicknames, including the Ox, due to his imposing build and endless appetites, and the Quiet One, because of his stoic demeanor.
But the most apt was one Thunderfingers, a name bestowed upon him because every time he played a note on the bass it sounded like a vicious storm coming over the horizon. It was a style he developed to be heard while playing on the same stage as flamboyant showboats Keith Moon and Pete Townshend, but he brought a remarkable fluidity and grace to his role that was unlike anything anyone had ever heard before.
“Entwistle was arguably the greatest rock bassist of them all,” said Rush’s Geddy Lee, “daring to take the role and sound of the bass guitar and push it out of the murky depths while strutting those amazing chops.”
And you know what we haven’t had yet in this roundup? A tasty bass solo. This one’s from Atlanta, 2000: