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Basses


LightWave Systems - Saber SL 5-String Bass

LightWave Systems - Saber SL 5-String Bass
Featuring a modern and ergonomic body shape, the LightWave Systems Saber SL is a 34-inch scale bass that sports an alder body with a striking infrared finish, a 3-piece maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard that is accessible over its entire two-octave range, and a custom GraphTech monolithic bridge. At the core of all LightWave basses, and the aspect which makes their instruments distinct from the basses manufactured by other builders, is their patented optical pickup system. Since the pickups utilize infrared light technology to sense the vibration of the strings, they eliminate the inherent pull and added coloration of magnetic pickups. As a result, the notes on the fingerboard of the Saber SL sustain longer than the notes I have heard on any bass with conventional pickups because there is no magnetic field to dampen or influence the strings. Rather than ending abruptly, notes decay in a linear fashion into silence. Tonally, one of the most significant advantages of employing the optical technology is its ability to extend bass response and accurately reproduce the low B-string with stunning definition and punch. Playing harmonics and chords on this instrument is a revelation. Harmonics that are barely detectable on other basses simply jump off the Saber SL. Even three and four-note chords resonate with a level of clarity I have rarely experienced on any bass. Unlike the annoying hum and buzz produced by basses with traditional single coil pickups, the Saber SL is completely quite. You can barely tell that it is on even at obscene decibels which makes it a welcomed addition to any recording environment.

For a 5-string bass, the Saber SL is remarkably lightweight in construction. Weighing only 7 lbs. 8 oz., the Saber SL is not only one of the lightest 5-string basses I have ever tested, but it is lighter than most 4-string instruments I have played as well. Although the Saber SL delivers a sound unlike standard bass guitars, it still maintains the same familiar feel so you won't have to modify your performance technique if you are someone who has been playing bass for years. The only aspect of the Saber SL that took a little time to get used to was the physical absence of conventional pickups and the natural thumb rests they provide below the lowest string. However, an easy-to-install thumb rest can be purchased directly from LightWave Systems or any of their dealers.

From subtle nuance to dramatic variation, the tone of the Saber SL can be shaped through the master volume, bass boost/cut, midrange boost/cut, midrange frequency, and iceTone level controls along with a warm/cool toggle switch. The volume, bass, and midrange controls are similar to what you will find on traditional bass guitars which makes them easy to use. The sweepable midrange frequency control allows you to broaden or narrow the frequency band between 200 Hz and 1 kHz that you can then boost or cut with the midrange control. As the iceTone level is turned clockwise, it blends the sound generated by the piezo transducers which are embedded in each individual string saddle with the optical signal. It adds a new dimension of high frequency enhancement and supplies more percussive presence without the added hiss experienced with a standard treble control or the typical clack and harshness that is often associated with most piezo transducers. The warm/cool toggle switch simulates the sound created by selecting the neck or bridge positions on a bass with two magnetic pickups. When this switch is placed towards the neck, the instrument's tone becomes warmer and deeper. With the switch selected towards the bridge, the tone is brighter and has more detail.

Another valuable benefit of optical pickups is the ability for bassists to use strings that don't contain magnetic properties. In addition to the stainless steel and nickel-plated strings that are typically installed on basses with standard pickups, nylon strings can be utilized on LightWave basses to further expand the tonal capabilities of the Saber SL.

Considering all of the cutting-edge technology housed in the bridge and the large control cavity on the back of the instrument, the Saber SL requires minimal maintenance in terms of setup. Unless you are changing strings with a huge gauge differential, the only thing that needs special adjustment are the optics contained within the bridge. The optics can be aligned either by ear or calibrated electronically on the motherboard, and this procedure takes just a couple minutes to complete. To achieve optimal optics settings by ear, plug the bass into an amplifier and then listen for when the sound output is the loudest as you turn the hex adjustment screw on the top of each monolith.

Initially, I thought the NiHM rechargeable battery pack could be a potential drawback with this bass, but my concerns were quickly relieved as this instrument received a thorough testing. The battery pack provides approximately 16 hours of playing time per charge. A full charge takes about an hour to complete, and you can play the bass while it is charging. Unlike typical 9-volt battery systems which are found in most basses and can go completely dead without warning in the middle of a gig, there is a red status LED positioned on the top of the Saber SL's lowest string monolith. When that LED is well lit, the battery pack contains sufficient charge to play the bass. As the battery pack drains its power, the LED light dims. Once that red LED goes out completely, the battery has about two more hours of playing time before needing to be recharged. This rechargeable battery pack will actually prove to be more cost effective than a 9-volt setup when you take into account the number of batteries that you would need to replace over the span of time you own a bass with a 9-volt battery system.

Designed as an alternative to conventional magnetic pickups in order to realize the sonic potential of both pickup and instrument, the LightWave Systems Saber SL harnesses the most revolutionary pickup technology to be developed for stringed instruments since the introduction of magnetic pickups. The string-to-string separation of the Saber SL is perfectly balanced with an extended bandwidth, and it is capable of providing a wide dynamic range. Priced at a point well below other professional basses of this grade, the Saber SL produces a unique tonal character that expands the palette of colors available to the contemporary bassist. Its transparent response delivers the true voice of the string, the acoustic characteristics of the instrument, and the subtle nuances of your playing at an exceptional value.

Saber SL 5-String Specifications
- Solid alder body
- Infrared finish
- Rosewood fingerboard
- 3-piece hard maple neck
- LightWave optical pickup system
- Custom GraphTech monolithic bridges
- iceTone saddles
- Switchcraft output jack
- Noble potentiometers
- Master volume
- Bass boost/cut
- Midrange boost/cut - Midrange frequency
- iceTone level
- Warm/cool toggle switch
- NiMH rechargeable battery pack
- 34" scale length
- 2-octave/24 fret fingerboard
- ProTec gig bag
- Limited three-year warranty
- Retail Price: $1395

Options
- 5-string or 4-string
- Fretted or fretless
- Infrared, ultrablack, or xenon blue finish

Contact Information
LightWave Systems
6387-A Rose Lane
Carpinteria, CA 93013
Web Site: LightWave-Systems.com
E-Mail: info@lightwave-systems.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - October 22, 2008


The Barker Bass

Barker Musical Instruments
Utilizing the experience he had acquired as a professional woodworker in his own custom cabinet building business for 22 years, bassist Lee Barker has been handcrafting his ergonomically-friendly, vertical instruments since 2002 as a response to the wrist-related problems he developed while performing gospel and bluegrass music on the electric bass for over three decades. The result of his efforts culminated in the debut of a unique hybrid instrument that combined components of a standard electric bass guitar with that of a traditional acoustic upright.

The Barker bass could be technically classified as an electric upright bass guitar because it contains certain features that make it a hybrid design. In terms of its overall physical nature, the Barker bass is closer to the makeup of an electric bass guitar than that of an acoustic upright. Upon first glance, the most striking feature of the Barker bass is its stunning appearance. It sports an elegant look all its own, but after further inspection, you'll find that the Barker bass is comprised of the typical 34" scale length, string spacing, neck radius, frets, position dot markers, bolt-on attachment to body, graphite nut, headstock, tuners, passive Jazz bass-style pickups, electronics, body/neck woods, and bridge from the electric bass guitar. It merges all of these variables with a very significant concept borrowed from the acoustic upright, its vertical position that can be raised or lowered through its adjustable endpin and an easy-to-setup, 3-legged metal stand.

In standing position, the Barker bass can be adjusted across a wide range of heights just like an acoustic upright. The vertical nature of the Barker bass makes the instrument completely effortless to play. Due to its free-standing nature, no extra weight is placed on your body during performance. The fretting hand does not need to support the bass in any fashion which allows your left hand to shift freely across the entire range of the fingerboard. Through its G-string-side cutaway, even the very highest registers of the Barker bass can be easily accessed.

Not only is the free-standing design of the Barker bass of substantial benefit in eliminating any potential discomfort or unwanted strain you might experience in your back, shoulders, and wrists due to the weight-related issues of electric basses, but it also provides an unparalleled level of sustain through the very limited physical contact required to play the instrument. Since no part of your body, besides your hands, is touching the Barker bass when playing, the tone produced by the bass is not dampened. I never realized how profoundly the tone of both the acoustic upright and electric bass was affected by the dampening of your body until I played the Barker bass.

Along with is free-standing design, the Barker bass is constructed of a 3-ply chambered body that is protected with a hand-rubbed, semi-gloss finish. Core pieces of wood have been removed between the front and back sections of the body, and the tonal consequence of this chambered body is a natural sonic resonance which contains a rich harmonic clarity that is not present in most standard, solid body electric basses.

Unlike an acoustic upright which is generally only used in orchestral or jazz settings, the Barker bass could be played in practically any style of music. The simple pickup/electronics configuration used in the Barker bass provides a wide range of tonal variation in order to cover virtually any performance situation. Regardless of the right hand techniques employed such as standard fingerstyle technique, slapping, or tapping, the transition period required in learning how to play the Barker bass, if you are coming from a background as an electric bassist, is virtually non-existent. The vertical position of the fingerboard didn't affect my ability to use tapping techniques, and only a minor adjustment was required in order to play the instrument with slapping techniques. Depending on the tonality you are attempting to generate, you can position your right hand thumb in up to five different locations including on the side of the neck similar to how a jazz bassist would play upright when using pizzicato technique, on the two pickups like an electric bassist, or on the two specially-designed thumb rests that are attached to the body of the Barker bass. The only minor disadvantage of playing the Barker bass from the perspective of an electric bassist is that it doesn't allow the type of mobility available when playing electric bass.

Specifications:
Scale Length: 34"
Body: 2" thick, 3-piece chambered construction - cherry front over alder core and back with hand-rubbed, semi-gloss finish
Neck: Hard rock maple, 5-bolt attachment to body
Fingerboard: 21-fret rosewood fingerboard with side and face dot markers
Nut: Graphite
Width At Nut: 1.5"
Electronics: Seymour Duncan
Controls: 2 independent pickup volumes (neck & bridge), tone control
Pickups: Passive, Seymour Duncan Basslines, Jazz bass, single coil
Bridge: Hipshot
Tuners: Gotoh
Endpin: Fully adjustable to accommodate players well over 6 feet tall
Weight: 18 lbs. (without stand)
Stand: Heavy-duty locking type with positive stud-and-socket attachment to bass and solid gear-teeth locking head
Case: Heavy-woven nylon, abrasion-resistant, padded gig bag with hand and shoulder straps and zippered pocket and separate bag for stand
Handcrafted in U.S.
Retail Price: $3700

Options:
4 or 5 strings
Fretted, fretless, or lined fretless
Rosewood or maple fingerboard - fretted, ebony fingerboard - fretless
Black or gold hardware
Different woods for front and back of body
Commemorative basses

The Bottom Line
The Barker bass should appeal to those electric bassists looking for an alternative approach to playing bass that still maintains a familiar tonal palette as well as to those who have experienced wrist pain from playing a conventional electric bass guitar, and at the same time, the Barker bass would be a welcomed addition for those acoustic upright players who would like to continue playing in a vertical position.

Contact:
Barker Musical Instruments
1842 SE 1st, Unit F
Redmond, OR 97756
Toll-Free Phone: 888.899.8302
Web Site: BarkerBass.com
E-Mail: lee@barkerbass.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - January 25, 2006


Zon Guitars: Mosaic Pro 5 - 01/01/04

Since the early 1980's, Zon Guitars has been crafting some of the most technologically innovative basses ever built. By blending meticulous handcraftsmanship with high-tech components such as composite necks, phenowood fingerboards, quadraphonic electronics, infrared optical pickups, and piezo bridges, Zon Guitars has combined state-of-the-art technology with traditional concepts.

In 2003 Zon Guitars expanded their product line with the introduction of the Mosaic Series. Unlike Zon's Legacy, a mainstay of the Zon lineup since 1982, or various Sonus Series' of basses, the Mosaic Series is their first line which combines a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. For many years, bassists have sought an all-wood Zon bass, and now with the edition of the Mosaic Series, bassists have the option of choosing between composite and wood materials.

Construction:
All basses in the Mosaic Series (Mosaic Pro & Mosaic) feature a swamp ash body. By utilizing the classic combination of an ash body and bolt-on maple neck, the Mosaic Series basses provide all the vintage tones. The 35" scale of the tested Mosaic Pro enhanced the overall clarity and articulation of this bass, especially with regard to the low B-string which was focused and very well-defined. Two features in particular struck me immediately after strapping on the Mosaic Pro 5. First, this bass was extremely lightweight. I could not believe the weight of this 5-string or lack thereof, especially considering the robust size of the body shape. The second aspect of this bass that I found truly appealing was the contour of the neck. It was exceptionally thin, particularly near the neck/body pocket thus allowing full utilization over the entire range of the fingerboard without overextending and straining your hand. In contrasting fashion to many other 5-string basses, the Mosaic Pro 5 was superbly well balanced and not neck-heavy. I never needed to reposition the bass in relation to my body. The neck never budged, and there were no dead spots located anywhere on the rosewood fingerboard, providing consistent tone throughout the instrument. The cutaway facilitated easy access all the way up to the 22nd fret. The tilt-back headstock design adds increased string tension, resulting in unbelievable sustain. The Mosaic Pro has a single truss rod that is readily available at the end of the fingerboard along with dual graphite bars that are embedded in the neck for added stability. After hours of abuse testing, the strings were still in tune. The new urethane flat finish that Zon is using on the Mosaic Pro body is stunning. It looks remarkable and it feels extraordinary. Unlike bass bodies with high-gloss finishes, fingerprints go virtually undetectable on this flat finish. The construction of the Mosaic Pro 5 was rock solid from top to bottom.

Electronics:
The ZAP-3 active electronics system on the Tribute Pro was designed for Zon by Aguilar. Housed inside the Mosaic Pro's neatly packaged control cavity and powered by two 9-volt batteries, the Aguilar OBP-3 preamp is Aguilar's most flexible onboard preamp design, providing +/-15db of cut and boost at 50Hz, +/-15dB of cut and boost at 400Hz, and +/-15dB of treble cut and boost at 5 kHz. Standing within just a few feet of a full range SWR rig, it was hard to tell that the bass was on. Even at rock arena volume settings, the Mosaic Pro tested completely noiseless. Equipped with two exclusively designed Seymour Duncan custom shop, narrow aperture, dual-coil pickups, the Mosaic Pro offered an amazing palette of flexible tone shaping and virtually limitless sonic textures. I couldn't think of a tone that this bass couldn't assist me in achieving. The dynamic punch provided by the 18-volt circuitry was empowering.

Sound:
Old-school funk to contemporary jazz and everything in between, the Mosaic Pro 5 excelled. Need some extra thump with your thumb or some added snap with your fingers? Simply boost the bass and treble controls, respectively. Are you playing in a rock setting and losing your sound in a wall of guitars and drums? Use the midrange control to cut through the mix. The round, warm lows provided a solid foundation for jazz. Are you doing session work and looking for a transparent sound? Just leave the 3-band eq flat and plug straight into the board. Studio engineers dream of basses that are this easy to use. Simply plug and play! Fundamental tones were crystal clear, and the overtones were brilliant.

Value:
With a retail price of $2750, the Mosaic Pro 5 definitely falls into the category of a high-end instrument. You certainly receive the best technology and finest craftsmanship available in this price range. For those bassists looking for a more cost effective solution to their bass needs, Zon offers a Korean-made version called the Mosaic which retails for about a $1,000 less than the Mosaic Pro.

Specifications:
Scale Length: 35" scale
Body: Swamp ash body with urethane flat finish
Neck: 3-piece quarter sawn, bolt-on maple neck with flat oil finish
Fingerboard: 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with side and face dot markers
Nut: Graphite
Width At Nut: 1.875"
Electronics: ZAP-3 active 3-band system by Aguilar
Controls: Master volume, pickup blend, bass, midrange, and treble controls with two position mid center frequency control
Pickups: Seymour Duncan narrow aperture, dual-coil design
Bridge: Zon machined brass bridge (19 mm spacing)
Tuners: Mini gotoh-style tuners
Handcrafted in U.S.
Retail Price: $2750

Options:
1/4" Flame Maple Wood Top: $125
Custom Colors (black, three-tone sunburst, tobacco burst in gloss finish): $150
Fretless (with or without lines - no dots on fingerboard): $120
Black Hardware: $100
Gig Bag: $100 (the accompanying gig bag with the tested Mosaic Pro 5 was seriously plush with lots of padding, pockets, handles, and straps.)

Additional Notes:
The Mosaic Pro is available in a 4-string version ($2550). The Mosaic Pro 4 features include a 34" scale length, 24 frets, and 1.532" width at the nut.

Also from the Mosaic Series of basses are the Korean-made Mosaic 5 and Mosaic 4. Mosaic basses come standard with a urethane gloss finish, single flat sawn bolt-on maple neck, 24 frets 4-string, 22 frets 5-string, Zon active electronics, and Zon narrow aperture, dual coil pickups. Mosaic options include a quilted maple veneer top and fretless.

Bottom Line:
Zon's Mosaic Pro 5 has set the standard among five string basses in its price range. There was nothing that this bass couldn't do. It practically played itself. Why haul two or three basses to your gigs or sessions when the Zon Mosaic Pro 5 can fit all your needs? Playability, tone, and affordability. It's all here. Wood or composite? Now you have an option!

For more information on Zon Guitars' Mosaic Series basses, visit: ZonGuitars.com or contact them at:

Zon Guitars
780 2nd Ave.
Redwood City, CA 94063
Ph: (650) 366-3516

C. Engel


Zon Guitars: VB4 4-String Headless Bass - 12/01/02

Looking for a high quality bass with a versatile, yet consistent tone, at an affordable price? Well, look no further. For well over the past two decades, Zon Guitars has been building some of the finest handcrafted basses on the market. Now, Zon has added the VB series to its already high-tech arsenal. Based upon bass virtuoso and Zon endorsing artist, Michael Manring's headless bass, nicknamed Vinny, Zon has introduced an innovatively designed bass which is portable enough to take anywhere and even store in an airplane overhead.

Construction:
The VB bass line features a body comprised of two pieces of select swamp ash, a favorite body wood used in bass building. The prototype which we tested had a really beautiful wood grain texture to it, highlighted by its natural "flat" finish. True to all Zon basses, the VB line has a composite (graphite) neck. Composite necks are extremely rigid and stiff and unaffected by even large variations in temperature and humidity. There is no need for a truss rod. Due to the density of the composite material, every note on the fingerboard was consistently even in sustain and volume. Having played instruments with composite necks for over the last decade and being accustomed to that "high-end" sound, I was a little skeptical about playing an instrument with a phenowood fingerboard. But my skepticism quickly vanished after only a few minutes with the VB4. If you are one of those players that thinks composite necks tend to lack in character or warmth, you must give this phenowood fingerboard a test drive. Phenowood is essentially compressed wood which is impregnated with a phenolic resin and what you get with phenowood is a fingerboard that feels and looks similar to ebony but is much more stable. It adds a certain character to the tone of the instrument which it wouldn't have with just a phenolic fingerboard. With a phenowood fingerboard on a composite neck, you get the best of both worlds: the clarity, definition, and punch of a composite neck and the added personality of an ebony fingerboard. The neck didn't move, and there were no dead spots anywhere. Even after hours of rigorous testing with slapping, plucking, and tapping techniques, the bass remained perfectly intonated. The composite neck is joined to the swamp ash body through a set-in design which allows the player easy access all the way up to the 24th fret. This superbly crafted design provides a smooth, neck-through body feel but yields a tonal characteristic closer to that of a bolt-on neck. The new hand polished "flat" finish that Zon is using on these basses has to been seen to be fully appreciated. This "flat" finish is simply amazing. It feels great, and it looks even better. As hard as I tried, the "flat" finish was overtly resistant to fingerprints or smudges. Also, the VB4 is not neck heavy due in large part to its headless design (no headstock tuning machines to add to the weight of the neck) and heavy-duty ABM bridge. In fact, the VB4 is one of the most well balanced basses I've ever strapped on. With the ABM bridge, you can still utilize your favorite set of strings, and string installation is a breeze. Simply detune the strings, release the strings with an allen wrench at the headpiece, thread the new strings through the headpiece, tighten the allen screws, tune up the bass, and then clip off the excess string length hanging from the headpiece.

Electronics:
At the heart of the VB line of basses are the brand new pickups from Bartolini. The "Classic Bass" (CB) series bass pickups are passive, custom wound designs which feature an extended and more resonant frequency range. The dual in-line hum cancelling coils provide clarity and punch across the entire range of the sound spectrum. The CB series pickups are fed into Bartolini's 3-band active electronics with two selectable mid center points (250/800) and powered by a 9-volt battery. The electronics of the VB bass tested flawlessly and proved to be ultra quiet even at very high decibel levels. They offered a wide range of tonal variablity, and the tone controls turned smoothly and evenly. There were no unwanted gaps in the tone as I dialed through the frequency spectrum. The control cavity housed one of the most neatly organized circuits I've ever seen. My only criticism with the entire bass, and be it a minor complaint that doesn't affect the playability or sound in any way, deals with the separate battery compartment. I would have liked to see Zon make this a pop-up battery compartment for easier access to the battery.

Sound:
You want thunderous slap tones? You got them. You looking for tight finger funk staccato sounds? They're here. You wanna rock? Take the pictures off the walls and crank it. This bass has plenty of output to give and then some. Vibrant harmonics and traditional voicings are here too. The VB4 sounded excellent tested through our SWR amplification system and even better when it was plugged directly into our recording device. Rank beginners to seasoned veterans will both enjoy the ease at which the VB4 played and its wide tonal range. This bass sounds as good as basses that cost twice as much.

Value:
There is no suggested retail price on these limited production Zon basses. The VB series basses are only available directly from Zon's factory in Redwood City, California. The prices you will find listed below are the actual cost to you. By offering their VB line of basses to you factory direct, Zon has made purchasing one of their instruments easy, fast, and most importantly, extremely affordable. With the VB4's cutting edge features, sound, and direct prices, you'll have a difficult time finding a better bass anywhere.

Specifications:
34" scale
Swamp ash body with natural "flat" finish
24-fret composite neck with phenowood fingerboard
ABM Bridge
Chrome hardware
Dual Bartolini custom wound CB series, linear coil pickups
Bartolini 3-band active electronics with two selectable mid center points (250/800)
Ultralite "custom cut" case
Direct Price: $1599

Options:
5-string model (VB5): $1749
Exotic top with "flat" finish: $225.00
Transparent red, amber, cobalt or black with high gloss finish: $125.00
Fretless lined, unlined, or half & half: $70.00
Black hardware: $50.00

Bottom Line:
Zon Guitars' VB4 was a blast to play. The bass just looks fun. I had a difficult time picking up my other basses after putting the VB4 down. Right out of its custom cut case, the VB4 was set up perfectly and ready for action. Except for my very minor complaint regarding the battery compartment, Zon Guitars has delivered! By combining state-of-the-art technology with classic handcraftsmanship and direct pricing, Zon's VB4 4-string headless bass is an investment you can't afford not to make.

For more information on Zon Guitars' VB4 and VB5 model basses, visit: ZonGuitars.com or contact them at:

Zon Guitars
780 2nd Ave.
Redwood City, CA 94063
Ph: (650) 366-3516

C. Engel



Amps


Gallien-Krueger - Neo 700/112 Combo Amp

Gallien-Krueger - Neo700/112 Combo Amp
Building affordable and reliable bass amplification systems which are specifically devised for live performance applications has been the basis of Gallien-Krueger's designs for the past 40 years. Since its start in the late 1960's, Gallien-Krueger has become a legendary brand name in bass amplification and the world-wide leader in the production of solid state bass amps which generate a bass tone that has the punch of a kick drum. Bob Gallien, founder of Gallien-Krueger, has dedicated his ingenuity to solving the amplification problems experienced by professional bass players. Along the way, this Stanford-schooled engineer created a product line that delivers some of the most sought after sounds within the bass community and conceived a list of renowned innovations which are today recognized as standards in the music industry. Found on stages and in recording studios around the world, Gallien's creations are utilized by a genre-spanning artist roster of rock, jazz, fusion, and session bassists such as Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Velvet Revolver's Duff McKagan, Justin Chancellor of Tool, Ron Carter, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Norm Stockton, Jonni Lightfoot, and Leland Sklar.

The Neo Series combo amps combine a high powered G-K artist series head with their popular Neo Series speakers. At the heart of these cabinets are G-K's custom cast-frame neodymium loudspeakers which have the ability to sustain high output levels at a fraction of the weight contained in traditional ceramic speakers. Unlike practically every other manufacturer who makes use of outsourced speakers that were created by one of the major speaker companies, G-K builds their own brand of speakers under the Paragon name which they use in conjunction with all of their cabinets.

Featuring a double front-ported design, the Neo 700/112 combo amp is constructed of 11-ply poplar and is covered with black tolex, a flexible vinyl material. Although many people prefer the look and feel of tolex to the standard black carpet which practically all of G-K's competitors employ on their enclosures, the one potential drawback of tolex is that it is going to be more susceptible to damage if the cabinet receives substantial bumps. This combo amp also features a 16-gauge grill to protect the speaker and tweeter along with interlocking corners for stacking the Neo 700/112 with other G-K cabinets.

Housed inside the cabinet, you will find one of G-K's proprietary 12" neodymium woofers along with a G-K Paragon 5H50-8 tweeter. The amplifier section of the Neo 700/112 contains the G-K artist series 700RB-II bi-amp bass amplifier which features one of the most versatile tone configurations in production because the amp's interface is packed with so many options for the discriminating bassist. All of the controls are grouped into six different sections including direct out, input, voicing filters, active equalization, bi-amp output, and patch bay. From left to right on the front panel, there is an XLR direct out for sending a balanced signal to P.A. or recording consoles, ground lift, pre/post eq switch, level control, a standard 1/4" input jack to plug in active or passive basses, a -14dB pad to reduce the input signal from your bass if the clip LED lights up excessively, tuning mute switch, volume, 5/4-string voicing, contour, presence, active 4-band equalizer section with treble, hi-mid, low-mid, and bass controls, boost, tweeter level with hi-cut switch, woofer level with hi-cut switch, effects send and return, tuner out, and power switch. On the rear panel, there are two 1/4" speaker out connectors and two speakon outputs. To maintain a safe operating temperature, a variable speed fan is also included and increases in velocity as the amp works harder.

The tone sculpting options available with the Neo 700/112 are tremendously flexible, and regardless of the dozens of different settings I dialed in, they all maintained a desirable sound with very musical properties. Within the voicing filters section, the 5/4-string switch extends the roll off of the bass frequencies +11dB at 20 Hz when engaged to accommodate the ultra lows of an extended range bass. This is not just simply a bass boost button which works like a graphic equalizer when activated because it doesn't boost anything. It extends the roll off of the low bass frequencies. If you are playing a 4-string bass and trying to replicate the renowned sound of a G-K 800RB, you will want to leave the 5/4-string in the out position, but if you are playing a bass with a low B-string, you will want to have this button pushed in. As a 4-string bassist, you can actually leave the button pushed in at all times to get as much low end as possible out of the amp. The contour control is based on the same circuit that is found in G-K's classic 800RB amplifier, and it cuts the mid-range frequencies while simultaneously boosting the low and high frequencies (+2dB at 50 Hz, -10dB at 500 Hz, and +3dB at 7 kHz). The presence control provides additional definition for improved clarity when soloing or playing chords by boosting the highs +9dB at 10 kHz. In terms of the rotary 4-band equalizer, the treble and bass controls are both active shelving type which means that they boost the highs and lows consistently. The bass boosts and cuts +/-10dB at 60 Hz while the treble has the ability to boost and cut +12/-17dB at 7 kHz. The hi-mid and low-mid controls are both active bandpass type which boost +6dB and cut -10dB at 1 kHz and 250 Hz, respectively. Your tone can also be modified by adjusting the boost and tweeter controls in the bi-amp output section. The boost control uses G-K's exclusive valve effect technology which adds growl as it is turned clockwise, and the tweeter is the master volume control for the 50 watt horn amp which handles frequencies beyond 5 kHz. The tweeter hi-cut button cuts frequencies above 10 kHz in order to reduce tweeter hiss, and the woofer hi-cut button cuts frequencies above 5 kHz from the 12" woofer.

The most unique aspect of the Neo 700/112, and my favorite feature, is the horn management system. G-K's amplifier design consists of two separate power amps. In contrast to a passive, full range combo amp which can send several hundred watts of power to a tweeter, the G-K's horn management system splits the high and low signal paths. No other manufacturer has a crossover network in their cabinets that will accommodate this feature. A separate 50 watt horn amplifier is dedicated to managing the high frequency tweeter. If you are driving a horn with the same power amp as the woofer which is the case in nearly all other amps, instead of achieving a pleasant sounding growl, you receive unwanted buzzing due to the distortion that is coming through the horn. When you separate the woofer's power amp from the horn, you can boost the volume control of the woofer amplifier in order to achieve a desirable growl, and you can keep the level of the horn amplifier below clipping. This configuration will allow you to maximize the woofer's peak power so you can add as much growl to the woofer's signal as you want while the tweeter remains articulate and free of distortion resulting in greater overall projection. In addition, the Neo 700/112 can be connected to a G-K bi-amp compatible enclosure via a special 4-conductor speakon cable which will permit you to have completely independent control of the output from the woofers and tweeters in both cabinets. On the back of G-K enclosures, there is a bi-amp/full range switch that offers you the opportunity to run the speakers in a bi-amp or full range mode. While in the full range setting, the cabinet works like a typical enclosure, and you can drive the speakers with any amplifier hooked up to it with a standard cable. In bi-amp mode, the woofer and horn paths are separated, and they can be driven using our G-K's proprietary speakon cable. When the bi-amp mode is utilized, all of the frequencies below 5 kHz are sent to the woofers while everything above 5 kHz is sent through the horn.

At approximately 55 lbs., the Neo 700/112 ranks as an average-sized combo amp, but with its top grip and side spring-loaded handles, it can still be easily transported by a single person. In a small to medium-sized venue, the Neo 700/112 outputs more than enough volume with extra headroom to spare at 320 watts, and it can be easily expanded to a full bi-amped bass rig capable of handling 480 watts with the addition of an extension cabinet.

Whether you desire that legendary G-K growl or a clean and articulate sound, the G-K Neo 700/112 delivers some of the most aggressive rock, jazz, fusion, and funk tones available regardless of your preferred playing style or performance application and definitely ranks as one of the best values for a combo amp priced less than $1,000.

Specifications:
Power < 1% THD: Main amp - 320 watts, 480 watts with extension cabinet; horn amp - 50 watts at 8 ohms
Cooling: Continuously variable speed fan
Input Section: Ultra low noise S/N>90dB, clip LED, -14dB pad, volume, mute switch, and mute LED
Voicing Filter: 5/4-string voicing, adjustable contour, and presence
Equalizer: 4-band active
Output: Boost, tweeter level with hi-cut switch and woofer level with hi-cut switch
Direct Out: XLR, ground lift, pre/post switch and level control
Patching: Effects send and return, tuner out
Speaker Output: Two 1/4" and two horn bi-amp compatible speakon connectors
Woofer: 1 GK neodymium cast frame 12", 300 watts at 8 ohm
Tweeter: GK paragon 5H50-8
Construction: 11-ply poplar, black tolex, 16-gauge steel grill, custom tooled interlocking corners, front-ported
Dimensions: 21" W x 20" H x 16" D
Weight: 55 lbs.
Retail Price: $1199
Street Price: $899

Contact:
Gallien-Krueger
2234 Industrial Drive
Stockton, CA 95206
Web Site: Gallien-Krueger.com
E-Mail: sales@gallien.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - October 15, 2007


Markbass - CMD 121H Combo Amp

Markbass - CMD 121H Combo Amp
When he founded Markbass Amplification in 2001, Marco De Virgiliis sought to manufacture high-end sound reinforcement that would not only accurately reproduce bass frequencies but at the same time wouldn't color the natural sound of the instrument being played. Since that time, Markbass has built a reputation of combining state-of-the-art components with ultra-lightweight technology to create an innovative product line that addresses the requests and practical needs of working bassists without imposing a particular sound on the bass-playing community.

Upon first glance, the most striking aspect of the Markbass CMD 121H combo amp is its vibrant yellow and black color scheme. While this particular color combination might not suit everyone's tastes, I think it is very unique because it makes this amp instantly recognizable and distinct from combo amps manufactured by its competitors.

The cabinet that encloses the combo amp is constructed with a multi-ply poplar. Utilizing the ultra-lightweight advantages of neodymium speaker technology, the bold-looking 1x12" custom woofer was designed in conjunction with Italy's B&C Speakers. The cabinet also features a 1" compression driver with custom horn and a rear port.

The amplifier section of this combo amp contains a solid-state preamp, an analog power amp, and Markbass' proprietary digital power supply. It is virtually identical to that of the Little Mark II amplifier which is the best-selling unit of the entire Markbass product line and weighs just over 6 lbs., but the combo head of the CMD 121H delivers slightly less power with 450 watts into a 4 ohm cabinet or 280 watts into an 8 ohm cabinet.

The interface design of the CMD 121H is intuitive and easy to navigate. On the front panel, there are two different input options. There is a 1/4" input that can be used for either passive or active basses as well as a balanced XLR connection which will accommodate high-end acoustic upright pickup systems. These inputs provide upright bassists the opportunity to blend a direct signal with that from a microphone by connecting a standard instrument cable from a typical bridge-mounted pickup to the 1/4" connector of the CMD 121H while simultaneously amplifying the upright via a microphone through the balanced XLR input.

The front panel also features an on/off switch with blue LED light, master volume, gain control, and blue clip light. In addition to these controls, the CMD 121H contains an extremely flexible 4-band EQ section that permits you to add or subtract specific frequencies and supplies an enormous palette of tone-shaping options. The EQ consists of a low EQ, low mid EQ, high mid EQ, and high EQ along with two special filters designed exclusively by Markbass, the VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator) and the VPF (Variable Preshape Filter). Each of the controls of the 4-band EQ cuts or boosts frequencies up to a generous 16 decibels at around 40 Hz, 360 Hz, 800 Hz, and 5 kHz, respectively. While all of the knobs turned very smoothly, I would prefer there to be center detents at the 12 o'clock position on most of the controls.

For me, the most exciting components of this combo amp are definitely the VLE and VPF filters. These two controls allow the user to dial in an array of classic to contemporary tones. For a mellow, retro sound such as that produced by a vintage amplifier, the VLE control can be used to filter out high frequencies. As you turn the VLE clockwise, the range of high frequencies that gets cut increases. The end result sounds similar to the tone knob on a passive bass. The VPF produces a mid-scoop by boosting lows around 35 Hz and highs at 10 kHz while at the same time cutting mids at 380 Hz. This produces a more modern sound and the classic slap bass tone. The amount of highs and lows that get boosted and mids that are cut increases as the VPF is turned clockwise.

The back panel of the combo head can be accessed through a velcro-secured, removable slot on top of the combo's housing. On the back panel, there are two speaker out connectors which allow you to connect either one or two speaker cabinets to the combo head. By default, the speaker cabinet is connected to the 1/4" speaker output. However, you could unplug the internal cabinet and drive an external cabinet through the 1/4" speaker output. You could even turn this combo amp into a small bass rig by using the internal speaker that is plugged into the 1/4" jack and connect the head to an additional speaker cabinet using the Neutrik speakon combo connector which will accept either a speakon or a 1/4" speaker cable.

Other features located on the back panel include an XLR line out that can deliver a balanced signal to a mixing board in a live performance setting or a recording console in the studio, a tuner out which can also send an unbalanced signal to another amp or recording device, an effects send and return, a ground lift switch, and a quiet, variable-speed fan that increases in velocity as the amp gets warmer. Even after hours of continued use, the CMD 121H only became moderately warm to the touch.

I tested the CMD 121H using four completely different basses, from a low-end Jazz bass to a high-end, custom-made instrument. With the tone controls set flat, I found that the CMD 121H certainly delivered what Markbass promised, a faithful replication of my instrument's natural tonal characteristics. With different EQ configurations, the CMD 121H produced everything from retro to edgier hi-fi tones, and it easily handled the low frequencies of a B-string on a 5-string bass with well-defined articulation.

The vertical-oriented construction of the CMD 121H combined with its weight of less than 40 lbs. and the top-positioned handle makes this combo amp very transportable. Considering its small footprint and weight, the CMD 121H provides an unbelievable amount of volume. It is more than enough to cover practically any performance situation you might find yourself playing. This combo amp generates so much output that I had a difficult time being able to tolerate the impressive loudness beyond the 9 o'clock position of the master volume.

Specifications:
Speaker: 1x12"
Tweeter: 1" compression driver with custom horn
Bass Reflex: Rear
Impedance: 8 ohms
Speaker Power Handling: 400W RMS (AES Standard)
Amp Output Power: (analog) 450W @ 4 ohm / 280W @ 8 ohm
Preamp: Solid state
Frequency Response: 45 Hz to 20 kHz
Crossover Frequency: 3.5 kHz
Sensitivity: 99 dB SPL
Weight: 39.5 lbs / 17.9 kg
Height: 23.6 in / 59.9 cm
Width: 15.3 in / 38.3 cm
Depth: 18.3 in / 46.4 cm
Made In Italy
Retail Price: $1200

The Bottom Line
Regardless of whether you play a standard 4-string, an extended range bass, or acoustic upright, the CMD 121H is a versatile and compact combo amp capable of delivering a variety of world-class vintage and contemporary tones to suit any playing style or performance application. From clubs to the studio, this mid-level priced combo amp easily surpasses the flexibility of more expensive combos available from other high-end manufacturers. If you are seeking the power, performance, and portability required by today's professional bass players without spending an absurd amount of money, the CMD 121H is worth checking out.

Contact:
Markbass Amplification
Parsek SRL
Via Aterno, 44
66020 San Giovanni Teatino
Chieti Italy
Web Site: Markbass.it
E-Mail: info@markbass.it

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - September 18, 2006



Effects


Line 6 - Bass PODxt Pro

Using state-of-the-art, patented technology, Line 6 has released the latest generation of their award-winning Bass POD Series, the Bass PODxt Pro. This new unit is packed with a re-engineered tone engine, all new amp and cab models, as well as an expanded and improved set of effects. From the stage to the studio, the Bass PODxt Pro allows the user access to world-class bass tone with over 50 sought-after stomp box, studio, and synth effects, 28 vintage and contemporary classic amp models, and 22 models of the most renowned cabinets ever built (see specifications below). In addition, Bass PODxt Pro delivers six simultaneous effects that can be routed to meet your unique sonic and tone-shaping needs along with a dedicated high-end compressor and 6-band semi-parametric EQ that are available at all times. The effects include models of classic distortion boxes, delays, choruses, flangers, compressors, as well as synth effects, filter effects, and rich reverbs. With painstaking analysis, the engineers at Line 6 have paid fanatical attention to detail, and this is especially apparent in the vintage bass amplification department. Exclusive to Line 6, the Bass PODxt Pro features the latest generation A.I.R. technology (acoustically integrated recording). This revolutionary A.I.R. technology is the key component to Line 6's successful recreation of all the elements including amps, cabinets, speakers, microphones, and the recording areas that interact and contribute to great bass tone.

Front Panel:
The first feature that jumps out at the user is the new LCD window for deep patch editing. From this user-friendly LCD, you can view all the modifications made upon tweaking any of the front panel's various controls including Amp Models, Effects, Drive, Tone Controls (Bass, Lo Mid, Hi Mid, Treble), Channel Volume, and the Compressor which is based on the famous LA-2A tube studio compressor. Inspired by the classics, the Bass PODxt Pro features 64 user/factory presets. Many of these presets are based upon some of the most popular tracks ever recorded, offering the user access to a mind-boggling collection of the most revered bass rigs. Admittedly, I am not a big effects tweaker. Unlike every other effects processor that I have ever tested and owned in the past, I found that the Bass PODxt Pro's preset effects sounded great and didn't require any tweaking at all in order to dial up cool bass tones. Although, with the deep editing and flexibility offered by the Bass PODxt Pro, you will have the option to tweak every parameter imaginable using the many controls accessible from the front panel. Several buttons provide multiple functions depending on what is selected in the LCD. If you adjust the amp model control to bring up the amp emulation that you desire, the Bass PODxt Pro automatically matches that particular amp model with an appropriate cabinet and microphone setup. In fact, when you select an Amp Model, all of the amp-related settings including drive and the tone controls automatically load. All of these amp-associated defaults may be customized to fit your own individual preferences. To locate the desired tone you want to hear, simply press a button or tweak a knob to switch cabs, amps, effects, and microphones and their placement. You have complete customization available at your fingertips, and the possible combinations are almost limitless. The Effects Tweak control varies different aspects of the effect you've selected and each parameter's settings is viewable in the LCD window so you know exactly what you are tweaking. The Select control allows you to dial through the Bass PODxt Pro's 64 channel memories (16 banks of 4 channels each), a huge collection of pre-programmed amp and effect selections. With the four soft buttons located below the LCD, you can control different operations depending on what you have highlighted in the LCD. The Effect On/Off buttons located above the LCD allow you to activate or disable the 6-band parametric EQ as well as the loaded stomp-box, modulation, and delay/reverb effects. If you press the CAB/A.I.R. button, you can choose a cabinet model to pair with an amplifier and select a microphone and its "room" to be used on a cabinet. You can save all of your personalized tones with the Save button. Push the Edit button and you have deep editing control over all the parameters and settings. Simply tap on the Tap button to control the timing of the delay effects. The I/O & Dig Select button serves several functions including selecting the connection of your input source to the Bass PODxt Pro, configuring optimal studio or live settings, and bi-amping your rig among other options. Using the headphones output, you can practice your bass skills anywhere with the Bass PODxt Pro. And, why spend hundreds of dollars on a hand-held tuner that might get lost when the Bass PODxt Pro also comes with a built-in chromatic tuner that offers precision tuning at the touch of a button?

Back Panel:
The back panel of the Bass PODxt Pro is a session bassist's and studio engineer's dream come true. Every possible output you could need in the studio or live on stage can be found on the back panel. With its XLR and 1/4 inch outputs, 24-bit/96k digital ins and outs (AES/EBU & S/PDIF), effects loop, MIDI, and USB connectors, you can connect the Bass PODxt Pro to any type of analog, digital, or computer audio hardware that you need. The 1/4 inch outputs can be used in Studio, Live, or Bi-Amp Modes. In Studio Mode, the Bass PODxt Pro is ready to be plugged into a recording device with -10dBV unbalanced inputs. In Live Mode, the speaker simulation is disabled and ready to be connected to an onstage amp. When Bi-Amp Mode is utilized, the low frequency spectrum of your signal is sent out the D.I. output while the high frequencies go out the Model output. Each output may then be connected to discrete power amps and speaker cabinets for independent amplification of the low and high frequencies. The D.I. output provides a line level direct signal that is perfectly time and phase aligned with the processed (amp-cab-mic-effects) signal driven out the Model output. Ever record a track and then later wish you wouldn't have used a particular effect, amp, or cabinet? By using the Analog Reamping input/output connections, you can send a dry unprocessed signal to a recording device and then re-route it right back into the Bass PODxt Pro. This feature allows you to hear an effected bass signal while recording an unprocessed signal at the same time to your recording device. Later, during mixdown, you may choose to alter your signal with any of the Bass PODxt Pro's controls. By way of the MIDI jack, the user may control every aspect of the Bass PODxt Pro. Using MIDI, you may select any Bass PODxt Pro channel, tweak any parameter, and even backup your Bass PODxt Pro's memory to your computer. Although the Bass PODxt Pro contains practically every stomp box and studio effect you could ever need, the unit also contains a programmable effects loop so you can run your old rackmount effects processors in either series or parallel. And, as if all of these previously mentioned ins and outs weren't enough, the Bass PODxt Pro supports direct digital recording to your PC or Mac with its USB connector and free downloadable drivers and the functionality to play back audio from your computer like a soundcard through your bass cabinet! Forget about having to haul cabinets, amplifiers, and heavy rack cases to and from the studio. Simply plug into the Bass PODxt Pro and you can record straight into Pro Tools or any other software-driven recording application. The Bass PODxt Pro is compatible with Line 6's FBV Series foot controllers including the FBV, FBV Shortboard, and the FBV4. These optional foot controllers provide access to 64 presets via hands-free channel switches, large backlit name display, dedicated stomp box on/off switches, combination wah/volume pedal, tap tempo switch, and expression pedal input among other features. The Bass PODxt Pro is also compatible with the FBV4 foot switch for access to four channels.

Value:
With a retail price of $899.00, the Line 6 Bass PODxt Pro offers serious bang-for-the-buck. At a fraction of the cost of amassing a substantial amps, cabinets, and effects collection, Line 6 has delivered the goods in a two-space rackmountable unit. You can definitely consider the Bass PODxt Pro money well spent and an investment in your tone for years to come.

Other:
The accompanying Bass PODxt Pro handbook guides you in a step-by-step fashion through all the ins and outs of the unit. The handbook was one of the most thorough and easy-to-read instructional manuals I've ever read on any piece of equipment. It features a quick start guide, an in-depth analysis of all the controls and various connections, getting set up in various configurations, creating and storing sounds, thorough descriptions of all the modeled amplifiers, cabinets, and effects (with pictures of the original devices), deep editing tweaking, possible options using the foot controllers, and appendices filled with diagrams, tables, references, and signal flow options.

Specifications:
28 Amp Models
     Acoustic 360
     Aguilar DB750
     Alembic F-2B
     Ampeg B-15
     Ampeg SVT
     Eden Traveller WT-300
     Fender Bassman Combo and Head
     Fender Dual Showman
     Gallien Kruger 800RB
     Hiwatt DR-103
     Hiwatt 200DR
     Marshall Major
     Marshall Super Bass
     Mesa Boogie 400+
     Polytone Minibrute
     Sunn Coliseum
     SWR SM-500
     Versatone Pan-O-Flex
     Vox AC-100
     6 Line 6 originals plus Tube Preamp and Sub Dub

22 Cabinet Models
     Acoustic 360 1x18
     Ampeg B-15 1x15
     Ampeg SVT 8x10
     Ashdown ABM 210T 2x10
     Eden 4x10
     Euphonics CXL-112L 1x12
     Fender Dual Showman D130F 2x15
     Fender Bassman Combo 4x10
     Hartke 4x10
     Hiwatt 4x12
     Line 6 4x10
     1967 Marshall Basketweave 4x12
     1968 Marshall Basketweave 4x12
     Marshall Major 4x15
     Mesa Boogie 1x18
     Mesa Boogie 2x15
     Polytone Minibrute 1x15
     Sunn Coliseum 1x18+12
     SWR Big Ben 1x15
     SWR Goliath 4x10
     Versatone Pan-O-Flex 1x12
     Vox AC-100 2x15

Effect Models
     Mu-Tron III Auto Wah
     Arbiter Fuzz Face
     Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
     EH Memoryman
     EP-1 Echoplex
     Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer
     ProCo Rat Classic Distortion
     Tycobrahe Octavia Octave Fuzz
     MXR Dynacomp Compressor
     Boss CS-1 Compression Sustainer
     ADA Flanger
     MXR Phase 90 Phaser
     Boss CE-1 Analog Chorus
     Uni-Vibe
     Fender Opto Tremolo
     Vox Bias Tremolo
     Fender Vibratone Rotary Drum
     Boss DM-2 Analog Delay
     Roland RE-101 Space Echo
     Line 6 Bass Overdrive
     Line 6 Bronze Master
     Line 6 Vetta Compressor
     Line 6 Deluxe Chorus
     Line 6 Deluxe Flanger
     Line 6 Sweep Echo
     Line 6 Digital Delay
     Line 6 Reverse Reverb
     Line 6 Spring, Room, Hall, Chamber, & Plate Reverbs

Additional Features
     6-band semi-parametric EQ
     64 channel memories
     Effects loop
     Bi-amp output mode with selectable crossover
     Built-in chromatic tuner
     +4dBu/-10dBV balanced 1/4" outs
     4-bit A/D/A converters
     MIDI I/O/Thru
     USB connector for digital I/O
     Headphone out
     Audio mute
     Bypass
     Foot controller connector
     S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital I/O (up to 24-bit/96kHz)
     XLR line out
     Balanced +4 line input for analog re-amping

Options:
FBV, FBV Shortboard, and FBV4 Foot Controllers

Bottom Line:
Why spend thousands of dollars trying to accumulate all the classic tones of yesterday along with the hi-fi sounds of today when Line 6 has already done all of the work for you. With its unsurpassed tone shaping flexibility, you have limitless sonic possibilities available at the push of a button or the turn of a knob. If you are serious about tone, then the Line 6 Bass PODxt Pro is a no-brainer.

To learn more about the Bass PODxt Pro from Line 6, go to: Line6.com or contact them at:

Line 6, Inc.
29901 Agoura Rd.
Agoura Hills, CA 91301-2513
Ph: (818) 575-3600

C. Engel



Accessories


Aguilar Amplification - Tone Hammer Preamp/Direct Box

Aguilar Amplification - Tone Hammer
The quest for great tone seems like a never ending process. Just when you think you have obtained the final component to complete the ultimate bass rig and achieve sonic supremacy, another piece of must-have gear reveals itself. The Aguilar Tone Hammer preamp/direct box is one such device. Based on their popular OBP-3 preamp design that was introduced several years ago, the Tone Hammer features a 3-band EQ that provides the boost and cut of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. The bass can be adjusted +/-18 dB @ 40 Hz and the treble +/-18 dB @ 4 kHz. Because the midrange selection of the OBP-3 is limited to just two settings, 400 and 800 Hz, the fully sweepable midrange makes the Tone Hammer a more flexible tone sculpting tool than its onboard predecessor. Spanning a range from 180 Hz to 1 kHz with 17 dB of boost and cut, the midrange control of the Tone Hammer offers more tonal variations, and this added capability supplies more control to accentuate or eliminate problematic frequencies inherent of the instrument or caused by the configuration of the venue.

The Tone Hammer is super simple to operate, and no matter where you set the controls, you can't dial in a bad tone. It has the potential to supply a wide array of sounds to cover practically any musical situation. The separate gain and master controls permit the user to utilize any 4, 5, or extended range bass instrument. With Aguilar's proprietary adaptive gain shaping circuitry (AGS), you can insert an additional gain structure and EQ curve with just the stomp of a button. Depending on the position of the gain control, the AGS circuitry delivers a continuously variable boost. As you turn the gain control clockwise with the AGS button engaged, the amount of boost and saturation increases while the bass continues to tighten and the treble is smoothed out. Unlike the tone produced by nearly all overdrive pedals and rackmountable effects processors which lose their bottom end once the distortion is employed, the Tone Hammer's bass response remains intact. When the AGS is utilized in conjunction with the 3-band EQ, you can toggle between vintage warmth, classic growl, contemporary slap sounds, and overdriven pick tones.

If you are already familiar with the renowned amplification that Aguilar has been manufacturing since 1995, then you know what to expect in terms of overall quality and construction. The Tone Hammer's sleek metal housing is built as solid as a tank. It contains a standard 1/4" input jack, 1/4" and XLR outputs, as well as pre/post DI and ground lift buttons. With the pre/post button set in the pre position, the signal is sent to the XLR output before the gain, AGS, and EQ settings. In the post position, the gain, AGS, EQ, and master control settings are all delivered to the XLR output jack.

Regardless of performance style or technique, the robust 18-volt operation provides the Tone Hammer with plenty of headroom to reproduce the entire spectrum of dynamics. It can be powered with two 9-volt batteries, phantom power, or an optional power adapter. After having spent literally days worth of testing the Tone Hammer in various practicing, live performance, and recording scenarios, the batteries were still going strong. Once the batteries are completely drained, changing them is a breeze. Just loosen the screw located on the bottom of the unit, and the battery compartment easily slides out. I would always recommend picking up the 18-volt power supply with any electronic device similar to this, especially since it is a relatively inexpensive option.

When you are playing out, whether as a solo bassist or backing a large ensemble, portability is always a crucial concern. While racks of gear or a floorboard full of pedals can be significant elements for some styles, not everyone wants to lug around all that equipment. If you long to downsize the load without sacrificing sound quality, then the Tone Hammer is definitely worth checking out. For those last minute recording sessions, rehearsals, or quick gigs where you don't want to haul a massive rig, just connect the Tone Hammer directly into a power amp or mixer, and you are ready to record in any studio environment or perform at any club. Since the Tone Hammer easily fits in the palm of your hand, its compact size makes it small enough to store in the pocket of a gig bag or the accessory compartment of a hardshell instrument case. It really doesn't get more portable than this.

The Tone Hammer was conceived to be much more than just a preamp in a pedal and with far more functionality than a standard direct box. The Tone Hammer isn't just a convenient substitute for an onboard preamp. It presents more tone shaping options than practically all onboard preamps and sounds superior to most rackmountable preamps at many times the cost.

With its tremendous flexibility, ease of use, and outstanding portability, the Aguilar Tone Hammer excels in every application from the studio to the stage. For a grab-it-and-go solution, the Tone Hammer can't be beat, and with a street price less than $200, there is absolutely no reason why every bassist shouldn't make this essential tool a part of their arsenal. No other preamp/direct box offers this much versatility in a convenient package at this price point. The Aguilar Tone Hammer is, without question, one of the best bass products of 2008.

Tone Hammer Specifications
- 1/4" input
- 1/4" and XLR output
- Bass: +/- 18 dB @ 40 Hz
- Midrange: +/- 17 dB @ 180 Hz to 1 kHz
- Treble: +/- 18 dB @ 4 kHz
- Engage switch
- AGS switch
- Pre/Post DI switch
- Ground lift switch
- Three-year limited warranty
- Street Price: $199

Options
- 18-volt power supply

Contact Information
Aguilar Amplification
599 Broadway, 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10012
Web Site: AguilarAmp.com
E-Mail: info@aguilaramp.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - October 30, 2008


Tascam: CD-BT1 Portable CD Bass Trainer - 07/20/04

Studying the grooves and solos of your favorite musicians from recordings has long been considered by leading educators to be among the most significant steps taken during the formative years of musical development. For many musicians in years past, this time-consuming process of transcription has often left them frustrated in their attempts of improving faster and becoming a more knowledgeable musician. Now, Tascam has provided a solution to this dilemma with its CD-BT1 Portable CD Bass Trainer and in the process packed it with an abundance of bonus features along the way. Transcription has never been easier.

Features:
Using the built-in CD player, the CD-BT1 can play any compact disc including 3" mini-CDs as well as finalized CD-Rs and CD-RWs. Among the coolest features of the CD-BT1 are three modes for altering the way a CD is played back. The Slow Speed Audition (SSA), Key, and Pitch modes can assist you in playing along with the CD at a different tempo or key. The Slow Speed Audition mode is the most impressive feature of the CD-BT1 and well worth the price of the unit alone. In the SSA mode, you can slow down the tempo of the music for transcription without changing the pitch by 8%, 16%, 32%, or 50%. You can slow down any portion of the CD to half-speed and then incrementally increase the tempo until you have the ability to play the passage up to full speed. Unlike many of the CD-BT1's software and hardware phrase-sampling predecessors that were capable of slowing down music to half-speed but at the cost of serious fidelity loss, Tascam has really refined this feature with their digital technology. Even at half-speed, specific notes are pretty easy to decipher and most of the digital noise inherent to its predecessors is practically eliminated. If you are experiencing problems in playing in a specific key on a track, you can use the Key mode to modify the key of the track up or down by six semitones while not affecting the tempo of the music. The CD-BT1 also allows you to slow down the tempo and drop the pitch of a track in 1% steps down to -50% with the Pitch mode.

To dissect bass parts more easily from CDs or reduce the level of an existing bass line for play-along, the Bass Enhancement Effect will permit you to boost, enhance, or even cut the bass region. If you are having difficulties with any musical passage, the loop function allows you to set loop points to capture small excerpts and repeat them seamlessly or even loop the entire track or whole CD. This loop function proves to be especially valuable when used in conjunction with the SSA, Key, and Pitch modes. Customized effects settings can be created by tweaking the parameters of the 16 preset effects (chorus, flanger, delay, compression, distortion, and auto-wah) from the large LCD display and then storing them in one of the five effects slots for later use. In addition to these effects, the CD-BT1 has a 5-band equalizer with two memories to help you dial-in your favorite bass tone and a built-in 11-segment chromatic tuner. If you are using the CD-BT1 in low-light areas, the LCD display may become somewhat difficult to read because it is not backlit.

Regardless the type of pickups found in your bass, the 1/4" bass input is switchable to accommodate both active and passive pickups. Using the Line In mini-jack, you can connect a stereo line source such as an output from a bass preamplifier, rackmount effects unit, synthesizer, or cassette deck to the CD-BT1. With the Footswitch input and a non-latching footswitch, you can step through the effects settings on the CD-BT1 or cue the CD player with hands-free operation. You can connect a pair of headphones to the Phones stereo mini-jack to practice privately and not disturb anyone. From the Line Out stereo mini-jack, you can connect the CD-BT1 to a stereo system, powered speakers, or bass amp for CD playback and play-along or even capture your sessions with a recording device. For conducting bass clinics or shows, the CD-BT1 excels as a device to simply play backing tracks or provide samples for loopers from pre-recorded audio via the Line Out.

Options:
The CD-BT1 can be transported in the Tascam CDSP1 CD Trainer carry bag. This carry bag functions as a case for the CD-BT1 with room for the player, power supply, and 24 CDs. It even contains a pair of speakers so you can use your CD-BT1 anywhere. If you plan on multi-tasking the unit (play-along, effects, SSA, etc.), purchasing the AC adaptor is recommended because battery life is greatly reduced when multiple functions are utilized simultaneously.

Specifications:
Plays any compact disc including 3" mini-CDs and finalized CD-R/RWs
Slow Speed Audition slows down the CD tempo to 50% without altering the pitch
Changes song key �6 semitones and �50 cents without affecting tempo
Shifts song pitch and tempo in 1% steps down to 50%
Bass boost, bass enhance, and bass cut for CD playback
16 effects including chorus, flanger, delay, compression, distortion, and auto-wah
5-band graphic EQ with adjustable mid shape for bass input
Multifunction LCD display
1/4" bass input, switchable for active or passive pickups
1/8" line in input
1/8" line out output
1/8" headphone output
Footswitch input for cue start or effects switching
Cue button automatically returns you to the last playback starting point
Built-in 11-segment chromatic tuner
2-way power supply: 4 AA batteries or optional AC adapter

Accessories:
Tascam PS-PS5 AC Adaptor
Tascam CDSP1 CD Trainer Carry Bag With Speakers
Tascam RC-30P Footswitch

Bottom Line:
I wish the Tascam CD-BT1 had been available ten years ago. It would have saved me hundreds of dollars and countless hours in experimenting with other transcription devices, not to mention the many rewind and fast-forward buttons on the CD players and cassette decks I ruined over the years doing transcriptions. Whether you are in the studio, a tour bus, a hotel room, or at home and up late when everyone else is asleep, this easy-to-use, portable workstation allows you to practice anywhere at anytime. With all the sophisticated features available in the CD-BT1 along with an ultra-affordable retail price of $199, it is way too indispensable not to own.

For more information on Tascam's CD-BT1 Portable CD Bass Trainer, go to: Tascam.com.

C. Engel


Evidence Audio: The Lyric Instrument Cable - 06/07/03

Founded in 1997 in an effort to provide the finest instrument and studio cables available, Evidence Audio's technology is based upon decades of research in accurately transferring the quality of tone as it is passed through electronics. To test The Lyric instrument cable from Evidence Audio, we used a Zon Sonus and Fender Jazz basses connected via The Lyric to several SWR Sound Corporation units including the Grand Prix preamp, Stereo 800 power amp, Henry the 8x8 and Goliath Junior III speaker cabinets, and the Super Redhead combo amp.

Sound:
A/B tested against a range of cables of varying price levels, The Lyric easily outperformed them all. There was no comparison. The Lyric delivered a fully balanced signal with improved clarity, a wide dynamic range, a sonic depth, and an extremely well defined, articulate sound which the other cables seemed to lack. The signal remained crisp, lively, and clean. You could actually hear a sonic difference with A/B testing.

Construction:
In order to overcome the distortion found in most other cables of lesser quality, Evidence Audio's Lyric is a directional instrument cable which utilizes high-grade IGL copper conductors, solid core conductors, a balanced design, foamed polypropylene insulating material, a high-density pure copper braid for shielding to keep out interference, Wonder Solder from TRT, and Neutrik plugs. Many inferior cables will degrade audio signal through poor conducting material, insulation material, plugs, solder, strand design, and geometry, but The Lyric really excels in every area. Although the solid core conductors prevent The Lyric from possessing the flexibility of a stranded cable, the solid core conductors more than make up for that tradeoff with enhanced signal quality. These are heavy-duty cables. With the foamed polypropylene insulation, the amount of air around the conductors is maximized which in turn preserves the detail in resolution. In addition to the high-density pure copper braid, the conductors are also wrapped with graphite tape to further reduce extraneous noise. The Lyric can be utilized in long lengths without the fear of losing high frequencies because The Lyric was designed with that obstacle in mind. The Wonder Solder from TRT is comprised of a proprietary blend of materials which doesn't induce its own sonic signature on the tone, unlike many other solders. Likewise, the Neutrik plugs don't influence the signal, and they do a superb job of protecting against corrosion. The directionability of The Lyric is extremely easy to decipher. The plug with the red boot connects to the amplifier while the plug with the black boot goes to the instrument.

Value:
Through careful research and testing, The Lyric is comprised of a cable design which combines the best materials available, and the result is a high performance cable of exceptional quality which surpasses other cables costing much more.

Specifications:
As Tested
Length: 15 ft. Straight - Straight Plugs
Color: Green Vinyl Jacket
Connectors: Neutrick
Price: $55.00
Made in the U.S.A.

Options:
Even though Evidence Audio already offers a wide range of cables from 1.5 ft to 30 ft. in length, they will custom make cables to fit your own specific needs. Right angle plugs are also available.

Bottom Line:
The Lyric instrument cable by Evidence Audio is a serious cable for serious musicians. Compared to other cables in a similar price range, The Lyric's quality is simply unsurpassed. After just one listen, you will wander how you played all those years without it.

For more information on Evidence Audio's instrument, speaker, microphone, and TRS cables, visit: EvidenceAudio.com or contact them at:

Evidence Audio
P.O. Box 73241
San Clemente, CA 92673
Ph: (949) 306-7390

C. Engel



Videos


Todd Johnson & Jim Stinnett - Fishin' For Grips - Melodic Harmonization For Bass Guitar

Todd Johnson & Jim Stinnett - Fishin' For Grips - Melodic Harmonization For Bass Guitar
Authored by Todd Johnson and Berklee College of Music professor Jim Stinnett, two of the world's finest bass educators, Fishin' For Grips is the first instructional DVD to document the application of melodic harmonization on electric bass. On this video, Johnson lays the foundation of his chord-melody approach by spelling 3-note chord voicings consisting of triads and seventh chords constructed from the major, minor, and dominant scales. While it would be helpful to understand fundamental theory such as intervals, triads, seventh chords, and scales before you begin studying Johnson's methodology, it certainly isn't required to achieve success with this presentation. Johnson and Stinnett walk you through each example in a step-by-step fashion so that even a beginner with little or no prior musical training can benefit from the instruction and attain a level of proficiency. The proper fingerings and hand positions presented by Johnson in his teachings solidify the essential principles and reinforce the mechanics that are required to physically execute and internalize the sound of the grips. The structured programming of the video chapters range from basic triads to more advanced voicings which permit you to choose the degree of difficulty you would like to practice. To demonstrate the musical application of his innovative chordal techniques, Johnson utilizes several classic songs and standards from the jazz repertoire throughout the video including "You Are My Sunshine," "Autumn Leaves," "Mr. P.C.," "C-Jam Blues," "Misty," "Cherokee," and "Surfer Girl." Although the examples illustrated on this video are played by Johnson on his Zon signature model 6-string bass guitar with a high C-string, all of the grips can be easily performed on a standard 4-string bass if strung in tenor tuning (A-D-G-C). Several short comedic interludes provide brief moments of rest as you proceed from one section to the next. In the accompanying 40-page book, Johnson reveals his rules for gripping and outlines a collection of 15 tips including suggestions on how to improve the positioning of your bass to play those grips that are more difficult to finger and muting considerations. The book also features fretboard diagrams, chord charts, and practice techniques to maximize your learning experience as well as interviews with both Johnson and Stinnett. For the past two decades, Todd Johnson has been at the forefront of the extended range movement and has expanded the traditional role of the bass guitar with his pioneering performance style. Fishin' For Grips is an indispensable resource for the contemporary study of chordal vocabulary on bass guitar.

Release Date: May, 2009

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Street Price: $40.00

Artist Contacts: ToddJohnsonMusic.com & JimStinnett.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - September 1, 2009


Todd Johnson - The Solo Session

Todd Johnson - The Solo Session
Regarded as one of the world's leading electric bass educators, Todd Johnson has designed an instructional series of DVDs comprised of core curriculum based on his vast knowledge and the extensive experience which he has acquired as a professional bassist. With his 6-string signature model Zon bass, Johnson has developed a distinct style of performance that goes beyond the traditional role of the bass guitar. On The Solo Session, the first DVD to document his innovative chord melody techniques, Johnson demonstrates his melodic chordal approach to arranging popular standards from the jazz repertoire and original compositions for solo bass guitar. Through accompaniment comprised of double, triple, and quadruple-stop chordal voicings in the styles of legendary jazz guitarists such as Wes Montgomery, Ron Escheté, and Joe Pass, Johnson transitions fluidly from one finger-twisting chord structure to the next while playing the melodies of these pieces simultaneously. Featured within the special bonus footage section of this DVD is excerpted instructional content from Volume's I and II of Johnson's acclaimed Walking Bass Line Module System DVD series along with a collection of fundamental exercises found on his Technique Builders DVD and a 2004 solo rendition of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic." Also provided on this DVD is an address to a page on Johnson's web site where supplemental notated examples can be downloaded. Whether this performance DVD is utilized by the viewer for entertainment purposes or to serve as a master class for learning chordal vocabulary, The Solo Session is an indispensable resource for contemporary bassists who are looking to expand their musical horizons and explore new sounds on the bass guitar.

DVD Chapters:
- "All The Things You Are"
- "Blues For Hellen"
- "Bye Bye Blackbird"
- "Goin' Home"
- "In A Mellow Tone"
- "Smile"
- "Stella By Starlight"
- "There Will Never Be Another You"
- "You Are My Sunshine"
- "Just A Closer Walk With Thee"

Release Date: August, 2007

Running Time: 42 Minutes

Street Price: $25.00

Artist Contact: ToddJohnsonMusic.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - August 20, 2007


Alain Caron - 5 Live

Alain Caron - 5 Live
An internationally acclaimed and award-winning virtuoso bassist, Alain Caron is widely revered as one of today's most influential figures within the bass community. For over the past three decades, Caron has delivered some of the most complex slap grooves, powerful rhythmic structures, and emotive fretless melodies ever recorded by a bassist. With his highly advanced approach to slap bass playing, Caron's technical faculty and improvisation proficiency remain unparalleled. Utilizing both of his fretted and fretless 6-string F basses and Roland bass rig alongside an outstanding ensemble consisting of Jean St-Jacques on keyboards and malletkat, saxophonist David Bellemare, Simon Langlois on drums, and keyboardist Francois Blouin, 5 Live was recorded at Le Cabaret Music Hall De Montreal on May 18, 2005. On this live concert DVD, Caron directs his band through extended renditions of all the tracks from, 5, his previous release as a solo artist. Classified best as an instrumental fusion of contemporary jazz and electronic sounds, 5 was Caron's fifth studio project as a leader. In addition to performing all of the material introduced on 5, this presentation includes "Baby Step" and a couple of Caron's most inspiring bass-centric pieces, "Slam The Clown" and "D-Code." In terms of its overall production quality, 5 Live is undoubtedly one of the best performance DVDs ever released by a bassist. It features a bilingual interface (English and French), stereo and 5.1 surround sound audio, and it also contains a collection of DVD extras such as a selected discography, photo gallery, and equipment list. 5 Live is highly recommended to anyone seeking to experiment with Caron's pioneering performance techniques or studying the art of bass playing within a fusion/contemporary jazz format. 5 Live is also available as a double CD compilation.

DVD Chapters:
- "Ocean Of Trees"
- "Double Agent"
- "Signal"
- "Ink Illusion"
- "Show Of Hands"
- "No Left Turn On Tuesday"
- "Slam The Clown"
- "Turkey Loose On The Kit"
- "Baby Step"
- "Solitude"
- "Black Paws"
- "D-Code"

Musicians: Alain Caron (Basses), Jean St-Jacques (Keyboards and Malletkat), David Bellemare (Saxophones), Simon Langlois (Drums), Francois Blouin (Keyboards)

Style: Fusion/Contemporary Jazz

Release Date: June, 2006

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Artist Contact: AlainCaron.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - May 31, 2007


Todd Johnson - Walking Bass Line Module System: Vol. II - Scale Modules

Todd Johnson - The Walking Bass Line Module System
In volume two of his Walking Bass Line Module System, Todd Johnson picks up where he left off in the previous installation of this series as he continues to break down the art of walking bass line construction through scale modules. After a brief review of the fundamental components presented in volume one, Johnson outlines the basic building blocks of this DVD by playing the major scale utilizing just two hand positions and two sets of fingerings based upon the one-finger-per-fret approach to fingerboard harmony. Johnson then proceeds with his systematic analysis of walking bass lines created with Dorian, Mixolydian, Major, Aeolian, Locrian, and Spanish Dominant scale modules which are applied to a couple hand positions within his 4 + 2 filing system over both major and minor ii-V-I chord progressions, the most common progressions found in jazz music. Since the foundation of his method is based upon memorizing modules comprised of scale degree such as 1-2-3-5 or 8-7-6-5 and variations of those combinations, the entire system can be utilized in a universal fashion on any chord type within any chord progression or song form. Simply take a small number of these modules, plug them into the chord changes you are playing over, and make the necessary chord tone and scale tone adjustments in order to use any module on the various chord types. Johnson also demonstrates his method in real world musical application by providing transcribed bass lines to classic jazz standards including "Autumn Leaves," "Stella By Starlight," "All The Things You Are," and "How High The Moon." Along with the first-class video production and multiple viewing angles presented throughout the duration of this course, each of the performed walking lines is notated in standard notation on the screen, and you can download supplemental materials from Johnson's web site consisting of all the examples in the portable document format (PDF), blank chord charts which you can use as templates for improvising your own walking lines, a master module reference guide, bonus video excerpts, and several MP3 play-alongs to further assimilate the walking bass line module system into your practice sessions. Although Johnson encourages students to study music theory and learn essential chord/scale association, his walking bass line module system can be easily learned by anyone, regardless of their playing level or ability to read standard notation. While it might make sense to examine the triad modules of volume one in this DVD series before working through the scale modules contained in volume two since they are related and can be used in conjunction with each other, these scale modules have been developed independently of their predecessors, and they can be studied as such. In addition to presenting this easy-to-learn method to electric and acoustic upright bassists, it can be employed by guitar players and keyboardists as well.

DVD Chapters:
- Introduction & Review
- Overview
- Bb - 2 - E
- Scale Modules Ascending
- 4 + 2 Stretch Notes
- Scale Modules Descending
- Resolution Rule
- The 2 Bar Phrase
- Bb - 2 - E (Ex. 1-9)
- Bb - 4 - E
- Bb - 4 - E (Ex. 1-9)
- Theory Reminder
- Gmi - 1 - E
- Minor ii-v-i
- Gmi - 1 - E (Ex. 1-9)
- 4th Finger Minor
- Ami - 4 - E
- Putting It All Together
- "Autumn Leaves"
- "Stella By Starlight"
- "All The Things You Are"
- "How High The Moon"
- Closing Thoughts

Release Date: April, 2007

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Street Price: $40.00

Artist Contact: ToddJohnsonMusic.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - April 30, 2007


Todd Johnson - Technique Builders: The Essential Guide To Electric Bass Technique

Todd Johnson - Technique Builders
In an effort to correct the most common technique-based problems experienced amongst his students, Todd Johnson has released his second instructional DVD, Technique Builders. As an instructor, Johnson has demonstrated his concepts to students at leading musical institutions in California, during bass clinics throughout the United States, and in private lessons since the early 1990's. In this DVD, Johnson troubleshoots the problems inherent to playing the electric bass. He addresses the mechanics involved in playing the instrument in the most efficient manner possible by eliminating wasted motion and reveals how you can control the shape, attack, decay, and articulations of the notes you play.

Through an organized method, this DVD is divided into four separate sections. Following a brief introduction outlining the general purpose of the content within the DVD and the benefits of utilizing good technique, Johnson begins by discussing some of the basic and most often overlooked variables involved in playing electric bass such as the angles of the wrists, the height at which the bass is strapped on, and setting the strap at a consistent length for both standing and sitting positions.

In the second portion of his course, Johnson focuses on principles including left hand posture, finger placement, the right hand, the floating thumb concept, right hand muting technique, as well as playing with a light right hand touch and right hand placement considerations.

After establishing the fundamental guidelines contained within the first couple of segments, Johnson moves onto a series of exercises that are split into two additional sections. In the first group of exercises, Johnson discusses the significance of warming up and stretching in order to build strength, independence, and dexterity between each of the fingers. He also presents a series of exercises he calls two-finger combos, a shifting drill, a supportive fingering exercise, an exercise regarded as the x-drill, and exercises he refers to as bouncing fifths. In the last section of the DVD, Johnson outlines six more collections of exercises comprised of the spider, octaves, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and ghost notes.

As with his previous instructional DVD, Johnson's Technique Builders is extremely structured, well-produced, and provides multiple camera angles with lots of close-ups which allows you to really get inside the techniques and view his hands from different positions. Following a link specified on the DVD, you can also review several of the exercises in both standard notation and tablature by downloading supplemental PDF files from Johnson's web site.

The Bottom Line
Regardless of your current playing level, previous experience, or the style of music you prefer to play, Todd Johnson's Technique Builders will assist in establishing a solid foundation in becoming a well-rounded bassist and save you hours of frustration in not being able to play something accurately due to the lack of proper technique. It is the perfect starting place for beginners who have just picked up the electric bass and also for those self-taught bassists who are seeking to resolve bad habits that have been inadvertently formed over the years.

Release Date: January, 2006

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Street Price: $40.00

Artist Contact: ToddJohnsonMusic.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - April 1, 2006


Todd Johnson - Walking Bass Line Module System: Vol. I - Triad Modules

Todd Johnson - The Walking Bass Line Module System
Acknowledged for his innovative approach to playing the 6-string bass as a seasoned performer with the critically-acclaimed Ron Escheté Trio and also recognized as a highly-regarded clinician, Todd Johnson has packaged years of experience into his first instructional DVD series, The Walking Bass Line Module System: Vol. I - Triad Modules. In volume I, Johnson dissects a collection of triad-based modules that can be used in building walking bass lines.

After defining basic terminology and discussing fundamental music concepts such as strong beat/weak beat theory, essential bass line requirements, and the three components of walking bass line construction, Johnson demonstrates how his in-depth system works through a series of 25 different modules consisting of roots, thirds, fifths, octaves, and half-step approaches from above and below these scale degrees. Two additional modules comprised of roots, thirds, fifths, and sevenths are included near the conclusion of the program that offer a glimpse towards the direction of volume II of this series.

Besides illustrating his module system to a backing track of chordal accompaniment and drums on a simple 12-bar blues form that is utilized throughout the duration of the course, Johnson offers suggestions regarding how you can employ his approach on the classic jazz standard, "Autumn Leaves." He also specifies resolution and quarter note rules, turnaround tips, thoughts on using open strings versus playing closed tones, right hand placement, and how his method will improve your skill to hear chord changes.

Unlike most other walking bass line methods, Johnson's system really excels in that the ability to read standard music notation is not required in order to learn the material because it's entirely based upon the memorization of bite-sized, 4-digit note arrangements that anyone can easily digest. If you are interested in reviewing the modules in standard notation as well as trying to replicate a live performance situation, you can download supplemental PDF files and MP3 play-along tracks directly from Johnson's web site. Johnson states that his approach can be learned through approximately 3-6 weeks of diligent practice, and then once you have a basic understanding of how the concepts work, it is just a matter of taking the triad modules and inserting them in chord changes as they are presented to you in songs.

The Bottom Line
For less than the cost of a single, private lesson, you receive instruction from one of the best jazz bassists in the business that you can review for years to come. Todd Johnson's Walking Bass Line Module System: Vol. I - Triad Modules is a logically-organized, easy-to-understand system that guides you step-by-step through the tools required to create solid, functional walking bass lines.

Release Date: August, 2005

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Street Price: $40.00

Artist Contact: ToddJohnsonMusic.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - February 1, 2006


Roy Vogt: Electric Bass - 11/25/04

During this hour-long Master Study Series DVD, bassist Roy Vogt guides the viewer through a diverse collection of topics including walking bass lines, hand positions, scales, chords, slapping, tapping, and harmonics on 4 and 6-string fretted electric basses as well as fretless 6-string bass. Vogt, an instructor at Belmont University and a graduate of the University of Miami jazz program, became the recipient of the first masters degree in Electric Bass Performance awarded in the United States in 1980. Vogt begins by discussing the historical function of the bass as a bridge between the percussion and harmonic instruments such as the piano in an ensemble setting. Vogt then explains the significance of voice leading through the cycle of 4ths and shows how to create effective walking bass lines in both two-feel and quarter note-based styles utilizing triads and approach notes in every key. In the next section, Vogt breaks down basic left and right hand technique including the one-finger-per-fret concept, using the thumb on the back of the neck as a pivot point to relieve fatigue and expand the range of frets that you can cover in any position, wrist curvature, 2-finger alternating technique, economy of motion, and the floating thumb concept. Following a dissection of the modes of the major scale and diatonic 7th chords on a fretted 4-string bass, Vogt moves to a fretted 6-string in order to illustrate various chord voicings as well as two-handed tapping concepts. In the slap bass chapter, Vogt takes a look at the components closely associated with slap bass techniques including the role of the thumb, plucking fingers, muting, ghost notes, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and double thumbing approaches. Before closing with a brief description of 7-string bass, Vogt describes a few exercises to assist in playing fretless bass in tune, adding coloration with vibrato, and harmonics. Bottom Line: Through a culmination of years of proven playing, performing, recording, and teaching experience, Roy Vogt demonstrates many of the fundamental concepts to help you get started and further your understanding of electric bass techniques. For more information on Roy Vogt and this DVD, visit: RoyVogt.com.

C. Engel


Matt Garrison: Live DVD/CD - 09/25/04

After working with world renowned jazz pianist Herbie Hancock on his live DVD project, Matt Garrison entered a New York City studio in December, 2003 to capture a live performance as the leader of his own band consisting of material found primarily on his self-titled debut project. In front of a live studio audience and backed by several of his world-class musical colleagues including Adam Rogers (guitar), Scott Kinsey (keys), Jojo Mayer (drums), Sabina Sciubba (vocals), Arto Tuncboyacian (percussion), Jim Beard (keys), and Gene Lake (drums), Garrison documents his unique, multi-layered style of composition, unorthodox 4-finger right hand technique, and inventive chordal approach on his signature Fodera bass. The intensity of Garrison's playing and the live energy generated by the performance of his ensemble is fully realized through this video presentation and far surpasses the playing on the original tracks that were released a few years ago. The overall production of the DVD project is excellent. A complete track listing of the DVD performances includes: "Family", "Shapeless", "Duet", "Groove Tune", "Arto's Song", "Dark Matter", "Turn Around", and "Duet 9/4." The live CD does not include "Arto's Song." The total DVD running time is 49 minutes, and the CD running time is 42 minutes. Bottom Line: If you have never experienced the music of Matt Garrison in a live performance setting, this DVD presents the perfect opportunity to witness the virtuoso skills of one of today's most gifted bassists. The live DVD can also function as an instructional video for those who are interested in gaining insight into Garrison's mind-boggling bass technique. To learn more about Matt Garrison and his live DVD/CD, go to: GarrisonJazz.com.

C. Engel


Norm Stockton: Pondering Bass Technique - From Bass Pyrotechnics To Art - 07/07/04

In his most advanced presentation to date from the Grooving For Heaven bass instructional video series, bassist Norm Stockton demystifies many of the most popular techniques utilized in the vocabulary of contemporary bass playing. In his analysis, Stockton breaks down a broad palette of bass techniques including slapping, tapping, chords, harmonics, and palm muting. Stockton begins by explaining the fundamental mechanics of slap techniques, the most extensive section of the program. From single string slaps and plucks to double thumbing and plucking, Stockton provides forty exercises to assist in the control, accuracy, consistency, and refinement of your slap technique while considering musical sensitivity and the assimilation of these techniques into the most appropriate musical context. In the chapter outlining the elements of tapping, Stockton presents several exercises to aid in obtaining independence between your right and left hands along with musical applications displaying the primary ways Stockton uses arpeggio shapes, single-string, and chordal tapping techniques. To demonstrate some of the numerous chording opportunities on electric bass, Stockton offers a number of possible variations on minor 7th, major 7th, dominant 7th, diminished, augmented, and half-diminished chord voicings in multiple positions on the fingerboard. In the chapter titled A Spectrum of Tones: Chimes, Thuds, & Swells, Stockton explores the timbres that can be created with artificial harmonics, palm muting, and volume swells. Stockton then addresses how to combine many of these techniques into a tapestry of parts as dictated by the music followed by a brief discussion of his favorite effects to reinforce and enhance bass parts. Stockton's lesson concludes with an introduction to the concept of solo bass arranging using factors such as implied harmony through sparse chord voicings. Throughout the duration of the program, Stockton demonstrates how each of the techniques discussed can be employed with a number of featured performances of several original compositions and arrangements including "A Tender NAMM Moment", "Pondering The Sushi", "The Star Spangled Banner", "Veggie Soup", "Come Before Winter", "The Cedars Of Lebanon", "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring", and "Angels We Have Heard On High." A special features section includes many "minus-bass" play-along tracks from Stockton's critically-acclaimed debut solo recording, Pondering The Sushi, such as "The Race", "Pondering The Sushi", "Blessed", "A Tender NAMM Moment", and "Veggie Soup." An additional benefit of the dvd format found in the chapter list options allows the user to jump to any specific exercise contained within that section. Bottom Line: For less than the price of a single private lesson, Norm Stockton has packed enough information into Pondering Bass Technique to keep even the most dedicated students in the woodshed for months. With over 2 hours of instruction from one of the finest bass educators in the world today, Pondering Bass Technique will equip you with the tools to pursue your musical creativity and express the widest range of tonal colors available to contemporary bass players using unconventional techniques. For more information on Norm Stockton and Pondering Bass Technique, visit: NormStockton.com.

C. Engel


Norm Stockton: The Art Of Groove - Taking Your Bass/Drum Relationship To The Next Level - 03/07/04

In Volume 3 of his highly-acclaimed Grooving For Heaven bass instructional video series, bassist Norm Stockton demonstrates how to take the bass/drum relationship to the next level through a comprehensive analysis of the interaction between the bassist and drummer in a contemporary ensemble setting. The Art Of Groove begins with a duo performance of "Blessed" from Stockton's very popular debut solo project, Pondering The Sushi. After a brief introduction and overview of the course, Stockton defines groove and discusses the role of a bassist as the bridge between the harmonic and rhythmic elements of the band. Stockton then addresses fundamental relative pitch ear training exercises using scales, intervals, and arpeggios. Utilizing the skills of David Owens on drum set, Stockton provides some very useful insight to rhythmic ear training through drum beat placement and variations on typical pop grooves. Within the Groove 101 chapter, Stockton explains groove concepts and approaches. With assistance from Owens and guitarist Joel Whitley, Stockton delivers example after example of what to do and more importantly what not to do in various situations and then how to subtly adjust your bass line accordingly to avoid rhythmic redundancy and salvage the overall feel of the music looking at the big picture. Stockton and Owens work through a multitude of must-know grooves exhibiting the nuances of what bassists and drummers typically play in a number of styles including rock, funk, fusion, r&b, reggae, hip hop, gospel, western african, south african, and ska genres. Stockton and Owens then take odd time signatures into consideration and reveal how to count their subdivisions in an easy-to-understand fashion. In the Critical Subtleties chapter, Stockton and Owens analyze the hard-to-define aspects of music which separate great musicians from the average. During a discussion of tempo versus feel, Stockton and Owens manipulate tempos and play various rhythmic anticipations and fills. Before closing the program with a performance of "Veggie Soup", the bonus track on his debut recording, Stockton and Owens guide you through spontaneous bass and drum musical dialogues by introducing variations in a call and response type of format and demonstrate rhythmic consistency using different technical aspects on their respective instruments. As a special dvd addition, Stockton performs an original composition in a live performance music video with a featured "Norm Cam" perspective. Bottom Line: Norm Stockton is one of the finest bass educators in the world today. Packed with all the essential grooves of the vocabulary and a total running time of almost 2 hours, The Art Of Groove is the first bass instructional method of its kind that delves so deeply into the analysis of the interaction between the roles of a bassist and drummer. Every bassist should force their time-keeping counterparts to watch this dvd. This video is an indispensable resource for any aspiring bassist looking to take their grooving ability to the next level. To learn more about Norm Stockton and The Art Of Groove, go to: NormStockton.com.

C. Engel


Keith Horne: Bass Techniques - 07/05/03

Presented by RowPro Records, Bass Techniques gives the aspiring bassist an inside look at the techniques which have made Keith Horne one of Nashville's most sought-after studio veterans and touring sideman to some of the biggest names in country music. Accompanied by guests Dane Bryant, Shawn Fichter, Pat McDonald, Jeffery Scott Wills, Sons of the Desert, and John Billings, Horne reveals his very unique approach to playing bass. The video consists of footage shot in a number of locations and captures Horne in a wide variety of musical formats including solo, duo, trio, and full band settings. The video begins with Horne playing a tour-de-force funk groove and solo, followed by a brief outline of his musical roots, influences, and the reasoning behind playing bass upside down. Next, Horne describes the gear he uses to obtain his distinct tone including his signature model, Warrior 6-string bass. In an unaccompanied, groove-infected showcase, Horne demonstrates how to utilize an arsenal of techniques complete with harmonics, a serious chordal workout, and blistering solo runs. With fellow bassist John Billings, Horne breaks down his approach to playing in funk, country, and blues styles and explains how to play for the song and incorporate tasteful fills, slides, and other licks to enhance the overall feel of compositions while remaining true to the style without over playing. Following this 30-minute presentation, the video concludes with two special performances with Horne and Sons of the Desert and as a leader of his own band. Bottom Line: While Bass Techniques is geared more towards the performance aspect of Horne's style, there are plenty of concepts found within this video to keep bassists of all levels sheddin' for a long time. From bluegrass to country to funk and blues, Keith Horne is truly a musical chameleon. Not only does he provide some of the most in-demand bass playing and vocal work in Nashville, but he gigs regularly as a guitarist too! As a multi-instrumentalist, few people possess this much raw musical talent.

C. Engel


Norm Stockton: Grooving For Heaven - Volume 2: The Bassist & Contemporary Worship - 02/06/03

In this 90+ minute instructional video, bassist Norm Stockton addresses a variety of fundamental musical concepts, ideas, and bass techniques applicable to a wide range of musical styles. Even more importantly, Stockton discusses the often overlooked subtleties of what not to play in musical settings. This volume picks up where volume one of this video series left off, Fingerboard Familiarity: Modes and Intervals. In this section Stockton guides you step-by-step through the modes of the major scale and interval memorization. If you have ever had trouble understanding how the modes of the major scale can be fully utilized in any musical situation, after viewing this section, you will see the light. Stockton outlines modal exercises and how to identify notes before you play them. Next, Stockton delves into Bassic Communication and demonstrates how to add spice to your lines and say what you mean through dynamics, articulations, slurs, hammer-ons, vibrato, and ghost notes. In the part that follows, Stockton analyzes several bass idioms within country, jazz, funk, rock, reggae, and latin music. He also briefly mentions tonal settings for your bass which will enhance the overall sound of your lines in each style. Then, he takes a closer look at The Slap Style with numerous string crossing and octave-based exercises. The next section is dedicated to the very subjective and somewhat intangible topic of Taste and how to contribute sensitively within the context of your given situation. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar and vocal backing track, Stockton provides a number of examples and variations with skillfully interwoven bass lines. He offers advice on how to perform as a team member and how to say the most with your lines without detracting from the overall performance of the group. Very nice! This section regarding Taste may very well be the most significant concept ever placed in an instructional video. Lastly, Stockton shows how a bassist can expand the tonal palette with the mwah factor of Fretless Bass. Bottom Line: Through his extensive travels performing and conducting clinics around the world, Norm Stockton has acquired years of experience as a professional bassist, and now he shares that insight with you on Grooving For Heaven - Volume 2: The Bassist & Contemporary Worship. Although this video was conceived with the bassist playing in a contemporary worship environment in mind, all of the topics included in this one-on-one video presentation are applicable to any beginner to intermediate leveled playing bassist looking to further develop their bass playing skills. For more information on Norm Stockton and this video, visit: NormStockton.com.

C. Engel


John Patitucci: David Gage String Instruments Master Class Series - 5/12/02

36 Walker Productions, the media arm of the world renowned David Gage String Instrument Repair Shop, has released its first video from its Master Class Series, John Patitucci: Master Class Video. Patitucci, currently the Artistic Director of New York's Bass Collective, is an award-winning electric/acoustic bassist who stands at the forefront of contemporary jazz as a highly sought-after sideman and a successful, Grammy-award winning leader of his own groups. Over the past decade, Patitucci has been recognized by critics and fans alike in polls conducted around the world as one of today's elite jazz bassists. Now, with his first ever acoustic-based video, he imparts all of his years of knowledge and experience onto you. Filmed live on location at Gage's shop, this video contains approximately an hour and forty minutes of truly inspiring and educational material. It is jam packed full of insightful and useful information and lots of applicable examples from beginning to end. In this video Patitucci addresses a number of concepts including things he calls the "non-negotiables" such as possessing a strong sense of time, the importance of developing your ears and understanding harmony, playing with taste, and being capable of reading music. With the comping help of guitarist Jay Azzolina, Patitucci provides numerous musical illustrations including "Stella By Starlight", "Alone Together", and several chorus' of "F Blues", to name only a few examples, in which he thoroughly applies his knowledge and concepts to real life musical situations. Patitucci lectures on the importance of learning how to think like a composer as you play through the changes of a composition. He stresses the importance of paying particular attention to emoting the music through the utilization of dynamics and articulations with examples from Ray Brown and Louis Armstrong. Patitucci places a strong emphasis on the need to transcribe, analyze, and imitate the playing and phrasing of the masters of the jazz bass tradition like Ray Brown and Ron Carter. From outlining the form of "Stella By Starlight" with simple chord tones in two to demonstrating how to shape the structure of a ballad while maintaining an awareness to the sensitivity of the music, Patitucci covers serious ground in a relatively short period of time. Throughout the video Patitucci interacts with interesting questions from the audience. Patitucci also offers his approach to right hand technique, ear training, playing outside the chord changes while utilizing the laws of tension and release through upper structures, improvising in pockets in a single register, playing in thumb position, and recording. As Patitucci exhibits throughout this video, his sense of harmony and highly advanced improvisational skills are what make him such a highly regarded and respected bassist. Bottom Line: John Patitucci's Master Class Video is without a doubt the most informative and inspirational upright jazz bass video on the market. Whether you are a beginner in search of learning the fundamental aspects of jazz bass playing or a seasoned veteran looking for advanced improvisation techniques, this video is a must have for all aspiring bassists. Finally someone has realized that a need exists for high-quality jazz bass instructional videos. Through David Gage and his production company, hopefully we will have the opportunity to experience more videos from the masters of the jazz bass tradition. For more information on this video and David Gage, go to: DavidGage.com.

C. Engel


Marcus Miller: In Concert - 12/25/01

If you have never had the distinct pleasure of catching Marcus Miller live, here is your opportunity. Taped on June 6, 1994, during a stop on a leg of "The Sun Don't Lie" tour in Baden-Baden, Germany, Miller and his band are caught in true pinnacle form. Joined alongside this icon of bass are Poogie Bell on drums, Kenny Garrett on sax, Michael Stewart on trumpet, and Bernard Wright and Morris Pleasure on keyboards. With its first rate video and audio production, this video has to be one of the most well produced concerts I've ever seen in any video format. The camera is focused on Miller for the vast majority of the concert which thus enables you to get a first hand look into all of Miller's wicked slap techniques. With this video you can now study and analyze how the master of slap plays some of his best material. This concert lasts just under sixty minutes and includes live performances of: "Rampage", "Panther", "Mr. Pastorius", "Steveland", "Scoop", "Tutu", and "Ju Ju." With his signature Fender Jazz Bass in hand, Miller blows jaw-dropping, extended solos over each track. Although this concert was originally recorded in 1994 by a local German television station for a German tv music program, it was not made available to the public in DVD format until the summer of 2001. It is a German import, but I was able to obtain it rather easily through a small, local record store. Just for the amount of instructional value alone, this video is worth ten times its cost of less than $20 U.S. dollars. This video will answer all the questions you've ever wandered regarding Miller's mind-boggling slap techniques. I have personally viewed this DVD now at least ten times before writing this review, and I have already noticed a dramatic improvement in my slap chops. When any of my private lesson students are ready to learn slapping techniques, I'll tell them that this video is a can't miss. Bottom Line: If you are interested in learning slap bass, look no further. Here is your chance to take an hour long lesson from the master of slap techniques. Forget about spending $40-$50 on all those other slap bass instructional videos that are already out on the market. Even though this video was not intentionally designed to be an instructional method, if you are willing to spend some time disecting and absorbing Miller's technique, this may be the wisest investment you ever make. For more information on bass great Marcus Miller or this DVD, go to: MarcusMiller.com.

C. Engel


Anthony Vitti: Accelerate Your Bass Playing - 08/01/01

After years of sharing his knowledge and love for the bass with hundreds of students from around the world at Berklee College of Music, professor Anthony Vitti now offers that same expertise to all aspiring bassists with his first instructional video, Accelerate Your Bass Playing. From his years of experience as a teacher, Vitti has formulated a practical approach to bass playing which consists of exercises and examples to help correct the elemental weaknesses that he has observed common to many bassists. His teaching focuses on becoming a well-versed bassist with a special emphasis on time, feel, and groove. This 53 minute video package is jam-packed with helpful tips, useful advice, and most importantly, proven exercises to help you play better, faster. Much of the material that Vitti presents here is actual lesson material which he uses in his own teaching at Berklee, and while most of the material is aimed towards the beginning to intermediate level bassist, there are several examples for even the more advanced player to work through. The production of this video is nothing short of exceptional, easily one of the best produced videos on the market today. With its split screen shots of both left and right hand technique, you get an insiders look at exactly how Vitti fingers each of his exercises. The video is divided into four parts and is accompanied by a 79 page booklet that is loaded with all of the exercises demonstrated on the video notated in both standard notation and tablature. The booklet alone is well worth the price of the package. In part one of this package Vitti's clear and detailed instruction centers on the importance of finger exercises for building hand strength, finger independence, speed, and consistency. In part two Vitti guides you through some basic fretboard knowledge such as intervals, natural notes, note colors, and playing lines in different positions. In the third section of the video Vitti explains his fingerstyle funk/r&b techniques with examples that cover muting and basic slap grooves. And in part four, Vitti explores various rhythm studies to help you gain a better understanding of how to approach reading music before delving into the basics of other styles including jazz, rock, heavy metal, bossa nova, latin tumbao, and hip-hop. After each notated example, Vitti states the primary purpose of each exercise, ways to approach practicing each example, and includes other important pointers in order for you to achieve the maximum benefits from his program. Each section is preceeded by a short demonstration of how Vitti's techniques can be utilized in a gig setting, and the video concludes with Vitti shredding through a slap solo while sitting in with Tomo Fujita and Blue Funk. Bottom Line: With its first-rate production quality and instructional content, Accelerate Your Bass Playing is a best buy. For more information on Anthony Vitti, this video, or his other instructional methods, go to: AnthonyVitti.com.

C. Engel


The Artist's Profile: Michael Manring

Prepare to be completely amazed as you take a journey through the incredible and magical world of the one and only, Michael Manring. On this video Manring offers you his thoughts and philosophy on solo bass and music as a whole. You will witness the often unorthodox approach that Manring commands from his arsenal of Zon basses which has catapulted him to the upper echelon of virtuostic solo bass playing and made him a true pioneer in the field of solo bass. Manring runs the gamut of all the different sonic possibilities creatable on bass as he explores rich and subtle textures some never thought possible. There is a real energy and power that one can feel as Manring brings his music to life, and the sheer beauty and elegance of his music that he achieves through the myriad of techniques that he incorporates into his music and this video really can't be described through words. It has to be seen to be truly appreciated. If you've never had a chance to feel the pure power of Manring's music live, either in a concert or clinic type atmosphere, then this video is the next best thing. I've watched it a countless number of times, and every time I view it I still become captivated and furthermore educated to the almost seemingly endless number of possible textures Manring has brought forth and presented to bassists. Manring utilizes a variety of advanced techniques and equipment on this video including: slapping and tapping, altered tunings, the Ebow, and a collection of fretted, fretless, and 10-string basses. Personal highlights from the video for me include: "No Wontons for Elvis" and "Monkey Businessman" which are two of my all-time favorite solo pieces and the powerful performance of "The Fire Sermon" which Manring hammers out on his alternately tuned Zon Legacy Elite 10-string bass. Other performances include "My Three Moons", performed on several Zon basses simultaneously and a multiple bass orchestration of "Snakes Got Legs". On "Snakes Got Legs" Manring builds this piece of music from the ground up like a well thought-out and constructed skyscraper. He starts with a basic rhythmic motif and through various overdubs and loops lays down a bass line, melody, and continues to further expand his ideas with a series of distorted Hyperbass solos all before he brings it back full circle to the basic line. If you want to really see what is meant by "playing the bass", you've got to check out "Diagonal Head Trauma", an unreleased Hyperbass solo. There is no low point throughout this video. It is all pure bass wizardry. If I ever get burned out with playing bass or just seem to not be able to come up with new or fresh ideas, I just pop this video into the vcr and in no time at all I'm headed back to the woodshed. This video is my personal motivation to keep trying to push and raise the standards of bass playing to new and higher levels of achievement. This concert performance/documentary of Manring is a must-have for all bassists beginner to professional. Bottom Line: If I could only own one video, this would be the one.

C. Engel



Books


Jim Stinnett - Secret Chambers

Jim Stinnett - Secret Chambers
Compiled by Jim Stinnett, a professor at Berklee College of Music, Secret Chambers features 70 transcribed bass solos as performed by Paul Chambers. Often referred to as "the Bird of the bass," Chambers was a master of the bebop style. In addition to his own work as a leader in the studio, Chambers was an integral part of many classic jazz recordings released during the 1950's and '60's. Alongside Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Chambers contributed to some of the most influential and best-selling recordings in the history of jazz music. Secret Chambers is the fourth installment issued by Stinnett covering the music of this jazz bass icon, but unlike Stinnett's other publications, Secret Chambers isn't just a collection of transcribed solos. Considering all of its analysis, this 180-page book extends much further beyond standard transcriptions as it clearly illustrates Chambers' mastery of the bass and the language of jazz. Stinnett begins by outlining the fundamental building blocks of Chambers' vocabulary through a series of short melodic phrases that he calls licks. These licks, which are characteristic of Chambers' style, are then systematically categorized using a Lick Distribution Chart that places a numerical analysis on the appearance of the most commonly played licks by Chambers during his solos. Throughout this comparative analysis, Stinnett provides insight to Chambers' tendencies as a soloist. Following the transcriptions, Stinnett includes a complete discography of all the transcribed tracks so you can listen to and play alongside Chambers on the original recordings in order to imitate his phrasing and articulations. Stinnett also supplies several easy-to-read bar graphs and a pie chart that ranks the top licks utilized by Chambers when soloing. As an educational tool, Secret Chambers should be adopted by all bass instructors at the college level as required research for students and for anyone interested in learning the history of the jazz bass tradition. Secret Chambers is the most authoritative resource for the study of Paul Chambers' legendary style and bebop soloing on bass.

Contact Information
Stinnett Music
145 North Rd.
Candia, NH 03034
Web Site: JimStinnett.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - August 1, 2009


Stuart Hamm - Bass Transcriptions - Outbound & Beyond

Stuart Hamm - Bass Transcriptions - Outbound & Beyond
Having previously published the acclaimed Ultimate Slap Bass book along with a highly successful series of Level 42 transcriptions, Bass Transcriptions - Outbound & Beyond featuring the music of Stuart Hamm is the latest book authored by Stuart Clayton. As one of the most influential electric bassists of the past half-century, Hamm has released five projects as a leader and a number of collaborations as a sideman to guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Expanding the non-traditional function of the bass guitar by fusing rock, jazz, fusion, classical, country, and urban sounds with virtuoso technical facility comprised of unconventional techniques including two-handed tapping, slapping, plucking, chords, and harmonics, Hamm has become recognized as a pioneer of his generation and one of today's leading bassists. After a biographical summary of Hamm's career spanning from his childhood in the early 1960's through his Bx3 tours alongside Jeff Berlin and Billy Sheehan to the release of Live Stu X 2 in 2007, Clayton outlines Hamm's collection of Kubicki Ex Factor and signature model Fender Urge basses that he has utilized on his productions. Clayton has also included detailed performance notes to guide you through each track with extended tips and comments supplied by Hamm. In addition to the standard notation, tablature, and chord symbols, Clayton has provided all of the proper slap, pluck, and tap articulations required to execute each of these complex pieces in their entirety. This compilation of 17 songs contains every track from Outbound, Hamm's fourth studio session as a solo artist, along with Hamm's classic solo bass arrangements of standards from the piano repertoire such as Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and Bach's "Prelude In C" as well as Debussy's "Dr. Gradus Ad Parnassum." Other transcriptions consist of Hamm's renowned live bass medley and three compositions Hamm recorded as a member of the fusion trio GHS with guitarist Frank Gambale of Chick Corea's Elektric Band and former Journey drummer Steve Smith. Bass Transcriptions - Outbound & Beyond showcases all of Hamm's signature slapping, plucking, tapping, and chordal techniques which have earned him extensive accolades and award-winning acknowledgment on a global level since the 1980's. There is no better source for learning the style and advanced techniques employed by this legendary bassist which have helped him to redefine the contemporary application of the bass guitar within a band context and as an unaccompanied instrument.

Book Contents:
- Stuart Hamm Biography
- Stuart Hamm's Basses
- Performance Notes
- "Outbound"
- "... Remember"
- "The Castro Hustle"
- "Star Spangled Banner"
- "The Memo"
- "The Tenacity Of Genes And Dreams"
- "Charlotte's Song"
- "A Better World"
- "Further Down Market"
- "Lydian (Just Enough For The City)"
- "Dr. Gradus Ad Parnassum"
- "Moonlight Sonata"
- "Prelude In C"
- "Quahogs Anyone?"
- "Nostalgia"
- "November"
- "Wrong And Strong"

Author: Stuart Clayton

Release Date: August, 2007

Length: 129 Pages

Contact: BasslinePublishing.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - September 10, 2007


Stuart Clayton - Ultimate Slap Bass

Stuart Clayton - Ultimate Slap Bass
Written by U.K. bassist and Bassline Publishing founder Stuart Clayton, Ultimate Slap Bass contains a collection of 227 individual exercises demonstrating basic to highly advanced slap bass techniques. Following a brief historical overview of the slap bass tradition, Clayton offers suggestions on how to obtain optimal results when using slap techniques through holding the bass properly and common setup considerations for your instrument. The book is then organized into four primary sections including Beginner Level, Intermediate Level, Advanced Level, and Famous Slap Bassists. Within these four sections, there are 28 separate chapters devoted to various slapping techniques, closely associated components of slap bass playing, and biographies of the leading contributors to slap playing such as Larry Graham, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Mark King, Victor Wooten, and Ray Riendeau. From conventional single string slaps to plucks, hammer-ons, pull-offs, ghost notes, left hand slaps, machine gun triplets, double popping, open string hammer-ons, double slapping, and combining these techniques with tapping and harmonics, Clayton covers the entire sphere of modern slapping techniques. With the exception of a few extended lines, practically all of the exercises are notated as examples over four measures. Each of these exercises has been written in different keys and recorded at assorted tempos. The exercises are presented in standard notation and tablature along with chord symbols, performance notes, and the appropriate articulations required to perform the lines. Throughout his commentary, Clayton frequently refers to examples that have been written in the style of renowned grooves or are reminiscent of what a legendary bassist like Mark King, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, or Stuart Hamm might play. This spiral-bound book is also accompanied by backing tracks on two compact discs to illustrate most of the exercises. These are stereo tracks so you can utilize them as play-alongs and eliminate the recorded bass part just by soloing the right channel of your stereo speakers. In addition to the biographies and exclusive interviews with the famous slap bassists in the final section, there is a list of each bassist's equipment and a selected discography which outlines a compilation of recordings that feature slap playing. While there are many exercises within this book that have been included to assist the bassist in developing the proper mechanics and range of motion required to play grooves with slap techniques, most of these examples demonstrate how to employ slapping in a musically applicable context. The layout and overall production of this package is, without question, the best I've seen in any instructional publication for bassists. Whether you are a complete newcomer to slap bass playing who is looking to get it right from the start, a seasoned bassist who is trying to refine your approach to slapping, or a long-time fanatic of slap bass techniques seeking to add some new concepts to your arsenal, there is no better place to begin than this book. Even advanced-level bassists will be kept entertained for months while working through this encyclopedia of techniques and exercises. Ultimate Slap Bass will save aspiring bassists months of frustration in attempting to assimilate slap bass techniques from a wide variety of other methods, and it should be adopted as a required workbook or reference guide by anyone wishing to experiment with contemporary slap bass techniques.

Book Chapters:
Section 1: Beginner Level
- Chapter 1: Slapping Bassics
- Chapter 2: Adding The Pop
- Chapter 3: Using Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs, and Trills
- Chapter 4: Ghost Notes
- Chapter 5: Popular Scales And Modes For Slap Bass
Beginner Level Exercise Area

Section 2: Intermediate Level
- Chapter 6: Left Hand Slaps And Sixteenth Note Lines
- Chapter 7: Introducting Tenths
- Chapter 8: Machine Gun Triplets
- Chapter 9: Double Stops
- Chapter 10: Double Popping
- Chapter 11: Strumming
Intermediate Level Exercise Area

Section 3: Advanced Level
- Chapter 12: The Shuffle Feel
- Chapter 13: Open String Hammer-Ons
- Chapter 14: Double Thumbing Part 1
- Chapter 15: Double Thumbing Part 2
- Chapter 16: Double Thumbing Part 3
- Chapter 17: Combining Techniques
Advanced Level Exercise Area

Section 4: Famous Slap Bassists
- Chapter 18: Larry Graham
- Chapter 19: Louis Johnson
- Chapter 20: Stanley Clarke
- Chapter 21: Marcus Miller - With Exclusive Interview
- Chapter 22: Flea
- Chapter 23: Mark King - With Exclusive Interview
- Chapter 24: Stuart Hamm - With Exclusive Interview
- Chapter 25: Vail Johnson - With Exclusive Interview
- Chapter 26: Les Claypool
- Chapter 27: Victor Wooten
- Chapter 28: Ray Riendeau - With Exclusive Interview
Discography

Author: Stuart Clayton

Release Date: October, 2006

Length: 206 Pages With 2 Play-Along CDs

Contact: BasslinePublishing.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - June 30, 2007


Anthony Vitti - Slap Bass Soloing

Anthony Vitti - Slap Bass Soloing
Since establishing his own publishing company, DaaDoo Music, in 1995, Anthony Vitti has authored some of the most advanced publications for bass players covering topics such as slap bass, fingerstyle funk, and sight reading. In Slap Bass Soloing, Vitti presents a total of 60 slap bass examples and three songs that are geared towards those players who are already experienced with common slap bass techniques. Using a logically-structured method of musical grooves notated in eight-measure phrases, Vitti demonstrates how to construct slap bass lines and improvise solos using slap bass techniques. Within this book, there are 20 primary grooves, most of which are in the style of Marcus Miller's approach, and every groove consists of two additional variations. The first version outlines the basic theme, and each subsequent variation gets progressively more complex in rhythm, melody, and the technique required to play the groove. To guide you through the book, every group of variations contains a brief text summary by Vitti on how each example builds upon the previous one in phrasing and technical requirements. Towards the end of the book, Vitti has included three compositions of varying tempos, lengths, and keys in order to provide the opportunity to experiment with the techniques and lines outlined throughout the book. Along with the publication, you receive access to a web page where you can download MP3's of the drum grooves heard on the included CD, minus the bass track, for practicing the material. You can also download MP3's of Vitti soloing on the tunes as well as PDF files of the chord changes for each of the exercises.

The Bottom Line
Anthony Vitti is an associate professor of bass at the Berklee College of Music where he has instructed hundreds of students in contemporary playing styles. With Slap Bass Soloing, Vitti provides you the same content he has been developing for his students in classes and lessons since 1989. Although most of the lines in this book require a certain degree of slap bass proficiency to perform, even beginners with limited slapping experience can be inspired by these grooves. Slap Bass Soloing contains the fundamental concepts that will help expand your repertoire of slap bass grooves and slap soloing techniques, especially in the style of Marcus Miller.

Release Date: March, 2006

Street Price: $26.00

Artist Contact: AnthonyVitti.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - June 1, 2006


Peter Murray: Essential Bass Technique - 02/17/02

After consolidating years of technical information gathered through his playing and teaching experiences, bassist Peter Murray has released the second edition of Essential Bass Technique. In this 48-page manual, Murray addresses the often overlooked technical aspects of bass playing. Although the material presented to you in this book does not suggest that it is the only approach to playing, it does provide you with a solid foundation from which to build upon, a foundation which many bassists take years to develop. Through a concise, analytical approach and the utilization of dozens of photos and illustrations, Murray not only suggests to you what to do, but more importantly, why you should do it and why it will benefit you. Murray follows a "what?", "how?", and "why" format. With its use of outside resources, Murray presents a thoroughly researched and to-the-point manual. For the beginner, this book provides you with all the tools necessary for becoming a proficient bassist. For the more advanced bassist, Murray's book will allow you to tweak your technique for optimum performance. After a brief forward which addresses the significance of possessing good, solid technique, Murray outlines the basic principles of technique including economy of motion, tone quality and consistency, natural movement, and factors related to technique such as string action and gauge. Next, Murray discusses the theory of practicing technique and lays out the framework to using the book. Murray tackles right hand technique first with a discussion on thumb position, finger technique, finger movement, finger distance, and finger pressure. He also explains the importance of finger alternation, raking, string skipping, and wrist and forearm positions. Murray then focuses his concentration on the left hand. Here, Murray presents a logical analysis of thumb position, finger spacing and string contact, muting, finger position, and fretting position. Murray also goes into detail on shifting (inchworming), barring, hammer-ons and pull-offs, string bending and vibrato, and arm position. Murray finishes the book with a quasi-chromatic exercise and a summary on muting. Bottom Line: Essential Bass Technique is the most comprehensive manual addressing the fundamental technical concepts behind playing the electric bass. Since the electric bass is, relatively speaking, such a young instrument, there has never been a single methodology written which has been tested, proven, and accepted to be the definitive, standardized manual by which bassists shape their technique. This book has the potential to become that single source. If this book would have been available when I started playing bass, I could have saved myself years of retraining my hands how to work efficiently. Now, with the help of Peter Murray's Essential Bass Technique, you can learn how to play bass accurately and proficiently the first time. "Best Buy of the Year!" For more information on Peter Murray and his book, visit: Thermidor Music.

C. Engel


Joe Santerre: Slap Bass Lines - 10/28/01

As an internationally respected expert on slap bass techniques, Joe Santerre has performed and lectured around the world, and as a professor in the bass department at the Berklee College of Music, Santerre has taught some of the highest profile electric bassisis on the scene today. In his book, Slap Bass Lines, Santerre focuses on the art of constructing solid bass grooves utilizing slap techniques. After a brief introduction in which Santerre outlines the format of his book/cd package and advises the reader on how to achieve maximum results from his book, he runs through a short theory review which includes such topics as notation, tablature, rhythm, key and time signatures, scales, chords, and arpeggios. Then, in a step by step approach, Santerre guides you logically through eight methodical lessons covering various rock, jazz, and funk styles. Each lesson contains numerous exercises, a brief tune composed with many of that lesson's ideas, and a page of blank measures allowing you to write out your own slap grooves. On the play-along cd, you'll hear tracks consisting of keyboards, drums, and bass. All of the examples found within the book are played four times each on the accompanying cd. The first two times through each track Santerre lays down his groove with the keyboards and drums, and then you are given an opportunity to showcase your skills as you jam along without Santerre's lines. The tunes that appear at the end of each lesson appear twice on the cd, once through with the bass line and one time through without it. Each example is neatly notated in an easy to read fashion in both standard notation and tablature. In an effort to help you better understand his lines, at the beginning of each lesson Santerre suggests various bassists to listen to in that style. In the first lesson, Santerre covers one-chord slap grooves. In his second lesson, he goes over two-chord slap grooves. In lesson three, Santerre continues this progression into multiple-chord grooves. In the fourth lesson, Santerre introduces you to lines with more syncopated, sixteenth-note rhythms. Lesson five contains my favorite song, "Marcus My Words", which demonstrates the busier type of slap groove found in the style of Marcus Miller. In his sixth lesson, Santerre covers kick slap grooves before moving into shuffle grooves in lesson seven and odd-time slap grooves in lesson eight. Finally, to assist you in building up your slap technique, Santerre shows you several exercises to practice over major and minor pentatonic and blues scales. As an added bonus, at the end of the cd you be able to hear Santerre in action as he puts his material to use on his composition "Meaningful Growth" which appears on his solo outing, The Scenic Route. Bottom Line: Whether you are just an aspiring slapper or a seasoned professional searching for new ideas, Slap Bass Lines will help take your slap bass playing to a higher level of art. To find more information on Joe Santerre, his instructional books, and music, visit: JoeSanterre.com.

C. Engel


Anthony Vitti: The Finger Funk Workbook Vol. 2 - 1/06/01

The percolating grooves of the finger funk style, which can be found throughout the music of such bassists as the legendary Jaco Pastorius, have already influenced an entire generation of bass players and become a prominent component in the sounds of today's music. Now, in an effort to continue that tradition and cater to the needs of the more advanced electric bassist, Berklee College of Music professor, Anthony Vitti presents bassists with his second collection of exercises in the finger funk style, The Finger Funk Workbook Vol. 2. Vitti, a professor in the bass department at Berklee since 1989 and one of the most active musicians in the Boston area today, specializes in various fields of study including sight reading, slapping, fingerstyle funk techniques, and many of the other contemporary styles of bass playing. After having dealt with literally hundreds of bassists of all levels throughout his years of instruction at Berklee, Vitti has observed comparable strengths and weaknesses among them. Here in this book, Vitti attempts to emphasize those weaknesses. Those of you familiar with Vitti's approach to teaching either as a private student or as someone who has checked out his other books will immediately recognize that Vitti has written this book in a related manner, through the diligent study and analysis of the basslines and solos of some of bass history's most influential voices. Vitti stresses that this book is not a methodology of fingerstyle funk techniques, but rather chooses to describe it as a workbook of exercises. In this workbook you will find twenty-six different exercises, written primarily in song format, composed of a combination of Vitti's own material and the lines of some of the most renowned fingerstyle funk masters of the bass tradition including Jaco, Rocco, Gary Willis, and Marcus Miller. Before digging into any of the exercises, Vitti offers the bassist helpful advice and useful tips that can not only be applied to the exercises found within this workbook, but also to everything that the bassist encounters whether in the studio, on a gig, or just during a daily practicing session. At first glance, you'll notice that each exercise is neatly notated in an easy-to-read fashion. Then, upon playing through each exercise, you'll see that the lines not only make logical sense theoretically, but also sound great as well. All of these lines sound remarkable by themselves, even without a band out in front of them. Also, for those of you wishing to play these exercises at varying tempos, located at the bottom of each page you'll find that Vitti has notated the drum patterns which appear along with Vitti's strong grooving on the included play-along cd. So if you have access to a sequencer or drum machine, you can easily program the device to accompany you at your own tempo regardless of your familiarity with the finger funk style or your playing level. Or even better, convince a drummer friend to play the patterns along with you so you can expand and improvise on the lines that Vitti has already provided you with. If the difficult fingerings of either the left or right hand required to successfully execute these lines in a consistent fashion don't frustrate you, then more than likely the sheer tempos of a few of the recorded examples probably will. If for some reason you find that these exercises aren't challenging enough for you, which I find seriously doubtful, simply increase the tempos. The tempos of the exercises found on the accompanying play-along cd are only suggested tempos which Vitti thought felt good. However, the lines most definitely can be played faster, chops permitting. Finally, for those of you who may struggle in reading standard music notation, Vitti has made it possible for you to also benefit from this book with the inclusion of each exercise in tablature. Even if playing fingerstyle funk lines is a completely new experience for you, with the aide of the tab and the play-along cd, virtually anyone can gain a more thorough understanding behind the lines of the finger funk style from this book. For more information on Anthony Vitti, his music, instructional video, or other books including Sight Reading Funk Rhythms for Electric Bass, The Slap Bass Bible, and The Finger Funk Workbook Vol. 1, be sure to check out his web site, http://www.anthonyvitti.com or e-mail him at: daadoomusic@anthonyvitti.com.

C. Engel


Ray Ramirez: The Swing of the Latin Bass - 8/05/00

More and more everyday, whether it be in a television, radio, or even movie campaign, the ever expanding repertoire of Afro-Cuban or Latin based music encompasses our daily lives. The continuous sound of the clave, the backbone of all Latin-based rhythms, soundly resonates like that of a regular heart beat as it pulses into the mainstream of contemporary popular music. In his book, The Swing of the Latin Bass, bassist/educator/luthier Ray Ramirez offers us an introductory glimpse into the bass lines of the Latin bass tradition. Regardless of whether you are an upright or electric bassist, a complete novice of Latin styles or a seasoned professional, there is something for every bassist to be discovered in this 53 page book/cd set. Through Ray's extremely thorough and systematic approach, in both English and Spanish texts, he guides you along a well conceived course in a step-by-step fashion aimed specifically towards increasing your knowledge of the various Latin styles. Ray begins by introducing us to the real swing of the Latin bass with a brief explanation of the role of the rhythm section and the bass in Latin music. Then with regard to the variables and factors one needs to consider pertaining to instruments and strings, Ray presents bassists with pertinent and valuable information on upright and electric basses, strings, and bass maintenance. Next, in an effort to help bassists grasp a better understanding of the construction of Latin bass lines, Ray covers the fundamental aspects of music theory including music notation symbols, key signatures, and major and minor scales. To help further clarify the significance of the clave, the underlying two measure rhythm pattern heard pulsating continuously throughout Latin music, Ray demonstrates the difference between the 2-3 and 3-2 claves. Soon after, Ray puts this study of the Latin bass tradition into a historical context with an overview of the roots of the Latin bass. Ray then moves into the very heart of his book's material with the analysis of five different Latin music styles including the Guaguanco, the Cha-Cha-Cha, the Guajira, the Son Montuno, and the Descargas or Rumbas. This section is comprised of exercises in standard written notation and chord progressions with examples ranging from bassic to advanced lines of complexity. Included with his book is an accompanying cd that will allow you to experience first hand the sound and feel of authentic Latin music as you follow Ray through his notated examples. After listening to Ray, you are then given a chance to imitate his technique as you can play alongside the rhythm section with a bassless cd mix. Within this section, Ray explores the origins of each specific style and distinguishes the often subtle characteristics of each style's rhythms. Here again, Ray presents bassists with an encyclopedias amount of valuable historical data packed into only a few short pages. Before closing, Ray offers bassists insight to studying techniques to help improve sight reading skills along with methods to improve your playing and maximize your practice routine. Also included in his section of study techniques are nicely rendered pages of pictures that display the proper right and left hand positions that a bassist should utilize in performance situations. Finally, Ray rounds out his book with a selected discography of work that can help you to further familiarize yourself with the sounds of Latin music. Also worth noting, if you like the sound of Ray's bass on the accompanying cd or are in the market for an electric upright bass, be sure to check out Ray's custom made line of 4, 5, and 6-string electric upright basses. If you would like more information on Ray, his book, or his basses, be sure to check out Ray's regular lesson column, "The Latin Corner", in Bassics Magazine or e-mail him at: rramirez@coqui.net.

C. Engel


Ron Velosky: Sight Reading for the Bass - 2/27/00

One word to describe this book - COMPREHENSIVE! For many musicians reading music is an often overlooked aspect of their musicianship, and for some musicians sight reading has been a dreadful and painful experience up to this point. But now in this book, Ron Velosky shares his practical and extensive experiences with us in an easy to understand fashion. Lets face it, there is no real shortcut to learning how to read music. It is for this reason that many people never learn how to do it. However, if you want to be a really well rounded player and be able to communicate with other musicians on common ground, then you really owe it to yourself to learn how to read the language of music. If you've struggled with reading music in the past, like many of us have at one point or another, then this book is the answer to all your sight reading problems. Sight reading is one aspect of music that you just can't ever do enough of or get too good at. It doesn't matter if you are a complete novice or a bassist who has been on the scene for twenty plus years, you will become a more knowledgeable and prolific sight reader through the study of this book. Ron begins the book by explaining some bassic, general music theory including the concepts of pulse, rhythm, and meter. He then, in a very orderly fashion, explores the various subdivisions of a measure in the time signature of 4/4 including whole notes, half notes, eighth notes, quarter notes, sixteenth notes, and all of their related rests. Through various fretboard graphs Ron illustrates the location of the notes on the fretboard along with suggested fingerings and shifts. At strategically placed sections you'll find review sections. These pages give you the student a chance to interact with the book and check your understanding of the previously presented materials. Very nice indeed! Also in this book, you'll find information pertaining to key signatures, scales and major scale construction, finding range, modulation, arpeggios, ties, dots, and dynamics. Ron expands on his written examples by sharing with you a vast collection of good advice and everyday useful analogies. To augment one example, Ron demonstrates the power of the key center in order to help clarify the advantages of reading line contours and looking ahead in the music. Ron offers his insight on how to go about practicing sight reading along with a great analogy of how you can relate musical phrasing to spoken words. In order to get yourself in the right state of mind before actually reading a new piece of music, Ron lays out a useful check list of questions that you should ask yourself before starting any sort of new material. Before concluding, Ron offers up a serious buffet of highly advanced and syncopated 16th-note funk lines (good luck to you here), and then wraps up with some helpful advice on how to approach triplets and compound meters. This book is laid out in a very orderly fashion. The text is written in an easy to understand manner, and the precision of the actual notation makes reading through this book extremely easy. Electric bassists and acoustic upright players alike will benefit greatly from the wealth of information that Ron has presented us with in this book. Bottom Line: Sight Reading for the Bass may be the most important investment you ever make in to your musical education. Period. This book is a can't miss.

C. Engel


Bass Masterclass: Play in the Style of Marcus Miller

German bassist, Markus Setzer, has put together a remarkable collection of books covering the style's of master bassists. In this edition Markus explores the style of the "Thumbslinger", Marcus Miller. In this book you will find transcribed licks and riffs of some of Miller's trademark lines in both standard notation and tablature. You'll also be offered a look at Miller's biographical background with a selected discography and a listing of Miller's equipment. Unfortunately, for all of you English speaking bassists, all of the text is in German. However, much can still be learned from this fine instructional book. All of the examples are notated, and each one is presented to you on a play-along cd. If you are well versed in the German language, you will further benefit from all the in-depth explanations that are included right there along with the notated examples. First, you will uncover Miller's finger-style, slapping, and tapping techniques through detailed explanations and pictures. By the way, this book contains a multitude of great pictures of Miller either laying it down or tearing it up. Then after an introduction to Miller's techniques, you move right into the core section of this book with notation of some of Marcus' most famous grooves and licks. Some of these patented lines include excerpts from "Panther", "Rampage", "Teen Town", "Come Together", and "Run For Cover" to name but only a few. Each notated excerpt can be found in varying speeds on the accompanying play-along cd. The play-along cd allows you to practice the licks at slower speeds before you attempt to play them up to tempo as they are on Miller's recordings. Excellent feature. I only have two complaints regarding this book. First, I wish it was published in the English language because that would make it more readily available to thousands more bassists worldwide. Second, I wish that the notated licks were more along the lines of complete transcriptions because most of the examples are only four measures long. Bottom Line: If you have been looking to learn more about the style of Marcus Miller, look no further. If you are looking for complete transcriptions of Miller's work, look elsewhere. But if you are just a die-hard Miller junkie as am I, attempting to catalog everything from the Miller library, this is worth adding to your collection.

C. Engel


Ray Brown's Bass Method

When I hear the words jazz bass, two words immediately pop into my mind, Ray Brown. Ray Brown has dominated the jazz bass genre for over 50 years, and no other bassist has even come close to winning as many awards in annual polls as has Ray. He is the epitome of what a bassist should be and should be able to do. From his warm unmistakable tone to his fluid melodic lines and soloing, Ray Brown is jazz bass. He was a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio which is considered by many jazz historians as the most influential trio in all of jazz history. Through this book Ray brings to you some of the basic concepts that made him a master of the bass tradition. This book can be used by novices to seasoned pros. Many of the exercises in this book may seem very basic on paper, but when actually played on the upright can be quite a technical challenge. Also, Ray helps to clarify his exercises with pictures that demonstrate proper right and left hand positioning. All upright books should contain pictures such as these, especially since it is such a physically demanding instrument. Great pictures! Ray's method starts out with scales and intervals. He then addresses triads and chords. Then he moves on to extremely challenging exercies in tenths. Other topics addressed in this book include: rhythm patterns with drops, diminished and augmented chords, blues patterns, extension scales and exercises, solo exercises, and arpeggios for endings. This book originally came out years ago(1970's I believe), but has remained out of print for what seems nearly as long ago. I'm glad to see this book has been re-released in its new updated format with all the classic exercises and pictures from the old version. No upright jazz bassist that is serious about learning and mastering the fundamentals of jazz bass should be without this method.

C. Engel


Alain Caron: Play & Alain Caron: Rhythm'n Jazz Ultimate Play-Alongs For Bass

These books contain the complete scores, parts, and master tracks from Alain Caron's cds, Play and Rhythm'n Jazz. The play-along cds that accompany these books contain the exact tracks that appear on the released recordings minus Alain's bass so you can play along side Alain's bandmates. I own a pretty substantial library of bass books and literature, and I'd have to say without a doubt that these are two of my favorite books that I own. Not only is Alain one of the masters of the bass tradition, but he is also one of the most respected teachers/clinicians on the circuit today and one of my favorite bassists. I've always been a strong advocate of play-alongs and these books are two of the best. I just wish more of the big name players would release these types of educational books. With these books you never have to worry about trying to find a band that is capable of playing the material found on these cds, and lets face it there is some pretty intense playing on these two recordings. Also, for those of you searching for more background information on Alain, both books include Alain's biography and discography. One word of caution though, these books are primarily aimed at intermediate to advanced players. First of all, it is going to take some pretty flawless technique to pull these tunes off. Second, they come in standard notation only, no tab so you will need to know how to read music in order to decipher and understand the materials and concepts. My hat off to Alain for not including tab because it is a waste of time. If you can't read music, more than likely you wouldn't be able to play these pieces anyway. Moreover, you are going to need to be fairly familiar with Alain's style in order to articulate some of these lines. You will need to know how and when he is making use of his double thumbing and double plucking chops. My only criticism of these books is that the solos should have been included in the score. Yeah I can see why Alain wouldn't want to include the solos so people would have to learn to solo over the changes themselves, but it would be nice to see his masterfully phrased solos on paper without having to spend weeks to months transcribing them out yourself. Although, if you take the time to transcribe Alain's solos note for note, your ear training and transcription skills are going to increase dramatically. Even without the solos, these two play-alongs will be money well spent and a great addition to your bass library.

C. Engel


Alexis Sklarevski: Bass Playing Techniques - The Complete Guide

Alexis Sklarevski is the department head of the Bass Institute of Technology at Musicians Institute. Besides putting together one of the best bass books that I've seen in years, he is also the instructor of the best selling and highly acclaimed video, The Slap Bass Program. In this book Alexis covers a variety of musical styles and techniques from warming up to sixteenth-note funk. Also, covered in this book are his thoughts and ideas on shifting, muting and ghost notes, slap bass, shuffle and swing feels, hammer-ons and pull-offs, bending, vibrato, chords, and much more. The book is primarily aimed at beginner to intermediate level bassists, although even advanced players can get some ideas from this book. Everything that Alexis has ever published has always been top notch, and this book is certainly no different. From front cover to back this is a good representation of many of the most utilized bass techniques in modern playing today. The only other thing that would have been nice to see included in this book is a chapter on reading music. Even though this is a bass technique laden book, reading may be the most important technique you will ever learn in your musical career. This is one of the first books I tell my bass students to buy, beginner to advanced. This book helps bring the needed coherance of bass techniques together in one book. A best buy.

C. Engel


Ron Carter: Building Jazz Bass Lines

Who else could write a more well documented book on the art of building jazz bass lines other than the master of the walking bass line, Ron Carter? Ron Carter, one of the masters of the bass tradition, will go down in history as not only being one of the most influential bassists to ever play but will also be recognized as having shaped the mold of the modern day bassist through the timeless recordings he made as a member of the famous Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960's. Ron's melodic lines continue still today as he records under his own name and with musicians the world over. This book includes a play-along cd containing piano, guitar, and drums which allows you to play along side some of the best jazz musicians in the world. Ron starts the book off by covering the right hand technical exercises that are needed to build a bassists endurance through finger alternation to handle the uptempo speeds of many of the classic jazz standards. Also included here are exercises to aid the bassist in gaining speed crossing strings. Ron starts from ground zero on how to get a good sound and then gradually progresses to using chord tones and non-harmonic notes with a multitude of rhythmic variations in building good jazz bass lines. On the cd you can hear Ron play many of the sample written lines over blues changes, practice these lines with the band, and then realize the goal of the book in later contructing and playing your own lines along with the cd. This is for sure the best method on the market for learning how to build great jazz bass lines.

C. Engel



Recordings


S.M.V. - Thunder

S.M.V.
Aside from the late Jaco Pastorius, no bassists have influenced bass players worldwide over the past three decades more than Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten. Less than two years removed from performing together at an awards ceremony, this bass supergroup has converged to release, Thunder, a recording that is guaranteed to resonate for generations of bassists to come. By themselves, Clarke, Miller, and Wooten are each prolific, award-winning solo artists who lead their own groups and are commonly revered as pioneers and innovators of the bass guitar. Collectively as S.M.V., these lords of the low frequencies pack the most powerful one-two-three punch ever displayed on a bass-centric project. Encapsulating an array of moods, textures, and dynamics which begins with the escalating drama of the first track, a nostalgic feel permeates throughout these sessions. In addition to the aptly named title track which contains all the sonorities of a classic bass anthem, S.M.V. revisits contemporary renditions of standards from the bass repertoire including a medley of Clarke's "Lopsy Lu" and "Silly Putty" along with Wooten's "Classical Thump," and Miller's "Tutu." Throughout this collection of 13 remarkable pieces which were produced by Miller and fuse the sounds of contemporary jazz with funk genres, S.M.V. is joined by well integrated special personnel including Chick Corea, George Duke, Butterscotch, Patches Stewart, Poogie Bell, Derico Watson, J.D. Blair, Ronald Bruner Jr., Kevin Ricard, Steve Baxter, Ruslan Sirota, Karlton Taylor, and Ariel Mann. Featuring the unmistakable timbres of their respective signature instruments, these legendary bassists generate earth-shaking slap grooves with astounding technical facility and the lyrical melodic statements that bass enthusiasts have come to expect from this threesome. Along with all of the virtuoso slap bass playing on this project, Clarke also contributes arco and pizzicato tones from his acoustic upright while Miller provides fretless bass melodies. The amount of low end that is not only heard but also felt on this production is extraordinary. Even though the bass is mixed prominently in these selections, the grooves, melodies, and solos played by each of these icons never disrupts the sonic space occupied by the others during the brilliant dialogue. While Thunder is destined to be a landmark bass recording and is certain to be celebrated by the bass playing community, you definitely don't have to be a bassist to enjoy the musicality of these compositions because the music on this release extends to an audience beyond that of only bass aficionados. Starting with Stanley Clarke at the forefront of the bass guitar revolution in the 1970's, these bass titans have inspired countless musicians, and Thunder is much more than just a tribute to past achievements. It captures the same level of intensity and depth that has characterized all of the recordings put forth by this trio of acclaimed bassists since the release of Clarke's first solo album in 1973. On Thunder, their debut collaboration, Clarke, Miller, and Wooten continue to redefine the role of the bass and expand its dimensions.

Tracks
"Maestros De Las Frecuencias Bajas"
"Thunder"
"Hillbillies On A Quiet Afternoon"
"Mongoose Walk"
"Los Tres Hermanos"
"Lopsy Lu - Silly Putty (Medley)"
"Milano"
"Classical Thump (Jam)"
"Tutu"
"Lil' Victa"
"Pendulum"
"Lemme Try Your Bass"
"Grits"

Musicians: Stanley Clarke (Bass), Marcus Miller (Bass, Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Synths, Beat Programming), Victor Wooten (Bass), Chick Corea (Piano), George Duke (Clavinet), Butterscotch (Vocals, Beat Box, Voice Trumpet), Patches Stewart (Trumpet), Poogie Bell (Drums), Derico Watson (Drums), J.D. Blair (Drums), Ronald Bruner Jr. (Drums), Kevin Ricard (Percussion), Steve Baxter (Trombone), Ruslan Sirota (Keyboards), Karlton Taylor (Keyboards), Ariel Mann (Synths)

Style: Contemporary Jazz/Funk/Fusion

Release Date: August 12, 2008

Artist Contact: SMVMusic.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - August 12, 2008


Gerald Veasley - Your Move

Gerald Veasley
One of today's most prominent contemporary jazz bassists, Gerald Veasley has released a fresh compilation of tracks comprised of soulful grooves and melodies on his eighth production as a leader, Your Move. Veasley, an extremely versatile sideman and session player whose varied resume includes extensive stints with Grover Washington Jr.'s band and Joe Zawinul's Zawinul Syndicate, is accompanied by award winning guitarist Chuck Loeb, who wrote and produced four tracks, and a world-class lineup of guest performers. Spanning this selection of 10 compositions, Veasley's playing continues to evolve, entertain, and inspire as he employs a collection of 4-string, 5-string, and 6-string electric, tenor, and acoustic bass guitars. While Veasley's virtuoso technical facility as a bassist has been widely revered on a worldwide scale by his colleagues, critics, and fans alike since the 1980's, his foremost priority as a musician has been to compose instantly identifiable and intelligent instrumental pieces which connect to his audience on an emotional level. This recording features multiple tracks which the listeners of smooth jazz radio are certain to embrace. As a solo project, Your Move is Gerald Veasley's best move to date.

Tracks
"Hear Now"
"Slip 'n' Slide"
"So Close To The Sun"
"Greenwood"
"Your Move"
"Cross Currents"
"Three Tears"
"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)"
"Traveling Light"
"Roxanne's Dance"

Musicians: Gerald Veasley (Bass), Chuck Loeb (Guitars, Keyboards, Drums), Chris Farr (Saxophones, Flute), James Rouse (Drums), Will Brock (Keyboards), Donald Robinson (Piano), Pablo Batista (Percussion), Peter Kuzma (Organ), Matt Cappy (Flugel Horn), Mark Knox (Keyboards), Josh Dion (Drums), Brian Dunne (Drums, Percussion), Nathan Eklund (Trumpet, Flugel Horn, Trombone), Mikki Kornegay (Vocals), Wendell Sewell (Guitar), John Swana (Trumpet), Richard Waller III (Drums), Martin Walters (Cymbals)

Style: Contemporary Jazz/Smooth Jazz

Release Date: March 11, 2008

Artist Contact: GeraldVeasley.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - March 24, 2008


Peter Muller - The Flow

Peter Muller
Following the successful release of M-Vibez, his acclaimed debut in 2003, Peter Muller has produced his second solo session, The Flow. Over the past two decades, Muller has become recognized as a leading bass figure throughout Europe. Compiled in his own Wave Island studio in Germany and distributed under his own label Mullenium Records, Muller is joined by Frank Mead (sax, flute), Tim Cansfield (guitar), Tobias Neumann (keyboards), Christian Kappe (trumpet), Ulle Rode (guitar), Kristof Hinz (drums), and Tim Weller (drums) on 10 remarkable tracks which blend funk, contemporary jazz, r&b, and soul sounds. Utilizing his classic 1979 Fender Jazz bass, Muller articulates the punchy slap grooves and solos that bass enthusiasts have come to expect from Muller. In addition to the virtuoso slap bass playing, Muller also contributes fretless bass melodies, percussion, synthesizers, samples, and guitar tones to this release. While some sophomore productions fail to meet the expectations set forth by their predecessor, Muller's latest project delivers from start to finish. Although the bass is featured in a prominent role in each of these selections, you don't have to be a bassist to enjoy the depth of these compositions. If you are an aficionado of funk music, heavy grooves, or lead bass playing, The Flow is definitely worth checking out.

Tracks
"Cairo"
"The Chase"
"Lounge Creatures"
"G-String"
"Space Train"
"For Funk's Sake!"
"Chanson Triste"
"The Cruise"
"Dracula"
"Belleza"

Musicians: Peter Muller (Bass, Percussion, Rhodes, Organ, Clavinet, Synthesizers, Samples, Guitar), Frank Mead (Sax, Flute), Tim Cansfield (Guitar), Tobias Neumann (Keyboards), Christian Kappe (Trumpet), Ulle Rode (Guitar), Kristof Hinz (Drums), Tim Weller (Drums)

Style: Contemporary Jazz

Release Date: January, 2008

Artist Contact: PeterMuller.de

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - February 18, 2008


Chris Tarry - Almost Certainly Dreaming

Chris Tarry
Firmly established as both an award-winning leader and a sideman on an international scale, Chris Tarry has released eight solo projects and is a two-time Juno Award recipient as a member of the celebrated Canadian jazz quartet Metalwood. Since relocating to New York City in 2003, Tarry's exposure has increased significantly by playing alongside some of New York's finest jazz musicians. Through sold out concert tours and festival appearances around the United States and Europe, The Chris Tarry Group has become one of the most successful bass-fronted ensembles in contemporary jazz. Featuring a cohesive core consisting of Dan Weiss on drums, pianist Henry Hey, Pete McCann on guitar, and saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, Tarry expands his dynamic repertoire with eight brand new compositions on Almost Certainly Dreaming. With his 5-string Fodera, Tarry and his group push the envelope of jazz as they navigate in and out of odd time signatures, pulsating swing feels, intricate unison lines, and intense rhythmic figures with astounding fluidity. Unlike many of the other bass-led endeavors released by his colleagues, Tarry doesn't permit his own technical prowess on bass to dominate the content of these compositions, and everyone is given ample opportunity to contribute. With each new solo session he releases, Tarry's inventive composition style and arranging skills continue to mature. After listening to this production for just a few moments, it becomes completely apparent that Almost Certainly Dreaming is contemporary jazz performance at its highest level.

Tracks
"Bedford Celebrities"
"An Unlikely UFO"
"Radio Princess"
"Same Clothes, Different Day"
"Prettiest Town Of Goderich"
"In The Beginning"
"Almost Certainly Dreaming"
"Alien Blueprints"

Musicians: Chris Tarry (Bass), Dan Weiss (Drums), Henry Hey (Piano), Pete McCann (Guitar), Kelly Jefferson (Sax)

Style: Contemporary Jazz

Release Date: November, 2007

Artist Contact: ChrisTarry.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - January 20, 2008


Alain Caron - Conversations

Alain Caron
Conversations is the sixth studio session released by internationally acclaimed bassist Alain Caron. While all of Caron's previous projects as a leader have been comprised of electric fusion tracks within different ensemble configurations, this recording features a set of intimate acoustic duos pairing Caron with highly regarded pianists including Francois Bourassa, Lorraine Desmarais, Oliver Jones, Otmaro Ruiz, and vibraphonist Jean St-Jacques. As its aptly named title suggests, this recording contains musical conversations between Caron and his guests which is very reminiscent of all the historic recordings that captured the brilliant interplay between pianist Bill Evans and his bassists, Scott LaFaro and Eddie Gomez, through the 1960's and 70's. Similar to what Evans' famed bassists demonstrated on those extraordinary trio dates, Caron weaves in and out of hard swinging walking bass lines, tight unison exchanges, and melodic solos utilizing only a fretless acoustic bass guitar. Caron's tone is deep but articulate, his intonation is impeccable, and he plays some of the most sophisticated jazz bass solos you will hear anywhere. With the exceptions of the bebop classic "Confirmation" by Charlie Parker and "Setembro," a Brazilian wedding song, Caron composed ten of the dozen tracks included on this collection. Compositionally, these traditional pieces might not consist of what you would expect to hear from Caron when compared to the previous endeavors that he has released as a solo artist over the past 15 years, but they do explore a brand new dimension of his remarkable writing and performance facility which I look forward to hearing more of in the future because you can't help but enjoy listening to these conversations.

Tracks
"No Pick"
"Ivoire"
"Questions"
"Blue Screen"
"Val C"
"X Tensions"
"Solitude"
"Strings Of Spring"
"Confirmation"
"Scrapper"
"Baby Steps"
"Setembro"

Musicians: Alain Caron (Fretless Acoustic Bass Guitar), Francois Bourassa (Piano), Lorraine Desmarais (Piano), Oliver Jones (Piano), Otmaro Ruiz (Piano), Jean St-Jacques (Vibraphone)

Style: Contemporary Jazz

Release Date: July, 2007

Artist Contact: AlainCaron.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - December 15, 2007


Yves Carbonne - Seven Waves

Yves Carbonne - Seven Waves
Delivering a collection of contemporary jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and spiritual sounds through eleven original compositions which employ the massive tonal range of his sub-bass guitars, Seven Waves is the long-awaited debut solo project from bassist Yves Carbonne. Carbonne, a pioneer of sub-bass playing, has spent the past several years refining his innovative concepts utilizing 10 and 12-string fretless basses which are tuned one octave below conventional tuning. Upon first listen, it is apparent that there is something very special about Carbonne's creative sub-bass approach which merges funk-laden subcontra grooves with pristine harmonics, powerful chords, and lyrical fretless soloing. The amount of low end that is not only heard but also felt on this production is extraordinary. While extended range instruments present bassists with a number of formidable challenges, Carbonne successfully transcends these obstacles when performing his music and spans the entire sonic spectrum in a very coherent, sensitive, and musical fashion. In addition to his many emotional bass/vocal collaborations with French African jazz and soul singer Guillaume Eyango, this recording features three unaccompanied sub-bass pieces and guest performances by prominent artists including solo bass virtuoso Michael Manring, drummers Roger Biwandu and Anthony Breyer as well as Laurent Maur on harmonica. From nearly subsonic depths, Yves Carbonne has elevated the bar for playing extended range bass with the release of Seven Waves.

Tracks
"Cloudy Day"
"Sweet Passion"
"Holy Spirit 2nd Verse"
"Childhood"
"Childhood Interlude"
"Seven Waves"
"Origin"
"Origin Interlude"
"You Got All My Love"
"Dawning"
"A Day In His Life"

Musicians: Yves Carbonne (Fretted & Fretless 6-String Contrabasses, Fretted & Fretless 8-String Sub-Basses, Fretless 10-String Sub-Bass), Guillaume Eyango (Vocals), Roger Biwandu (Drums), Anthony Breyer (Drums), Laurent Maur (Harmonica), Michael Manring (Fretless 4-String Bass)

Style: Contemporary Jazz, R&B, Rock, Funk, Spiritual

Release Date: September, 2007

Artist Contact: YvesCarbonne.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - November 12, 2007


Jeff Schmidt - Outré

Jeff Schmidt - Outré
After a decade-long hiatus from the music industry and less than two years removed from winning the 2005 Bass Extremes International Solo Bass Competition, Jeff Schmidt has become one of today's most recognizable solo bassists. On Outré, his debut release as an unaccompanied artist, Schmidt demonstrates that his approach to playing bass is anything but conventional. By utilizing unorthodox tunings along with light gauge strings and a variety of tapping, chordal, harmonic, and strumming techniques on both his fretted and fretless 5-string basses, Schmidt has created a hybrid sound and style of performance that can be categorized somewhere between the characteristics of a traditional bass and electric guitar. Because Schmidt employs basses constructed of typical scale lengths which are tuned higher than customary and makes use of a capo on about half of the 11 original pieces featured on this recording, his solo compositions contain intricate guitar-like textures while still maintaining the deep resonant sonorities only attainable on a long scale bass guitar. Regardless of the equipment and methods used to deliver his music, Schmidt has successfully assembled a collection of expressive tracks which transcend the standard bass repertoire. Although he is a relative newcomer on the solo bass scene, Outré has already firmly established Schmidt as one of world's premier solo bassists.

Tracks
"From Under The Weight Of Knowing"
"Fury"
"Satori"
"Path Beyond Tracing"
"Numb"
"Until Your Don't" (Live)
"Trypto"
"Sui Generis"
"Mudita"
"Seeing Is Freeing" (Live)
"Still Silhouette"

Musicians: Jeff Schmidt (MTD Fretted 5-String, Pedulla Fretless 5-String)

Style: Solo Bass Guitar

Release Date: July, 2007

Artist Contact: Beautiful-Bass.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - July 31, 2007


Stuart Hamm - Live Stu X 2

Stuart Hamm - Live Stu X 2
Released in January, 2007, Live Stu X 2 is the fifth solo project produced by legendary bassist Stuart Hamm and his first as a solo artist in nearly seven years. Live Stu X 2 features both a classic compilation of Hamm's most well known hits as well as several previously unreleased tracks that were performed in front of live audiences in Philadelphia and San Francisco with two completely different bands. The first eight tracks were recorded at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on April 20, 2006 during Hamm's set on the first leg of the Bx3 tour alongside fellow bass pioneers Billy Sheehan and Jeff Berlin. During his live Bx3 set, Hamm performs various tunes from his four critically-acclaimed studio recordings as a leader including Radio Free Albemuth (1988), Kings Of Sleep (1989), The Urge (1991), and Outbound (2000) along with two compositions that appeared on The Light Beyond (2000), the second studio collaboration issued by the Gambale/Hamm/Smith trio, which contain all of the signature slaps, taps, plucks, and chordal work that has made Hamm one of today's leading bassists and earned him award-winning recognition on an international level. The remaining pieces were captured on May 10, 2004 at the Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. Hamm had written and been playing the compositions recorded in San Francisco as solo bass pieces in clinics for several years prior, but here, he presents them as beautifully crafted arrangements for bass, saxophone, keyboard, and percussion. The songs recorded in San Francisco reveal a new dimension within Hamm's music since these tunes are, stylistically, vastly different from anything he has ever produced as a solo artist. As with most live recordings, there is a real energy in these performances that is often lost in studio projects, and Hamm's witty stage banter between songs adds to the live concert experience.

Tracks
"Intro" (Moonlight Sonata)
"Terminal Beach"
"Katahdin"
"Outbound"
"Nostalgia"
"Flow My Tears"
"Radio Free Albemuth"
"Lone Star"
"Intermission"
"Te Extrano"
"Yellow Happy"
"A New Peace"

Musicians: Stuart Hamm (Bass), Jude Gold (Guitar), John Mader (Drums), John Seppala (Keys), Alex Murzyn (Sax), Steve Prutzman (Keys), Edgardo Cambon (Percussion)

Style: Rock/Fusion/Solo Bass Guitar

Release Date: January, 2007

Record Label: Ubik Musik

Artist Contact: StuartHamm.net

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - March 30, 2007


Trip Wamsley - Curve

Trip Wamsley - Curve
Curve is the fourth solo session distributed as an independent release from bassist Trip Wamsley and the first of his projects as a leader to feature the electric bass guitar in both completely unaccompanied and orchestrated configurations. Over the span of 14 original tracks which were recorded within his home studio, Wamsley utilizes looping devices along with an assortment of fretted and fretless 4-string and 8-string basses to explore the broad spectrum of sonorities available on bass guitar. By combining altered tunings with contemporary performance techniques such as conventional fingerstyle playing, slapping, plucking, tapping, strumming, and picking in a context that places the emphasis on the composition rather than the tools, techniques, and virtuoso facility required to deliver his music, Wamsley demonstrates a sophisticated level of musicality. Unlike many typical bass-centric releases that are created solely to be revered by the bass playing community, Wamsley's structured arrangements maintain remarkable melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic diversity which extend to an audience beyond that of just bass aficionados. Not only does the music on Curve contain what bass enthusiasts have come to expect from Wamsley as a solo bassist but it also reveals that Wamsley is undeniably an artist deserving wider acknowledgment for his extraordinary musical abilities.

Tracks
"Sweet Algebur"
"Huevos Con Dios"
"Dear Boy"
"And He Speaks - Pt. 1"
"Northern"
"The Week The Car Grew A Beard"
"Becoming"
"Non A-06"
"This Is No Place For You"
"Redneck Monolith"
"And He Speaks - Pt. II"
"Watch Them Bounce"
"The Rest Of His Years"
"The Day It All Made Sense"

Musicians: Trip Wamsley (Alembic Fretted 8-String, Alembic Fretless 4-String, Vigier Arpege Fretless 4-String, Status Graphite S2-Classic Fretted 4-String, Barker Vertical Bass)

Style: Solo Bass Guitar

Release Date: December, 2006

Record Label: Tripindicular Tunes

Artist Contact: TWBass.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - February 28, 2007


The deMania Trio (featuring Michael Manring) - deMania

The deMania Trio (featuring Michael Manring)
deMania, the debut project from The deMania Trio, features an eclectic collection of original compositions, inventive arrangements, and expanded improvisations by guitarist Alex de Grassi, bassist Michael Manring, and percussionist Chris Garcia. Each acclaimed artists on their respective instruments, de Grassi is noted as a leading steel-string acoustic guitarist, Manring is acknowledged as a solo bass guitar pioneer, and Garcia is cited for his performance on unconventional percussion-related instruments such as the tabla. Together within a trio format, they merge their non-traditional instrumentation with an unrivaled degree of technical prowess and a diverse fusion of genres ranging from traditional folk, classical, jazz, and world music to produce a unique repertoire and sound all their own consisting of sensitive sonic textures, complex harmonic structures, lyrical melodies, intricate rhythmic figures, and odd meter grooves.

Tracks
"This Side Up"
"Homestyle"
"Para Mi Alegria"
"Yet Again"
"Paint It Black"
"With His Hat In His Hand"
"McCoy"
"The Black Hand"
"Curan Brujo"

Musicians: Alex de Grassi (acoustic steel string guitar and sympitar), Michael Manring (fretless and fretted electric bass), Christopher Garcia (tabla, kanjira, mbwata, cymbals, and miscellaneous percussion)

Style: World Jazz

Release Date: November 21, 2006

Record Label: Tropo Records

Artist Contact: LiraProductions.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - January 31, 2007


Brian Bromberg - Metal

Brian Bromberg
Originally released in Japan last year under the title Bass Ackwards on King Records, Brian Bromberg has renamed this collection of rock/fusion-oriented tracks Metal and issued it on his newly-formed record label, Artistry Music. Bromberg, equally versed on both electric and acoustic upright instruments and revered as one of today's most prolific bassists, has released some of the most critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful instrumental recordings in contemporary jazz, but stylistically, the compositions included on Metal are not what you would typically expect to hear coming from Bromberg. Metal represents a completely new dimension of Bromberg's remarkable musical ability and a radical departure from everything he has previously released as a leader. Metal is an all-electric project that was composed by Bromberg and recorded in his own B² Studios. This endeavor captures Bromberg in a rare rock/fusion power trio setting which allows him to shred with rock guitar god-like speed, phrasing, and distorted tonalities from start to finish. There are absolutely no guitar players featured on this recording. Each of the lead and rhythm guitar-sounding parts were recorded in multiple layers by Bromberg using an array of his signature-model B² Dean basses in a piccolo bass configuration (a piccolo bass is a standard instrument with extra-light strings installed on it that allows Bromberg to tune the bass an octave plus a fourth above standard tuning). Bromberg's "guitar playing" is so extraordinarily convincing that if you weren't made aware all of the guitar-like parts were actually recorded by a bass player, you would never be able to distinguish the difference. Since Bromberg is actually using a 34 inch-scale piccolo bass tuned to the register of a guitar and articulating all of his lines with his fingers rather than utilizing a pick, he is able to achieve a much warmer, sustaining sound than what his guitar-playing contemporaries can deliver. With the exception of Joel Taylor's hard-hitting drum performance heard on every song and Dan Siegel's fantastic keyboard/organ work on two pieces, Bromberg's aggressive piccolo bass-generated solos, overdubbed rhythm parts, and rock-fused bass grooves dominate throughout.

Tracks
"Good Morning"
"The Dungeon"
"Through The Window"
"Trade Show"
"Carlos"
"Top Down"
"Fooled Ya"
"The Message Within"
"Flight Of The Phoenix"

The Bottom Line
Although most of his music has been conventionally categorized as smooth, traditional, or contemporary jazz, on Metal, Brian Bromberg has successfully fused the art of electric bass shredding and explosive demonstrations of technical virtuosity with an unrivaled accomplishment amongst his bass-playing colleagues in the execution of song writing and production. Metal does not only consist of an encyclopedic exhibition of mind-boggling, bass and guitar chops-laden performance techniques. Bromberg's virtuoso displays completely serve the music found on this well-conceived project. If you are a fan of the high-energy, song-based instrumental recordings put forth by all the guitar gods and rock/fusion greats, Metal will be a welcomed addition to your music library. To learn more about Brian Bromberg, go to: BrianBromberg.net.

Musicians: Brian Bromberg (4 & 5-string bass, piccolo bass, acoustic piccolo bass, tenor bass, midi bass), Joel Taylor (drums), Dan Siegel (keyboards on "Good Morning" and organ on "Carlos")

Style: Rock/Fusion

Release Date: February 22, 2005

Record Label: Artistry Music

Artist Contact: BrianBromberg.net

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - June 29, 2005


Michael Manring - Soliloquy

Michael Manring
Widely-revered as solo bassist nonpareil, Michael Manring has released Soliloquy, his highly-anticipated sixth project as a solo artist. Although Manring has effectively merged solo pieces and music arranged for different ensemble configurations on his five previous recordings as a leader, Soliloquy is his first endeavor comprised entirely of unaccompanied compositions for electric and acoustic bass guitar. While the bass guitar is rarely regarded as a solitary instrument due to its ordinarily perceived role of functioning within a group context, the underlying theme found throughout this project is solitude. With the exception of "Selene," the first piece Manring ever composed using the tuning capabilities of the Zon Hyperbass in 1991 which is captured here during a show at the Noe Valley Music Series in San Francisco in 2001, each electric bass track was recorded live in a single-pass without overdubs by Manring using numerous signal sources to produce broad spatial elements on multiple tracks in his home studio, "Funk & Disorderly." Utilizing a collection of custom-made fretted and fretless Zon electric basses and a Larrivee acoustic bass guitar, Manring fuses many traditional and unconventional bass techniques including standard fingerstyle playing, slapping, plucking, tapping, and chord strumming techniques with his harmonics exhibitions, mesmerizing EBow work, and his unrivaled exploration with altered tunings. By employing the use of special tuners and a unique bridge found on his signature instrument, the Hyperbass, Manring is able to manipulate the extensive palette of tunings possible on his basses during the course of many tracks without stopping to retune. In addition to the 14 audio tracks, Soliloquy functions as an "Enhanced CD" and contains multimedia content accessible from a computer's CD-ROM drive. As part of the enhanced disc, you will find Michael's extensive liner notes in PDF format which details the instruments, tunings, recording equipment, and techniques used in the production of Soliloquy along with information outlining the stories behind each piece. Besides the insight offered within the extensive notes, you will have the opportunity to view, using the QuickTime format, a live solo presentation of "A Morning Star" from a show in 1995 as well as a live video performance of "Diagonal Head Trauma" which was previously released on The Artist's Profile: Michael Manring DVD.

Tracks
"Helios"
"Excuse Me, Mr. Manring"
"Solipsism"
"I Left America"
"Greetings, Earthlings!"
"Makes Perfect Sense To Me"
"The Light Which Puts Out Our Eyes"
"A Morning Star" (for Matt and Al)
"Selene" (live)
"Dabuda's Memory"
"When We Were Asleep In The Earth"
"The Orffyreus Wheel"
"Insomnia Lessons"
"Come With Me, My Love"

The Bottom Line
Soliloquy is a collection of technically-unparalleled, richly-textured, and refreshingly-innovative arrangements from Michael Manring's repertoire that reveal his unyielding passion for creating music comprised of the astonishing variety of tonalities attainable on bass. Disregard the fact that the music featured on this project was recorded by a solo bassist using only electric and acoustic bass guitars. Forget about the virtuoso technical facility required to perform at this level. As Manring explores the enormously expansive palette of sonorities and dynamic textural possibilities available on unaccompanied bass guitar, he has redefined the role of the electric bass as a legitimate solo instrument in contemporary music and proves it to be profoundly communicative and capable of conveying the entire gamut of human emotion. To obtain more information about Michael Manring and his work as a solo bassist, visit: Manthing.com.

Musicians: Michael Manring (Zon Michael Manring Hyperbass, Zon Custom Sonus/Hyperbass Hybrid, Zon Legacy Elite Special 10-String Prototype, Zon VB-4 Prototype, Larrivee Custom 5-String Acoustic)

Style: Solo Bass Guitar

Release Date: April, 2005

Record Label: Manthing Music

Artist Contact: Manthing.com

Reviewed By: Cliff Engel - June 10, 2005


The Kristin Korb/Todd Johnson Trio: Get Happy - 11/05/04

On their debut collaboration, highly esteemed acoustic upright bassist/vocalist Kristin Korb and 6-string electric bass pioneer Todd Johnson have released Get Happy, a trio recording comprised of twelve classic jazz standards and three original compositions. Along with drummer Kendall Kay, Korb sings and plays traditional jazz bass lines on acoustic upright while Johnson outlines the harmony with richly textured chord voicings on his Yamaha 6-string electric bass. Korb's bass lines bounce, her solos swing, and her voice sets the new standard amongst female jazz vocalists. Not to be outdone, Johnson's sophisticated chord melodies are unrivaled amongst his contemporaries. In past performances as an integral component of the critically acclaimed Ron Escheté Trio as well as a solo bassist, Johnson has demonstrated that his innovative bass playing style is anything but traditional. Here, Johnson continues with that forward-thinking approach. Throughout this recording, Johnson's guitar-like chordal accompaniment style is reminiscent to that of the legendary jazz guitarists including Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, and Ron Escheté. Johnson's guitar-like performance is so convincing that as a listener, if you were not made aware that Johnson was not a jazz guitarist, you would never be able to decipher the difference. The production quality of this recording is superb. Even though this project features two musicians playing low frequency instruments, the sonic spectrum is never muddied and the distinct tonal characteristics of each instrument are never sacrificed. With all the underlying positive energy heard on this entertaining project, you simply can't listen to this recording and not get happy. A complete track listing includes: "I'm Old Fashioned", "Top Of The World", "Just A Closer Walk With Thee", "If You Never Fall In Love With Me", "Moon River", "Sunshine & Slim", "Cheek To Cheek", "Wonder Why", "Get Happy", "You Don't Know What Love Is", "Goin' Home", "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", "Everything Happens To Me", "Blues For Hellen", and "When You're Smilin'." Bottom Line: By combining one of today's premier jazz vocalists/upright players with an inventive virtuoso 6-string electric bassist, Kristin Korb and Todd Johnson have created one of the most truly unique recordings in contemporary jazz. To learn more about The Kristin Korb/Todd Johnson Trio, go to: ToddJohnsonMusic.com.

C. Engel


Jeff Berlin: Lumpy Jazz - 09/03/04

Alongside Richard Drexler (piano, keyboards, upright bass) and Danny Gottlieb (drums, percussion), legendary electric bassist and founder of the Players School of Music in Florida, Jeff Berlin has released, Lumpy Jazz, his fifth recording as a leader. Categorically best described as primarily straight-ahead jazz in a trio format, Berlin's latest solo effort contains a total of nine compositions including eight original tracks and a contemporary arrangement of a piece by Johannes Brahms. As a globally-acclaimed virtuoso bassist, Berlin has long been recognized as one of the greatest electric bass soloists in the world and for good reason. On Lumpy Jazz, Berlin has truly redefined the role of the electric bass as a solo instrument with the longest and most intense solos of his recording career. Using his signature 4-string fretted electric bass, Berlin provides upright-sounding walking lines, solos with extraordinary piano-like fluidity, and comps chord changes in a role similar to a jazz guitarist/pianist while Drexler plays upright bass. From a production standpoint, Lumpy Jazz is especially unique in that Berlin utilized a Peavey Studio Chorus guitar amp on all but two of the tracks and in the process captured some of the best bass tones he has ever placed on a recording. World renowned harmonica player Toots Thielemans makes a special guest soloist appearance on, "Toot's Suite", a composition named in his dedication. A complete track listing includes: "Brooklyn Uncompromised", "My Happy Kids", "Lien On Me", "A Mensch Among Unmentionables", "Almost Dawn", "Have You Met Mischpucha", "Toot's Suite", "Everyone Gets Old (If They Have The Time)", and "Intermezzo In A Major (Opus 118 No. 2)." Bottom Line: Jeff Berlin's technical facility and improvisation prowess on electric bass is simply unparalleled. Lumpy Jazz is the finest recording Berlin has released under his own name and is highly recommended to anyone seeking an unrivaled electric bass performance in a jazz trio configuration or studying the art of soloing. For more information on Jeff Berlin and Lumpy Jazz, visit: JeffBerlinMusic.com.

C. Engel


David Hughes: Swoosh - 09/01/04

Known as a versatile sideman and session player, Sweden-born bassist David Hughes has released, Swoosh, his debut recording as a leader. Categorized best as contemporary jazz, Swoosh is a self-produced and independently distributed project comprised of eleven original compositions arranged by Hughes including a solo bass performance along with songs inspired by David Benoit, Larry Carlton, and Marcus Miller. With his fretted and fretless basses, Hughes delivers funk-laden grooves, guitar-like chordal voicings, and many horn-influenced solos. Although Hughes' virtuostic ability as a bass player is completely apparent throughout this recording, it never obscures the emotionally evocative experience he is attempting to convey to the listener. Enlisting notable special guest appearances by David Benoit, Wilton Felder from the Jazz Crusaders, Greg Mathiesen, and the Rippingtons' Dave Anderson, rarely do you hear a recording with compositions this well balanced on a debut project where electric bass is spotlighted with such a significant role in delivering the melodic content. A complete track listing includes: "Swoosh", "Benoit", "Waiting For The Crowd", "Carlton", "Clearing", "Riverside", "Millertime", "Sunshine", "Contemplationalism", "Kenny", and "Waves." Bottom Line: Swoosh is a recording with commercial appeal that even non-musicians can enjoy listening to for hours. With his first solo project, Hughes proves that he is a premier bassist who definitely deserves wider acknowledgment. To learn more about David Hughes and Swoosh, go to: Swedebass.com.

C. Engel


Matt Garrison: Shapeshifter - 08/28/04

After emerging as a leader under his own name with his self-titled recording in 2000, electric bass phenom Matt Garrison has released Shapeshifter, his second project as a solo artist. On Shapeshifter, Garrison picks up where his debut recording left off with a multi-faceted fusion of world music elements, atmospheric textures, electronica soundscapes, and experimental tones. Accompanied by a supporting cast of like-minded musicians such as Scott Kinsey (keys), John Arnold (drums), Sabina Sciubba (vocals), Arto Tuncboyacian (percussion), Adam Rogers (guitar), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), Elliot Mason (bass trumpet), Jim Beard (keys), Will Calhoun (wusuli), as well as his sister Joy (vocals), and wife Veronika (vocals), Garrison's thick distorted grooves, trance-like melodies, and voice-inflected solo flurries reveal a profound sense of musicality on his signature 5-string bass. Not only does Garrison find himself providing the role of bass player, but he can also be heard performing the intricate duties of keyboardist, guitarist, and vocalist throughout the project. Unlike many other bass-lead solo projects released by his contemporaries, Garrison's music is extraordinarily compositionally-focused. Whether demonstrating his mind-blowing 4-finger right hand technique or innovative chordal approach to bass performance, playing within the structure of his multi-layered compositions always comes foremost. A complete track listing includes: "Symbiosis", "Unity", "I Told Ya So", "Three Tree", "I Can See You Now", "ZZAJ 5.1", "Life Burning", "Mirror Image", "Exchange", "Changing Paths", and "Turn Around." Bottom Line: With his second offering as a leader, Matt Garrison has evolved into the next generation of bassist/composer by merging virtuoso technical facility on his instrument with a signature style of composition that is certain to be recognized amongst the most uniquely original voices in contemporary music. For more information on Matt Garrison and his latest recording, visit: GarrisonJazz.com.

C. Engel


Alain Caron: 5 - 01/01/04

Former UZEB bassist and co-founder Alain Caron has released his fifth project as a leader. Simply titled 5, Caron's latest solo outing is a collection of nine tracks, best categorized as an instrumental fusion of contemporary jazz and electronic sounds. As an internationally acclaimed and award-winning bassist, Caron is widely recognized as one of today's premier bassists. As a member of UZEB and now as a leader of his own group, Caron has played some of the hardest hitting grooves ever recorded. Caron continues that tradition on 5. With his fretted and fretless, extended range, signature model F Basses, Caron lays down slammin' slap grooves, intense solos, and soulful melodies. Caron's fretless work and slap chops are second-to-none. Continuing in similar fashion to his previous projects, Caron has once again surrounded himself with an outstanding supporting cast of musicians to perform his intricate arrangements. Although Caron demonstrates virtuoso ability on every solo project, his attention to detail within his compositions remains his foremost priority and is displayed throughout this recording. A complete track listing includes: "Ocean Of Trees", "Double Agent", "Signal", "Ink Illusion", "Show Of Hands", "No Left Turn On Tuesday", "Turkey Loose On The Kit", "Solitude", and "Black Paws" (with Caron on upright bass). Bottom Line: Alain Caron delivers once again! For more information on Alain Caron and 5, visit: AlainCaron.com.

C. Engel


Peter Muller: M-Vibez - 11/06/03

On the debut solo project, M-Vibez, from Germany-based bassist/multi-instrumentalist Peter Muller, old school funk meets the sounds of contemporary jazz. Composed, arranged, recorded, mixed, produced, engineered, and mastered by Muller at his own Wave Island studio, M-Vibez is best described as a fusion of funk, jazz, r&b, soul, hip hop, african, and latin sounds. Heavily influenced by the style and technique of Marcus Miller, Muller demonstrates thunderous funk-laden and soulful slap grooves on his Fender jazz bass. His classic Fender jazz bass tone is articulate and featured throughtout the recording. Muller's deep-pocket grooving is powerful and sense of melodicism is passionate. Although Muller displays virtuostic bass chops, they never overshadow the music. With so many styles, this recording is extremely well balanced and maintains the listener's attention from start to finish. Muller is a rare breed of musician that seems to have mastered everything, and his outstanding production skills reveal that he definitely sees the big picture. Seldom will you find a recording of this caliber, especially as someone's first project as a leader. A complete track listing includes: "Trigger (for Marcus)", "Kasbah", "Phat", "Mauritius", "Eastbound", "Lounge Creepers (Intro)", "Lounge Creepers", "I'll Be There", "M-Vibez", "After You've Gone", and "Peaceful World." Bottom Line: M-Vibez is contemporary jazz at its best and the strongest debut solo project that I've heard. Yeah, it's that good. This is a 5-star recording. To learn more about Peter Muller and M-Vibez, visit: PeterMuller.de.

C. Engel


Bryan Beller: View - 11/03/03

Recognized primarily for his work with ex-Frank Zappa guitarist/solo artist Mike Keneally, bassist Bryan Beller has released View, his debut recording as a leader. As a hired gun, Beller has also appeared alongside guitarist nonpareil Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, and Wayne Kramer. Here on his first solo project, Beller, a Berklee graduate and former long-time Bass Player magazine columnist, has enlisted the playing of an outstanding supporting cast of highly respected musicians including Keneally and many Berklee veterans. Best categorized as primarily rock/fusion instrumental, View is a masterfully crafted collection of thirteen tracks, eleven of which are Beller-penned originals. Laden with a fusion of rock, jazz, pop, world beat, and even solo acoustic/electric bass sounds, Beller offers the listener a panoramic view of his compositional skills which are infused with underlying themes that are often dense in layers but yet never lose touch with the audience. With his Mike Lull 5-string and Taylor AB-4 acoustic/electric bass, Beller deftly moves from the tight fingerstyle grooves of "Seven Percent Grade" to the articulate phrasing and chordal workout of "Backwoods" to the hard-driving rock riffs of "Bite." Unlike most bass player-led projects where bass chops dominate from start to finish, Beller demonstrates that View is about the music first and foremost, but don't let him fool you either. Beller can blow, and he has the technical facility to prove it. Beller's playing, tone, and sensitivity to melody are second to none. His solo work on the Taylor AB-4 acoustic/electric bass is simply captivating and his adaptation of John Patitucci's "Backwoods" is emotionally provocative. A complete track listing includes: "Bear Divide", "Seven Percent Grade", "Supermarket People", "Elate", "Get Things Done", "Backwoods", "Bite", "Eighteen Weeks", "Projectile", "Wildflower", "No", "See You Next Tuesday", and "View." Bottom Line: There is something for everyone on View, and you don't have to be a musician to enjoy this recording. Beller expresses the gamut of emotions and leaves the listener craving more. The view ahead of Beller's musical journey looks clear and bright. For more information on View and Beller's newly formed record label, Onion Boy Records, go to: BryanBeller.com or OnionBoyRecords.com.

C. Engel


Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Word Of Mouth Revisited - 07/25/03

When Jaco Pastorius exploded onto the music scene in the 1970's, he single-handedly redefined the role and potential of the electric bass. He truly was a pioneer, an innovator. Few musicians before or after Jaco have possessed his level of creative energy with even fewer more beloved, and no bassist has ever influenced more musicians worldwide. More than a decade after his tragic passing, his music continues to transcend genres. To celebrate the legacy of Jaco, Word of Mouth Revisited features the 14-piece Jaco Pastorius Big Band with guest appearances by a "who's who" of today's most highly revered bassists. The featured bassists enlisted to interpret these classic compositions include Victor Bailey, Richard Bona, Jeff Carswell, Jimmy Haslip, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, David Pastorius, Gerald Veasley, and Victor Wooten. Conducted by Peter Graves, who first employed Jaco as a member of the Peter Graves Orchestra in 1971, this tribute consists of thirteen tracks spanning most of Jaco's career from his early days with Graves' orchestra to his stint with Weather Report and his own Word of Mouth big band. Among this collection of pieces are some of Jaco's most favored tracks along with others that are a bit more obscure. Not only does this recording excel in the fact that many of the charts on this project were arranged by Jaco, but Jaco's actual bass part is heard on "Wiggle Waggle", extracted from a live performance in the late 70's and recorded with the entire band around it. Spaced throughout the recording are eight great sound bytes featuring the voice of Jaco "interacting" with the band. Included with this package is a booklet complete with track by track analysis from Graves and Larry Warrilow, one of Jaco's longtime friends and collaborators, and a history of Graves' introduction and association with Jaco. Also integrated on this full-length enhanced cd is a multimedia CD-ROM complete with Jaco's biography and videos capturing the recording of this project and interviews with the featured bassists. A complete track listing with featured bassists includes: "Havona" (Haslip), "Teen Town" (Wooten), "Punk Jazz" (Bona), "Barbary Coast" (Veasley), "Killing Me Softly" (Carswell), "(Used To Be A) Cha Cha" (Bailey), "Wiggle Waggle" (Jaco), "Continuum" (Haslip), "Elegant People" (Veasley), "Opus Pocus" (D. Pastorius), "Domingo" (Bailey), "Forgotten Love" (McBride), and a bonus track by Marcus Miller, "Punk Jazz Revisited." Bottom Line: Word of Mouth Revisited is the most impressive tribute to Jaco's legacy of brilliant music to date. Jaco's memory lives on and his innovative music continues to entertain, inspire, and motivate future generations of bassists. A fitting tribute to "The World's Greatest Bass Player." For more information on The Jaco Pastorius Big Band and Word of Mouth Revisited, visit: HeadsUp.com.

C. Engel


Gerald Veasley: Velvet - 07/23/03

Recognized as one of today's leading contemporary bass players, Gerald Veasley continues to redefine the sounds of urban music on his latest release, Velvet. Veasley has been acknowledged by the critics of Downbeat magazine as "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" and voted "Best Electric Bassist" by the readers of Jazziz magazine. As a versatile sideman and session player, Veasley's distinctive resume includes long stints with Grover Washington Jr. and Joe Zawinul's Zawinul Syndicate. On his sixth project as a leader on Heads Up, Veasley has created a richly textured collection of tracks comprised of soulful and seductive grooves. Alongside his band and a superb cast of guest musicians, Veasley's music continues to evolve as he delivers a powerful, therapeutic message. With his six-string bass prowess, Veasley's funky, resonate lines are smooth and focused. A complete track listing includes: "Coup DeVille", "Sarah's Song", "Let's Do It Again", "Velvet", "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", "Do You Remember?", "Luscious", "Summer Kiss", "Bread Puddin'", "Forever", "It's Alright (Tonight's the Night)", "Still Movin' On", "Home", and "Sunday Clothes Reprise." Bottom Line: With Velvet, Gerald Veasley has fused the classic grooves of yesterday with the contemporary urban sounds of today. To learn more about Gerald Veasley, visit: GeraldVeasley.com.

C. Engel


Joseph Patrick Moore: E.M.P. Project - 06/03/03

Based in the southern United States, E.M.P. Project is an all original jazz trio deeply rooted in the traditions of jazz. Comprised of drummer William Ellis, bassist Joseph Patrick Moore, and guitarist Shawn Perkinson, E.M.P Project has released their self-titled, debut recording as a trio. Although this project marks the first documentation of this trio, after just one listen you would think they had been playing together as a group for many years. While stylistically this outing could be collectively categorized as jazz, E.M.P. Project's repertoire fuses the sounds of traditional jazz, fusion, latin, and contemporary jazz. As part of this truly collaborative effort, Moore has contributed four original compositions. With acoustic upright, electric, and fretless basses, Moore covers a serious amount of sonic space by providing the foundation, outlining the harmony, and demonstrating sophisticated showcases of soloing prowess. Moore's driving lines bounce, Perkinson's sense of melodicism keeps you craving more, and Ellis' intricate drum work swings. Inspiring melodies, spontaneous improvisations, and spirited grooves are all present. A complete track listing includes: "Warrior", "Night", "Blues Blown Bye", "Ba Dump", "Homefront", "Elise", "Safe Journey", "What?", "Quickly & Quietly", and "Birdy." Bottom Line: With their debut outing, E.M.P. Project proves to be one of the best up-and-coming trios on the jazz scene today. Whether recording as a leader of his own group or performing as a member of E.M.P. Project, Joseph Patrick Moore has all the basses covered. For more information on J.P.M. and E.M.P. Project, go to: EMPProject.net.

C. Engel


Markus Setzer: Dance With Me - 05/01/03

Joined by his wife and vocalist Sabine, Markus Setzer has released Dance With Me, an assortment of songs for electric bass and voice. As a follow-up to their debut recording as a duet, the pair offer up a new selection of originals and artfully crafted arrangements of classic jazz standards. While providing an amazing palette of both rhythmic and harmonic support, Markus delivers blistering displays of over-the-top bass chops while Sabine scats over a wide range of bass-laden soundscapes. Whether laying down crisp, cool slaps, popped chordal comps, or syncopated two-handed tapping accompaniment, Markus demonstrates impeccable skills from start to finish. As an electric bass and vocal duo, what may seem like an unconventional pairing to some, the amount of sonic space they can cover is truly remarkable. The definitive precision of their unison lines and the tight interplay between their interwoven lines has to be heard to be appreciated. Never do they get in each other's way, always providing support to the other's lines and enhancing the overall sound of the project. Their phrases always remain clear, articulate, and focused. A complete track listing includes: "Josephine", "Spain", "The Eagles Fly", "Ain't No Sunshine", and "Dance With Me." Bottom Line: With the release of Dance With Me, Markus and Sabine just keep getting better and better as a duo. If you've been searching for something unique in concept and non-traditional in sound, then look no further. For more information on Markus Setzer, go to: Reimer-Setzer.de.

C. Engel


Lars Lehmann: Rebirth - 04/28/03

Accompanied by vocalist Britt Peters, Germany-based bassist, Lars Lehmann has released Rebirth, the duo's first full-length studio project. Minus the additional vocalists on one track and the sounds of drums and percussion on one other, this outing showcases the talents of Peters and one of Germany's most recognizable bass players in Lehmann, the editor of the German bass publication, "Bass Professor." As a duo, their repertoire consists of classic pop, rock, and jazz standards. Within the twelve tracks found on this recording, the duo takes the listener through a stylistically diverse journey, often altering the feel multiple times within each track. The end results are renditions which sound fresh and never lose the attention of the listener. Peters' vocals are smooth and sultry. Lehmann's bass chops are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Slapping, tapping, chordal workouts, harmonics, and fingerstyle funk techniques are featured throughout. During Lehmann's solos, his sense of melodic phrasing is second-to-none. A complete track listing includes: "I Feel Good", "Nothing Good", "Like Someone in Love", "Fever", "Stay", "Hello", "Amazing Grace", "Hedonism", "Angel", "Love of My Life", "Dream", and "Uninvited." Bottom Line: Emotionally stirring, stylistically rich, and inspiring best describe Rebirth. To learn more about Lars Lehmann, visit: LarsLehmann.com.

C. Engel


Jake Kot: Don't Look Back - 04/01/03

With over thirty years of playing experience, Jake Kot has released his debut project as a leader, Don't Look Back. All of the material heard on this recording was composed, arranged, and produced by Kot. Included within this outing are two never before released bonus tracks with special guests Dave Weckl and Eric Marienthal. Stylistically, this outing could best be described as a groove-injected fusion of contemporary jazz and latin rhythms. With his signature model, Conklin 4-string electric bass, Kot's percolating funk grooves will keep you grooving for days. As a seasoned soloist alongside his fellow bandmates, Kot's tour-de-force, horn-like solo blowing is second to none. The horn lines are tight and the rhythm section simply burns. A complete track listing includes: "Missing Weather", "Sahara", "Still Dancin' with the Man", "Don't Look Back", "Shadow of Doubt", "On Your Mark", "The One in the Many", "When You Were Here", and "You Had To Be There." Bottom Line: Jake Kot, where have you been hiding? Don't Look Back is not just about incredible bass playing, it's about great music first and foremost. For more information on Jake Kot, go to: JakeKot.com.

C. Engel


Chuck Bianchi & Jerry Preston: Dreaming Out Loud - 03/25/03

After performing together as a duo for the past decade, electric bassist Chuck Bianchi and acoustic guitarist Jerry Preston have released their debut outing, Dreaming Out Loud. This recording is a collection of nine original compositions: four solo bass pieces, three works for acoustic guitar, and two duets. With his 5-string Zon, Bianchi, a Berklee graduate, utilizes altered tunings, two handed tapping techniques, harmonics, and chordal work to create dynamically rich, multi-layered voicings that are both technically intricate and emotionally expressive. Preston, with his own unique and unconventional approach to acoustic guitar, presents the listener with a repertoire full of complex, yet melodically sensitive pieces. Together, Bianchi and Preston compliment each others creativity with beautifully arranged harmony and interwoven melodies. A complete track listing includes: "Three Day Fall", "A Northern Place", "Falling Away", "Imaginary Day", "Dragons of Eden", "Campfires in the Sky", "Revisited", "December", and "Where Tigers Dance." Bottom Line: On Dreaming Out Loud Bianchi and Preston aren't afraid to push the boundaries of conventional thinking. Searching, challenging, and inspiring best describe this project. To learn more about Chuck Bianchi and Jerry Preston, visit: DreamingOutLoud.net.

C. Engel


Mo Foster: Time To Think - 11/25/02

Recorded over two days within the ambient atmosphere of an Oxford church, U.K. bassist Mo Foster's Time To Think is a superb collection of emotionally evoking compositions. Foster, recognized as a premier session veteran in both the studio and on film and also as a touring sideman, has playing credits that span a who's who list of the U.K.'s most renowned musicians. Now, on his third recording as a leader, Foster draws upon jazz and classical influences to record what I would classify as contemporary instrumental music constructed around intriquing melodies and thought-provoking improvisation. Foster's arrangements consisting of bass, acoustic guitar, piano, organ, vibes, soprano saxophone, and percussion are carefully interwoven, leaving plenty of room for the beauty of his fretless bass to speak, and the acoustics provided by the recording environment enhance the project's overall feel. With his fretless bass, Foster lays down some of the most melodically mesmerizing bass work that I've heard in a long time. Foster's brilliant sense of melodic phrasing is inspiring. His fretless tone is haunting and singing. A selected track listing includes: "It's About That Time of Day", "Leo", "On Frith Street", "Waves II", "Shades of Grey", "Let's Go On Somewhere", and "Time To Think." To find more information on Mo Foster, visit: MoFoster.com.

C. Engel


Ray Riendeau: Arrhythmia - 9/07/02

To follow up Enlightenment, the very first project of its kind to fully demonstrate the capabilities of LightWave Systems' revolutionary optical pickup technologies in an exclusively solo electric bass environment, solo electric bass phenom Ray Riendeau has released his highly anticipated band project, Arrhythmia. Now recognized as one of today's most unique voices in the art of contemporary solo electric bass performance, Riendeau has taken this new outing in a completely different direction from his previous releases. Arrhythmia can best be described as a multi-layered cross section of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and tribal influences combined within the context of rhythmically intense and at times harmonically ambiguous arrangements. Here, the history of the jazz tradition meets the modern evolution of instrumental experimentation. Even though this endeavor finds Riendeau sharing space within a band format, bass fanatics don't fret because all the virtuoso bass chops you'd expect to find on a Riendeau release are definitely still present here along with highly textured grooves, odd meters, and angular melodies. Alongside Riendeau, the nucleus of band consists of saxophonist Ted Belledin and percussionist Joe Morris, and joining this power trio is Jesse McGuire (Tower of Power) on trumpet along with keys, a rapper, and a turntablist. Riendeau's tour-de-force solo blowing, thunderous slap grooves, and improvisation skills are brilliant and inspiring. By fusing Riendeau's unconventional style of slap techniques with Morris' eclectic vocabulary of drum grooves, the interplay between these two has never been tighter. Ted Belledin's playing and scorching solo explorations are stellar. A complete track listing includes: "Arrhythmia", "Kundalini", "Momentum", "Right View", "Bodhi Tree", "What Is Rhythm?", "Decon-Recon", "Right Speech", "Chant", "Sunyata", "Hidden Channels of the Mind", "Mental Landscape", "Ornithology", and "911." Bottom Line: Arrhythmia is without a doubt the most cutting-edge collection of original sounding music I've ever heard. This is Ray Riendeau's finest outing to date. With Riendeau's pioneering approach to contemporary solo electric bass playing and now his innovative arrangements on Arrhythmia, the only question that remains is, what's next?!

C. Engel


Todd Johnson: A Solo Offering - 9/01/02

On his debut outing as a leader, bassist Todd Johnson presents us with A Solo Offering, a compilation of jazz-influenced, multi-tracked bass orchestrations. By combining simple, well-known Christian-based melodies with his sophisticated knowledge of complex harmony and rhythm, Johnson has put together an intricate collection of lyrically inspired arrangements. If you can't immediately identify these titles by name, you'll surely recognize them by melody. Johnson's own unique, distinctive style which he has developed over the years as a long-time member of the critically acclaimed Ron Eschete Trio is anything but conventional. With his midi-equipped six-string Yamaha bass, Johnson is often heard laying down a bass line, comping chords, and playing melodies simultaneously. While some solo bassists may choose to record these parts individually, Johnson, in many cases, is actually assuming the roles of bassist, organist, and seasoned soloist all at the same time. Johnson covers all the instrumentation heard on this project with just his six-string bass. What is truly amazing about this recording, from a sonic perspective, is that excluding the few tracks which are arranged with percussion and string parts, Johnson was able to record multiple loops with only his six-sting bass and successfully maintain clarity throughout the entire project. Johnson's bass tone is simply pristine, his virtuoso solo explorations are to be revered, and his improvising skills are second-to-none. A complete track listing includes: "At the Cross", "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", "Mary Did You Know", "The Old Rugged Cross", "My Jesus I Love Thee", "Soon and Very Soon", "His Name is Wonderful", "Silent Night", "How Great Thou Art", "Great is Thy Faithfulness." Bottom Line: By combining years of technical innovation with imagination and a truly dedicated vision, on A Solo Offering Todd Johnson proves that there is much more to playing bass than just playing bass. To learn more about Todd Johnson and his work with the Ron Eschete Trio, be sure to visit: ToddJohnsonMusic.com.

C. Engel


Max Valentino: A Caravan of Dreams - 7/05/02

From Ekstasis Productions comes bassist Max Valentino's debut solo project, A Caravan of Dreams. On his first self-produced outing, Valentino paints haunting soundscapes, explores exotic Middle Eastern flavors, and reveals hints of Spanish vibes. Utilizing his instrument of choice, the Godin A4 acoustic bass guitar, throughout the majority of the tracks, and state-of-the-art sound processing technology, Valentino has assembled a thoughtfully textured collection of multi-dimensional, looped-based compositions. While most of the tracks found on this recording are based on live improvisations, you'd never be able to tell it. These tracks sound so good, it seems like Valentino's dense orchestrations were meant to be. Although some tracks are developed into seriously interwoven electronic arrangements, Valentino's acoustic bass guitar lends an organic feel throughout his music. Unlike the rut in which many of today's contemporary bass loopers find themselves falling into, Valentino is able to maintain the listeners attention from start to finish. Valentino's compositions are all wide ranging in sounds, styles, and textures. During his sonic exhibitions, Valentino demonstrates his skills as a composer by producing completely eclectic, unaccompanied compositions with intense chordal workouts, slapping, two-handed tapping, and traditional fingerstyle techniques. Lush chordal sequences, lyrically improvised melodic phrases, and percussive-laden figures are all infused into this recording. A complete track listing includes: "Into That Still Dark Night", "Alegria", "Here & Now", "Djam Karet", "Drifting", "A Caravan of Dreams", "Farfetched", "Anika's Tune", "Hidden Roads", "Ghost Town", and "Into That Still Dark Night (Reprise)." Bottom Line: With his debut release, A Caravan of Dreams, Max Valentino has redefined the future of solo bass performance. Emotionally evocative, wholly musical, and technically awe-inspiring best describe this recording.

C. Engel


Dave Pomeroy: Tomorrow Never Knows - 6/20/02

Whoever coined the phrase "if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself" must have had the latest endeavor from studio bassist extraordinaire, Dave Pomeroy in mind. With Tomorrow Never Knows, his second outing as a leader, Pomeroy continues with his conceptual explorations into "all-bass" music. Tomorrow Never Knows is "solo-project" defined. By combining his world-class skills as a bassist with his highly revered production ability, Pomeroy created a one-man, all-bass orchestra. Through his talent as a respected songwriter along with his choice of selected arrangements, Pomeroy has single-handedly orchestrated one of the most impressive all-bass projects ever recorded. He performed all of the instrumentation on this recording with thirty-three different electric and acoustic basses. Unbelieveable! Absolutely no guitars, drums, keyboards, samplers, or other instruments besides bass were used in the production of this recording. Each bass has its own distinct personality, and by utilizing his collection of basses in various combinations along with his voice, Pomeroy was able to construct songs which were each unique in their own way. Pomeroy demonstrates the full spectrum of modern bass techniques and utilizes a couple unorthodox methods along the way. The recording remains well balanced throughout. His tones are rich, his grooves are pulsating, and his solos will keep you humming melodies for days. A complete track listing includes: "Tomorrow Never Knows", "River", "Stargazing", "Old Friends", "Daddy's on the Roof Again", "Spoonful", "You Are Not Alone", "Ridin' Sideways", "Skeleton", "Breezy Point", "Future Past", and "In the Dark." Bottom Line: Only Dave Pomeroy could pull off a project of this magnitude. Tomorrow Never Knows is a must have for those who thought the electric bass was limited to its traditional, supportive role. Dave Pomeroy represents the best of the best. Tomorrow Never Knows = Innovative, Imaginative, and Inspiring. To obtain more information on Dave Pomeroy and his work as an award-winning session bassist, soloist, producer, and performer, visit: DavePomeroy.com.

C. Engel


Brian Bromberg: Wood - 5/11/02

Bassist Brian Bromberg is back and back in a major way. To follow his critically acclaimed and commercially successful 1998 release, You Know That Feeling, Bromberg has delivered his first all-acoustic project, Wood. Accompanied by his older brother on drums and renowned pianist Randy Waldman on selected tracks, Bromberg offers up a traditional collection of classic jazz and pop standards within the framework of beautifully arranged contemporary masterpieces in solo, duo, and trio formats. Equally at home on both electric and acoustic upright instruments, Bromberg is regarded as one of contemporary jazz's most prolific and highly esteemed doublers, but here, Bromberg chooses to showcase his skills exclusively on upright. Whether laying down pulsating, driving lines, taking off on an explosive solo flight into the heavens, or utilizing unconventional techniques during the performance of one of the project's solo pieces, Bromberg's music transcends the technique which he uses to create it. Bromberg's pure acoustic tone is something to be revered, and his intonation remains impeccable throughout. It is completely evident that Bromberg articulates his music with deep passion while always maintaining an underlying sense of fun. As a production note, this project is without a doubt one of the best produced acoustic recordings ever captured on tape. The resonating sonic qualities on this outing should serve as the model for which all acoustic jazz should strive. A complete track listing includes: "The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers", "Dolphin Dance", "Come Together", "Goodbye (for my father)", "Speak Low", "Freedom Jazz Dance", "I Love You", "Straight No Chaser", "All Blues", "The Days of Wine and Roses", and "Star Spangled Banner". Bottom Line: With the release of Wood, Brian Bromberg has established the standard by which all contemporary jazz of the 21st century will be measured. Bromberg epitomizes what comprises a true virtuoso in every sense of the term. Bromberg has added yet another chapter to the history of the bass tradition and his legacy amongst the most influential bassists in history. Wood... Acoustic Bass Album of the Year! For more information on bassist extraordinaire, Brian Bromberg and Wood, go to: BrianBromberg.net.

C. Engel


Joseph Patrick Moore: Alone Together - 5/10/02

Drawing from a deep pool of jazz, funk, classical, and soul influences, Joseph Patrick Moore has delivered his third outing as a solo act with Alone Together. Moore's latest project is comprised of eleven original compositions and four skillfully arranged covers from artists such as Bobby McFerrin and The Police. As an electric/acoustic doubler, Moore has successfully combined the best of both bass worlds while utilizing only the sounds of electric fretted, fretless, and acoustic upright basses. This effort finds Moore in solo, duo, and trio settings with perfectly orchestrated, multi-layered bass loops using both electric and acoustic instruments. Moore has certainly proven that electric and acoustic basses can work together within the structure of a single piece of music in a completely coherent fashion. I can't recall ever hearing this form of instrumentation being documented so well and convincingly. From tapping, slapping, harmonic, and chordal techniques on his electric basses to bowed, pizzicato, and walking chops on his upright bass, Moore proves he is more than totally proficient in each area. However, don't let all of his dazzling technical displays distract you from the music and emotional content he is able create as a result of his chops. Selected performances include: "Waterfall", "Bebop Charlie", "Sooner or Later", "Drive" (McFerrin), "Masoko Tanga" (The Police), "Both of Us", "Pause #4", "Qui Es-Tu Marie-Jeanne" (Verhees), and "Alone Together" (Dietz/Schwartz). Plus, as an added bonus, Alone Together is also an enhanced cd which includes a special video performance of Bobby McFerrin's "Drive" along with several other exclusive extras. Bottom Line: With his previous two solo projects, Joseph Patrick Moore set the standard and firmly established himself as one of today's up-and-coming premier bass artists. Now, with his dominating command of both acoustic and electric instruments on Alone Together, Moore has raised the bar yet again and demonstrated that he is one of the brightest electric/acoustic doublers on the scene today. To learn more about Joseph Patrick Moore, be sure to check out: JosephPatrickMoore.com.

C. Engel


Craig Schoedler: By the Water - 03/10/02

With his fretted five-string electric bass, Craig Schoedler reveals on By the Water what it means to be a groove monster. Whether holding down a mesmerizing electric groove or taking off on one of his many intense, melodic solo flight exhibitions, Schoedler's playing completely dominates this project from start to finish. Schoedler can groove for days. His tone is thick and penetrating. But don't think for even a second that this is just another one of those recordings that features just the bass player's skills. Oh no. On this his debut outing as a leader, Schoedler has composed and arranged some of the hippest and most original sounding tracks I've ever come across. Stylistically, this project could best be classified as a groove-infected fusion of funk and jazz influences. Featuring the impeccable work of world renowned guitarist Mike Stern on three tracks, Schoedler has made what was an already exceptional recording now extraordinary. A complete track listing includes: "The Mystic", "Strides", "For the Family", "By the Water", "By a Hair", and "Southbound." Bottom Line: With his ability to lay down some of the tastiest sounding grooves and melodically inspired solo excursions ever put to tape along with his strong compositional skills, on By the Water Craig Schoedler demonstrates some of the most inspiring electric grooving, soloing, and writing that I've heard in a long, long time. After just one listening to this project, it became completely obvious to me that the bass community will be hearing much more from Craig Schoedler in the future. To learn more about Craig Schoedler, be sure to visit him on the web at: CraigSchoedler.com.

C. Engel


Ray Riendeau: Enlightenment - 12/30/01

Finally, I have seen the light! Bass over here, bass over there, here more bass, there more bass, more bass, more bass everywhere! That is exactly what you'll hear on Enlightenment, the latest solo bass endeavor from bass phenom, Ray Riendeau. By combining the distinct tonal and technological innovations of LightWave System's optical pickup system with the virtuoso solo bass explorations of Ray Riendeau, listeners everywhere who are in search of something different are now given the opportunity to experience a completely unique recording. This is the very first project of its kind to fully demonstrate the capabilities of LightWave Systems revolutionary optical pickup technologies in an exclusively solo bass environment, and after hearing just the first few tones of the opening track, you'll recognize that there is something tonally that is very special about this recording. Enlightenment is a compilation of nicely arranged cover tunes for solo electric bass performance and Riendeau original compositions. Via his optical pickup equipped fretted Fender 5-string, a 13-pin output jack, and a standard midi cable sent to a fanout box, Riendeau was able to not only blend different string groupings any which way he chose, but his setup also allowed him to mix, pan, and effect the signal flow of each of his Fender's strings individually throughout the stereo field. So what you hear is bass in a totally new way. Accompanying Riendeau on certain selections are Jesse McGuire (Tower of Power) on trumpet, Ted Belledin on saxophone, and Joe Morris on various percussion instruments. A complete track listing includes: "Optical Illusions", "Sunny" (Bobby Hebb), "Living for the City" (Stevie Wonder), "Penny Lane" (The Beatles), "Infared", "Tell Me Something Good" (Rufus), "Man in the Mirror" (Michael Jackson), and "Shiva." Bottom Line: Ray Riendeau is quickly becoming one of the most easily recognizable voices in the art of solo electric bass performance, and with Enlightenment Ray Riendeau has added yet another chapter to the solo bass tradition. Even though this recording is less than twenty-two minutes in length, it is a must own for all bass fanatics. If you have never experienced the light nor heard the amazing talents of Ray Riendeau, now is the perfect opportunity to feel the power of both. Now that I have been "enlightened", it's your turn.

C. Engel


Lucas Pickford: Blown Fuse - 12/28/01

Remember all those great fusion acts of the 1970's: Return to Forever, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, and Mahavishnu? Now imagine what those groups would sound like in the year 2001. Blown Fuse, bassist Lucas Pickford's debut solo project, is a serious fusion of funk, jazz, and even Indian influences. Featuring the keyboard skills of Steve Hunt (Allan Holdsworth) along with an outstanding supporting cast of instrumentalists, Pickford has released one of the most intricately intense outings of the year. These are serious musicians playing seriously complex music, and it is completely evident that they have totally mastered all the nuances of this genre. Nine of the ten tracks are original compositions from either Pickford or Hunt. Pickford, a Berklee grad, embodies all the key ingredients needed to produce a project of this magnitude. His technique is immaculately clean, his bass tone is funky, and his compositions are interesting and thought-provoking. After listening to any one track, you'll recognize that Pickford has a real knack for writing dense, pulsating lines that are tightly interwoven between the careful articulations of the other interacting musicians. The interplay among Pickford and Hunt is quite simply amazing. The arrangements are really art in themselves. Pickford's many fluid solo explorations are extraordinary, and his highly advanced soloing prowess is something to be revered. Steve Hunt's keyboard sounds are masterfully textured and incredibly lush sounding. A complete track listing includes: "Mysterious Passage", "Ikshvaku", "Croaker", "Arjuna Speaks", "Mr. Crum", "Panic Attack", "Smatter", "Peck It", "The Wish" (John McLaughlin), and "Hot Shot." Bottom Line: Blown Fuse is contemporary fusion at its best. If this is the future of fusion, then the fusion genre is in good hands. If you are a fan of all those great fusion acts from the 70's, you are going to really enjoy Blown Fuse. For more information on Lucas Pickford and Blown Fuse, visit: LucasPickford.com.

C. Engel


William Maxwell: Cardinal Points - 12/20/01

From the soothing multi-layered and often melodically distorted sounds of "The Big Bird" to the classically influenced tones of the unaccompanied solo pieces for electric bass, "Sweet Dreams" and "Sonata in D", on Cardinal Points William Maxwell blends his command of obvious technical proficiency with lyrical phrasing and an extensive knowledge of sophisticated composing and orchestration skills. Not only is Maxwell responsible for composing and arranging virtually all of the material on the project, but he also handles most of the actual instrumentation as well. Through his collection of 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12-string fretted and fretless basses, Maxwell is able to utilize an enormous palette of tone colors. Besides taking care of his bass chores, Maxwell also takes care of all the keyboard, drums, and assorted percussion duties. "Sweet Dreams" and "Sonata in D" are solo bass pieces arranged for the electric bass using classical guitar techniques and voicings which showcases Maxwell's technique and pristine, rich tone. "Sonata in D" was originally composed for harpsichord in 1749 by Scarlatti. Here, using his 6-string bass, Maxwell has put together an impressive arrangement using 9 bass tracks! On the title track Maxwell collaborates with the always extraordinary and breathtaking fretless soloing magic of Michael Manring and his EBow along with bassist Tami Pallingston. Very nice! Other tracks not already mentioned include: "The Gold Rush", "Bassically Country", "Not Tonight I Have A Headache", "Early Morning Rising", "Carol From An Irish Cabin", and "Every Time." Bottom Line: Cardinal Points is a diverse collection of inspiring pieces. With his refined style of crafting multi-layered, lyrical arrangements, William Maxwell demonstrates that he is a multi-talented instrumentalist with a deep passion and focus on his music.

C. Engel


Rob Swanson: My Bassic Hats - 11/20/01

From the pen of bassist Rob Swanson comes the aptly titled My Bassic Hats, an eclectic collection of thirteen original compositions. Within his debut solo outing, Swanson puts forth a well rounded and stylistically rich blend of music. On My Bassic Hats Swanson assembled a large cast of musicians to help bring his "hats" to life, and with that sort of diverse cast came a collection of pieces that sound as unique as each of the musicians who recorded them. With his fretless, fretted, and upright basses by his side, Swanson displays his technical proficiency as he easily switches between straight ahead acoustic jazz and uptempo bebop to electric funk, latin-jazz and slow ballads. As demonstrated on this recording, Swanson's skills are featured in a number of settings. Unlike most other projects which are composed of a single, particular theme, each track on My Bassic Hats sounds distinctly different from one another. Swanson always holds everything together with his never faltering ability to groove, and he is able to accomplish all of this without ever sounding watered down. Personal favorite tracks include the electric funk of "Up In It", the acoustic upright jazz laden "Can Tony Come Out and Play?", the bebop chops of "Johann Sebastian Bop", the slap grooves of "Humdrum", and the beautifully arranged lyrical fretless melody of "Blue Ire." Bottom Line: With its outstanding cast of musicians and Swanson's ability to double on electric and upright basses, My Bassic Hats covers more territory than I have heard in a long time. For more information on Rob Swanson and his bassic hats, visit him on the net at: RobSwansonMusic.com.

C. Engel


Victor Wooten: Live In America - 11/01/01

Amazing, unbelieveable, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, mind-boggling, and revolutionary. These are just a few of the words that immediately come to mind when someone mentions the name Victor Wooten. The list goes on and on. What more can I say? Wooten possesses a rare combination of raw talent, virtuoso technique, groove, and a vision for his music that only a handful of bassists have ever experienced. As a member of the Grammy award-winning group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and as a solo electric bass pioneer, Wooten has become recognized as one of the most highly acclaimed and idolized bass players from fellow bassists, other musicians, and fans worldwide. After years of touring the world over with the Flecktones, Wooten decided to take the stage as the leader of his own group to document his own explosive show on Live in America. Alongside two of his older brothers and the "groove regulator" JD Blair, Wooten demonstrates his skills not only as one of today's premier solo bassists but also his role as an entertainer who loves to interact with the audience night in and out. This two disc set was recorded on intermittent tours spanning a four year period. Among the eighteen tracks that you'll find on this double disc set, you'll hear live versions from Wooten's three previously released, critically acclaimed, solo studio outings and several brand new tracks including "Good People" and "Nobody Knows My Name." One thing that becomes particularly evident as you listen to the tracks is that Wooten's live arrangements often vary greatly from the studio versions of the tracks, so you get to hear first hand how the tracks have evolved over the years. Selected tracks include: "Are You Ready, Baby?" (a spoken word introduction by funkmaster Bootsy Collins), "What Did He Say?", "Hormones in the Headphones", "Me and My Bass Guitar", and "Pretty Little Lady." Other track highlights include Wooten's solo showcase, "Sacred Silence/The Jam Man" and the debut of Divinity's burning chops on "U Can't Hold No Groove." And as a bass enthusiast, how can you not be amazed when the Thumbslinger himself, Marcus Miller, jumps on stage to trade blows with Wooten for ten minutes on "Miller Time." To be able to hear Marcus Miller join Victor Wooten on stage for the very first time is worth the price of this recording alone! Within this ten minute medley you'll hear Miller's trademark tone and signature lines from "Panther." Along the way, you'll hear these two bass greats trade solos and pay tribute to Jaco with a blistering arrangement of "Teen Town" while interjecting phrases of Stanley Clarke's "Lopsy Lu." Bottom Line: Pure bass energy! If you have never had the pleasure of checking out the music of Victor Wooten live, then Live in America is a must have. If you are ready for more information on Victor Wooten and Live in America, be sure to check out Victor's official site at: VictorWooten.com.

C. Engel


McGill/Manring/Stevens: Addition by Subtraction - 07/12/01

Together for the first time, Scott McGill, Michael Manring, and Vic Stevens have combined their awe-inspiring musical ingenuity for a completely fresh and inventive outing titled, Addition by Subtraction. Coupled with artistic displays of technical brilliance and its eclectic mix of compositions, Addition by Subtraction consists of fourteen skillfully composed and arranged tracks that can be best described as a complex fusion of heavy progressive rock and avant-garde instrumental improvisation. On this, McGill's latest release, the world-class guitarist extends the boundaries of acoustic and electric traditions with his explosive exhibitions of virtuoso technical ability. With his contribution of mind-boggling fretless bass and electrifying ebow artistry, critically acclaimed master bassist Michael Manring adds yet another chapter to the history of the bass tradition. And, the highly sophisticated, odd-metered accents of drummer Vic Stevens rounds out this tour de force power trio. Also, making an appearance as a special guest performer on three tracks is Dream Theater's keyboardist, Jordan Rudess. Whether anchoring the low end, taking flight on a high-end solo excursion, or scorching through a set of fretless melodies with his ebow, Manring continues to prove just how good he really is with another dominating collection of performances. Selected tracks include: "Zimparty", "We Are Not Amused", "KVB Liar", "Addition By Subtraction", "Vicodin Shuffle", "Conflict Resolution", "Purging Mendel's Beasts", "In-A-Gadda DaVinci", and "Four Fields." Bottom Line: Addition by Subtraction is a dazzling display of history in the making. To learn more about McGill/Manring/Stevens, be sure to check them out at: Scott McGill.com.

C. Engel


Attention Deficit: The Idiot King - 07/03/01

Teaming up as members of Attention Deficit for the follow-up to their self-titled 1998 debut trio outing, solo bass phenom Michael Manring, guitar whiz Alex Skolnick, and master keeper of the time Tim Alexander have released their second recording, The Idiot King. On The Idiot King these three super heavyweights of their respective fields again join forces and pick up where they left off with a groundbreaking collection of eleven technically advanced, harmonically complex, rhythmically sophisticated compositions which exceed well beyond the boundaries of highly skilled exploratory improvisation. From his sub-sonic grooves to harmonic-laden chordal accompaniments to elegant ebow expeditions, Manring's unparalleled, over-the-top chops are found throughout. As he rips seemingly effortlessly through solo after solo, Manring's approach exudes the trademark flawless fretless, thunderous slapping techniques, and two-handed voicings which he has become so widely recognized and revered for. Because each member of this trio brings their own distinct, eclectic vocabulary and diverse background into the mix, one can easily appreciate the tight, often subtle interplay that occurs among this trinity of world-class musicians, and at the same time one can hear the deep appreciation and passion for the music. A complete track listing of heavily referenced, witty titles surrounding the 2000 presidential election includes: "American Jingo", "Any Unforeseen Event", "The Risk of Failure", "Low Voter Turnout", "Unclear, Inarticulate Things", "RSVP", "My Fellow Astronauts", "Dubya", "The Killers Are to Blame", "Nightmare on 48th St.", and "Public Speaking is Very Easy." Bottom Line: By combining the elite skills of Manring's cutting edge efforts as a pioneering solo performer with Skolnick's virtuoso, bent style of improvisation and Alexander's immense library of rhythmic variations, Attention Deficit has emerged with the premier electric improv project of the year. Intense, intricate, and innovative instrumental improv at its best! For more information on this recording and Attention Deficit, visit: Magna Carta Records or to find higher consciousness through lower frequencies, check out: Manthing.com.

C. Engel


Norm Stockton: Pondering the Sushi - 06/20/01

Ponder this... the eclectic jazz phrasing of John Patitucci, the crisp, cool funk slaps of Marcus Miller, and the contemporary sounding arrangements of Brian Bromberg all meshed into a single musician that not only scores original sounding music but also arranges and produces it as well. On his debut solo recording Pondering the Sushi, bassist Norm Stockton's musical collage of ten original compositions and two skillfully penned arrangements blends the sounds of instrumental jazz, fusion, funk, latin, and pop genres. Unlike most debut releases which only contain maybe two or three compelling selections carefully placed among a collection of mediocre sounding "filler music", Pondering the Sushi is a musically sophisticated effort from beginning to end. You will not hear a weak link. From solo to small ensemble to big band type formats, I can't ever recall hearing a bassist sound so comfortable in so many different settings. Norm Stockton sounds like a veteran recording artist on this his first solo release! With a collection of four, five, and seven string fretted, fretless, and acoustic fretless basses, Stockton lays down a full palette of tone textures with his deep pocket grooving and technically proficient, blazing solo excursions. A complete track listing includes: "The Race", "Pondering the Sushi", "I'll Return For You", "Blessed", a jazzy cover of the modern day classic "Roxanne", "A Tender NAMM Moment", "14:12", "The Seven Pearls of Monterey", "Autumn in Kingston", a solo bass rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" full of slaps, taps, and lots of superchops, "Come Before Winter", and "Giovonna Marie." Also, be sure as to not accidently skip over Stockton's hidden, untitled thirteenth track, a blistering bass/drum duet which spotlights Stockton's wicked slapping and two-handed tapping techniques. Bottom Line: Pondering the Sushi is one of the strongest debut outings that has ever come across my desk. I can only ponder as to what the follow-up to this recording will spawn. You too can ponder Norm's groove at his own spot on the web at: NormStockton.com.

C. Engel


Franc O'Shea: Espirit - 06/19/01

Diverse, dynamic, and rich. These are only a few of the descriptive words that come to mind after just one listen to Espirit. Espirit, the debut solo recording from U.K.-based bassist/composer/producer Franc O'Shea is a collection of nine originally composed pieces which fuse the sounds of contemporary jazz, bebop, funk, latin, and african influences. With the assistance of many of the U.K.'s top jazz artists O'Shea demonstrates that not only does he possess a real talent as a frontman, but also that his skills as a composer are second to none. O'Shea's bass work appears in a variety of formats from solo to full ensemble with a string arrangement. With fretted and fretless basses O'Shea displays complete artistic control of his tools both with a commanding sense of superb tone and technical facility. From percolating funk grooves to slinky fretless lines, to bebopish walking techniques and a mixture of other world grooves, O'Shea's proficiency as a bassist deftly molds this journey into an impressive, first rate recording. Tracks include: "Dance Architecture", "Espirit", "Pearl(for Maria)", "Bubbaloo", "Be for Baka", "Lollapalooza", "Opal", "Abacus", and "Espana y Cariba." Bottom Line: With this just his first outing, O'Shea has already established himself as a major player and an accomplished musician with a real vision for his music. I'm certain that we'll be hearing much more from Franc O'Shea in the future. For more information on Franc, check him out at: Alltone Records.

C. Engel


Markus Setzer: Between the Worlds - 05/26/01

Joined alongside his wife Sabine, Germany-based bassist Markus Setzer has released an impressive collaboration of duet pieces for voice and electric bass. Setzer, an accomplished composer, arranger, and author of the popular Bass Masterclass Series (a compilation of instructional books which spotlights the styles of such bassists as Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller), teams up with his wife Sabine, an accomplished vocalist in her own field, for their debut duet recording, Between the Worlds. Between the Worlds consists of a collection of eleven skillfully arranged duet pieces and one classic cover tune which features the jazzy vocals of Sabine and the artistically proficient bass playing of Markus in equal fashion. Through an assortment of electric four, five, six, and nylon acoustic six-string basses, Setzer explores the entire ranges of his instruments while running the gamut of solo techniques, always accentuating the creative vocal lines of Sabine and never interfering with her own voice of expression. With Setzer's imaginative skills these tracks could more than easily stand on their own as remarkable solo electric bass pieces. However, without the clear, articulate phrasing of Sabine the telling storyline of each track would be sacrificed. Tracks include: "Welcome to Our World", "For Earth and Stars", "The First Twinkle", "My Celtic Heart", "The Dance", "Dear Mr. P", "Little Wing", "Between Our Eyes", "One Couple-Two Heads", "Child of the Sea", "My Heart is Dancing", and "Lullaby for Jule." With all the space available in a duet setting Markus and Sabine do a remarkable job of filling the sound spectrum with their masterfully arranged interwoven lines. On Between the Worlds you'll hear Markus in a variety of roles. Whether it be by outlining upper chordal structures with harmonics or through laying down a highly syncopated two-handed tapping accompaniment, Markus provides a good, solid foundation for Sabine to build upon. At times you'll hear him trading licks with his counterpart and at other moments you'll find Markus' chops featured in some form of solo highlight. Track favorites include the harmonic-laden and fingerstyle funk tribute to Jaco, "Dear Mr. P", the deep pocket slap grooves of "Between Our Eyes", the very cool two-handed latin sounds of "My Heart is Dancing", and the cover of the Hendrix classic, "Little Wing", a rendition full of bass slaps, strums, slides, harmonics, and pops. Bottom Line: If you've never experienced the powerful sounds of bass and female voice in a duet setting, then Between the Worlds would be a welcomed addition to your library of recordings. To find out more information on this recording and the Setzers, you can visit them on the web at: http://www.reimer-setzer.de.

C. Engel


Steve Lawson: And Nothing But The Bass - Live @ The Troubadour - 04/01/01

Armed with virtuoso technique and the courage to improvise solo before a live audience, Steve Lawson took to the stage to record And Nothing But The Bass - Live @ the Troubadour. On this compilation of live work from various solo gigs in early 2000, Lawson, one of the U.K.'s premier solo electric bass performers and leading innovators in the art of looping, takes the listener on a journey of unexpected twists and turns as he explores the possibilites of solo electric bass orchestration. Using only a couple basses and a handful of electronic gadgets, Lawson skillfully paints sonic textures of ambient soundscapes with adventurous soloing and masterful layering. With the help of his 6-string Modulus fretless bass and Lexicon JamMan, Lawson demonstrates pure experimental, artistic expression. Along the adventure he displays an impeccable feel for intonation and a passion for the music. Through the use of his looper and an Ebow, Lawson is able to carry on a complete conversation between himself and his basses, always thought-provoking and never boring. Although each piece has its own unique hook, Lawson begins each excursion in a similar fashion. He first lays down simple chordal structures and then reveals his improvisation expertise with heavily influenced jazz phrasing and melodic figures. The truly amazing aspect of this recording, I believe, is that Lawson is able to lay down multiple loops and keep each loop separate in its own voicing without confusing the listener. Although this is an all-bass outing, Lawson is able to keep things interesting without sacrificing the clarity of the sound. All of the tracks found on this recording, with the exception of "Bittersweet"(a trio of two basses and piano), were recorded live. Tracks include: "The Inner Game", the errie sounds of "Drifting", "The Virtue of the Small", "The New Country", the ambient tones of "Chance", "Blue Sticks", the studio cut "Bittersweet", and "Pillow Mountain." Bottom Line: Virtuoso technique + imagination + a vision + improvisation chops to burn = Steve Lawson. For more information on bassist, teacher, and author Steve Lawson, be sure to check him out on the web at: http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk.

C. Engel


Mark Peterson: The Blue Room - 01/05/01

Backed by an outstanding cast of supporting musicians, bassist/composer Mark Peterson steps into the spotlight with the release of his own debut solo recording, The Blue Room. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, the talents of the now New York based Peterson can be heard in a variety of group environments and on projects backing artists such as Grammy award-winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson and the legendary folk sounds of Joan Baez. Here with acoustic upright and fretless electric basses in hand, Peterson takes the listener on a diverse journey of musical textures as he presents us with eight skillfully composed original compositions. With his own pen, Peterson proves that he is definitely more than just a bassist. From start to finish, the pieces appearing on this effort are all wonderfully crafted and feature Peterson in various settings with electric fretless and acoustic upright basses either driving his band with infectious walking grooves or at times taking center stage for his own solo explorations. Stylistically, Peterson covers a wide array of elements on this outing. However, this project could be best described as bluesy contemporary jazz. Peterson pays tribute to his roots as an up and coming musician on the blues scene. Although Peterson primarily plays acoustic upright on this recording, choosing only to use his signature model Fodera fretless electric bass on the title track, he does successfully prove that he masterfully commands flawless technique and can easily switch between both instruments with ease. Upon the opening sounds of "The Blue Room" you'll immediately notice that this composition has a strikingly blues-based feel to it, a feeling that reappears throughout the length of the project. On "Horizon" Peterson shifts gears to acoustic upright with a nicely bowed introduction. Then, Peterson plays a magnificent upright solo over the minor blues changes of "One For Sco", my favorite piece on the entire recording. Next, you'll be introduced to the cool sounds of "Git Widdit." On "Miro" Peterson highlights his impeccable upright intonation as he outlines sketches of melodic content with piano unison lines and a melodically driven solo. On "Miniature for Acoustic Bass #2" Peterson takes a short break from the group collaborations for a solo bass exhibition full of double stops and harmonic laden content. Very impressive. Then, Peterson offers up the smooth sounds of "In So Many Words" before closing with the driving beats of "Missouri River Ho-Down." Bottom Line: On his debut solo outing, The Blue Room, Mark Peterson has already not only displayed shades of a well-rounded, versatile bass master and seasoned soloist, but also the skills of an eclectic composer as well.

C. Engel


Ray Riendeau: Groove Therapy - 11/04/00

With the release of bass phenom Ray Riendeau's 1998 solo endeavor, All Funked Up, Riendeau set the standard in solo electric bass technique for the 21st century. In October of 2000, as the follow-up to his independently released benchmark recording, Riendeau offered listeners another glimpse at his impeccable skills with his second set of jaw-dropping tunes on Groove Therapy. Within the past couple years Riendeau has quickly become a prominent force in the bass community. Some of you may recognize Riendeau for his work as a touring sideman while others of you may have caught his solo performances as a clinician for Fender Musical Instruments. However, one thing is for sure. If you have not had the opportunity to see Riendeau in either of these capacities, you'll definitely want to check out Groove Therapy. On Groove Therapy you'll hear Riendeau take the art of solo bass performance to all new heights of achievement. It consists of ten Riendeau original compositions and two nicely orchestrated arrangements of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" and the Elton John classic, "Benny and the Jets." For those of you looking for the true definition of the phrase, "rhythm section," look no further. This latest solo venture from Riendeau consists of 90% bass and drums and features some of the deadliest thumb work ever put to tape. On Groove Therapy Riendeau employs every solo electric bass technique conceivable and then some. Yet at the same time, Riendeau is able to accomplish this expression of true bass art without compromising the integrity of his main objective of blending all these techniques into a uniform and well produced composition. You'll most definitely hear Riendeau break from the standards of the traditional and conventional art of slapping with what has become his trademark signature style of immaculately clean linear double thumbing and double plucking chops. Alongside the skillful percussion work of Joe Morris, Riendeau kicks off Groove Therapy with a furious opening lick to the multi-bass voicings of the title track. Backed by Riendeau's slinky slapped bass tones, the Rippington's Kim Stone, an accomplished solo artist in his own, makes a special guest appearance as the lead bass voice on "Lotus Sutra." Riendeau shifts gears to a trio format of bass, drums, and keys for the next piece, "Cluster Funk", and interjects a small sampling of finger style funk material in between. Next, Riendeau presents his nicely arranged cover of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me To Stay" which consists of bass and drum loops performed by Riendeau along with a fantastic wha solo. From a technical perspective, "Unequilibrium" is simply extraordinary, definitely not for the timid! This is without a doubt the most adventurous composition on the entire recording. On "Prozac" Riendeau calls upon bassist Gary Gillespie to hold down the low end as Ray solos over the form on piccolo wha bass. Then, Riendeau offers another couple original compositions including the tight feels of "Gummo" and "Disturbing Behavior" before covering Elton John's classic hit tune, "Benny and the Jets." Riendeau's bass orchestration of "Benny and the Jets" is for sure one of the hippest arrangements of a cover tune using multiple bass tracks that I've ever heard. Likewise, all I can say is stand back and be prepared for Riendeau to get even more daring with the odd time feel of "Deranged" and the tribal trio sounds of "Species." Finally, Riendeau concludes Groove Therapy just as it began with more tight interplay between bass and drums on the phat beats of "Stretch." Bottom Line: With the release of Groove Therapy Ray Riendeau has again further advanced the state of bass to a higher level of achievement and brought a deeper respect to the art of solo electric bass.

C. Engel


Joseph Patrick Moore: Soulcloud - 10/29/00

Joseph Patrick Moore, former Col. Bruce Hampton bassist, released Soulcloud, his second solo instrumental jazz cd on October 10, 2000. Soulcloud is the follow-up effort to Moore's 1996 independently released debut, Never Never Land. As a freelance bassist Moore has displayed the diversity of his musical talents in a wide array of musical genres including various forms of jazz, rock, and blues music to name just a few. On Soulcloud Moore continues to demonstrate his versatility in a number of group settings including solo, duo, trio, and full blown ensemble settings. Moore, a multi-instrumentalist, switches seemingly effortlessly between fretted and fretless electric and upright basses. Right from its onset you'll notice that Soulcloud is an extremely well produced offering featuring Moore's bass talents well in front of the mix(the way recordings ought to be). On a number of the tunes I detected the funky vibes of the Col. Bruce Hampton sound which I'm certain Moore picked up during the time he spent as a member of Hampton's own Fiji Mariners and Planet Zambee ensembles. For those of you not familiar with the Col., it was he that helped launch the career of the now renowned bass artist, Oteil Burbridge. Also, those of you well-versed with the Hampton library should immediately recognize the sounds of another Hampton sideman, guitarist Jimmy Herring, who appears as one of the many featured guest performers on Soulcloud. Moore opens Soulcloud with a tight horn arrangement on "Datz It"(my favorite piece) and reveals his impeccable technique on acoustic and electric basses. Moore then presents us with the first of five original compositions with the fretless sounds of "Ashes to Ashes." Besides the phat funk grooves which Moore proves he can undoubtedly handle with ease, Moore takes center stage for a brief moment to exhibit his tasty solo slap chops on "Big Butt Bass"(very impressive indeed) before neatly sequeing into the album's title track. Moore shifts to a trio format of electric bass, drums, and sitar on "Pause #3", an interesting piece dedicated to the late great Tony Williams. Next, Moore offers you the listener the funky sounds of the very hip "Mumphis Cosanostra." Then, Moore continues to expand upon his deep-in-the-pocket bassmanship within the soulful sounds of "Cosmic Dance", another Moore original composition. Finally, Moore rounds out Soulcloud with two cover tunes, Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" and Kansas' "Dust in the Wind." "Going to California" is a brilliant duo arrangement featuring the unlikely combination of electric bass and soprano saxophone. However, this is primarily a solo bass arrangement consisting of arpeggiated melodic, harmonic, and chordal content. I like how Moore tints the color of this piece with the short sax section that gracefully weaves in and out of the bass content. Moore then presents the listener with a jazzed up version of "Dust in the Wind" that highlights Moore's upright skills during the outro solo. For those of you that discover the disc's hidden track, you'll hear the eerie harmonic-laden sound of "Another Day Another Time", a solo bass piece recorded on a rainy afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee back in 1994. Bottom Line: If you have never heard the talent of Joseph Patrick Moore, it is just a matter of time before you will.

C. Engel


Christian McBride: Sci-Fi - 10/01/00

Bass...the final frontier? This is the voyage of jazz bass phenom, Christian McBride. His mission: to explore strange new sounds, to define and refine the roles of acoustic upright and electric basses, to set new standards in the art of playing bass, and to boldly go where no bassist has gone before. Recognized as the premier upright jazz bassist, Christian McBride is fast becoming one of the hardest hitting heavyweights on the jazz scene today. He has been referred to as the most in-demand jazz bassist on the planet by jazz critics and contemporary jazz artists alike. While already appearing as a guest artist on over one hundred recordings with some of the biggest names in jazz, this 28 year-old Philadelphia native has firmly established a place for himself alongside the masters of the bass tradition. Now, Christian offers us another side of his personality with his latest release on Verve, Sci-Fi. On Sci-Fi, his fourth solo recording, Christian draws upon straight-ahead jazz, fusion, r&b, and pop influences on seven original and four choice covers featuring a primetime lineup of special guests including Herbie Hancock and Toots Thielemans. As on his previous recordings, Christian once again expands upon the rules of tradition and proves that the art of playing upright and electric bass, both of which he switches between with ease, can not only be tastefully blended on a single recording but also within the same track as well. Sci-Fi opens with a skillfully crafted arrangement of Steely Dan's 1977 hit "Aja." Next, in the laid back swing feeling of "Uhura's Moment Returned", Christian lays down one of the deepest sounding, in-the-pocket grooves that I have ever heard through his driving walking lines. Within his solo on "Uhura's Moment Returned" Christian utilizes melodic sequence to its fullest extent and squeezes every last bit of juice out of his improvisation, while on "Xerxes" he takes his solo to all new atmospheric heights. Christian draws from his collection of electric basses to polish the sounds of the title cut, "Walking on the Moon", and the haunting, outerspace sonic vibe of "The Sci-Fi Outro." Be sure to check out the dark, hypnotic, underlying electric groove of "Science Fiction." Three of the albums tracks pay tribute to a trio of the most influential bassists to ever strap on an electric bass: Sting, Jaco, and Stanley Clarke. Christian colors his cover of the Police's "Walking on the Moon" with shades of harmonic melodies reminiscent of Jaco's famous intro to Weather Report's "Birdland." Here, Christian steps out front with electric bass in hand and plays a over-the-top yet smooth solo, again at times hinting at Jaco's influence. Christian continues his tribute to the genius of the fretless bass pioneer with his arrangement of Jaco's own "Havona", another classic piece from the Weather Report library which he chooses to burn through entirely on upright, solo and all. Then, Christian turns to another legendary figure of the 70's bass revolution, fellow Philadelphian Stanley Clarke. On Clarke's "Butterfly Dreams" Christian showcases his textbook arco chops as he picks up his bow to handle melodic and solo content. Bottom Line: On Sci-Fi Christian McBride takes the art of bass to intergalactic levels of achievement. This is without a doubt McBride's most ambitious solo effort to date, and I highly recommend it as essential listening. With its outlining diversity, Sci-Fi gets my vote as best bass album of the year.

C. Engel


Stuart Hamm: Outbound - 8/06/00

After nearly a decade of side projects, touring, and other studio related work, veteran bassist extraordinaire, Stuart Hamm emerges with the most highly anticipated solo bass project of the year. As a result of his pioneering efforts in the late 80's, Hamm was at the leading forefront of the bass frontier when he revolutionized the art of playing bass with his signature style of slapping, polyphonic two-handed tapping, chordal, and harmonic work. On his debut solo recording, Radio Free Albemuth, we were introduced to Stu with his chicken pickin' slappin' techniques on "Country Music" and his free flowing tapping and sliding techniques on "Flow My Tears." Subsequent solo efforts revealed thunderous slap grooves on "Black Ice", flamenco rakes on "Count Zero", alongside his solo bass rendition of Bach's "Prelude in C" all from Kings of Sleep. In 1991 Hamm welcomed us to his world with his third solo project, The Urge, featuring a more aggressive side of Stu with rockin' tunes including that of the title track, "The Hammer", and of course his legendary live solo bass medley, "Quahogs Anyone?", featuring "Linus and Lucy." Now its the year 2000, and Hamm once again goes it alone with his fourth solo album, Outbound. Hamm, the award winning bassist, successfully merges rock, jazz, fusion, techno, and urban flavors into a completely homogenous mix. Recorded in between tours with guitar wizard Joe Satriani, Outbound reveals another side of Stu that sees him taking care of many more melodies and solos on fretless bass as he attempts to appeal to the listeners sense of feelings and emotions. Without a doubt, this is Hamm's most melodic outing to date. However, bass chops fanatics need not fret. Stu still has chops to burn with his trademark tone and staple slapping and tapping techniques which he displays very effectively throughout the entire recording. On Outbound Hamm is joined by none other than former Journey drummer and fellow trio bandmate, Steve Smith on the cuts "Outbound" and "Tenacity." Further drum beats are provided care of San Francisco's Youth Engine production team. Highlights from Outbound include the title track with its tightly tapped introduction and catchy lead key melody. Backed by the techno-ish beats generated by Youth Engine, Hamm lays down intense slap grooves on "Castro Hustle" and "The Memo" which also features Stu playing the lead melody on bass before ending with a jazzy outro solo. In keeping with the form of a true solo bass recording, Stu steps out front for a couple solo bass pieces, "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Charlotte's Song." Within Hamm's solo rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner", he runs the gamut of solo devices as we hear moments of classically influenced two-handed contrapuntal figures, arpeggiated chordal progressions, and artificial harmonics. On the solo piece "Charlotte's Song", named after his baby daughter, Stu turns to piccolo bass as he harmonizes melodies in a soft-spoken, guitar-like fashion with underlying pedal tones. On "Tenacity" Hamm plays another enduring fretless melody over a tapped accompanying vamp before going into the most adventurous solo on the recording consisting of some of Stu's most famous lines. The pulsating beats of Youth Engine return for "Castro II" and "Lydian." On "Castro II" Hamm gets funky with some 16th-note finger funk style lines, and on "Lydian", the most heavily harmonic and chordal laden track, Stu plays another timeless melody once again on fretless bass. Bottom Line: In the late 80's and early 90's Stuart Hamm inspired an entire generation of bassists with his virtuostic display of bass artistry. Now in Y2K with his release Outbound, Stuart has set the stage once again to have a direct and profound influence on the next generation of bassists and firmly imprint himself as a future historical reference as a master of the electric bass tradition.

C. Engel


Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Greatest Hits of the 20th Century

Greatest Hits of the 20th Century says it all. This is a collection of hits from the Flecktones that spans the first decade of their existence on Warner Brothers Records. I don't think you could put together a more thorough assortment of Fleck tunes if you tried. This compilation of hits will allow you to trace the sounds of the Flectones and give you insight as to how Victor, Bela, and "Future Man" evolved as individual musicians and as a cohesive unit over the last decade. You can compare and contrast the band's sound as it evolved from a primarily four piece unit, to a trio format with special guest artists such as Sam Bush of New Grass Revival fame, Dave Matthews, and Paul McCandless, back to a four member ensemble. From the early days with Howard Levy on harmonica and synthesizer to the recent tracks with Jeff Coffin on soprano and tenor saxes, it highlights the best Flectones' moments captured on tape. It contains such hits as "The Sinister Minister", a Fleck-fan favorite, "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo", "Sex in a Pan", "The Yee-Haw Factor", a live cut of "Stomping Grounds", and "Communication" to name but only a few. Plus as an added bonus, you also get two brand new previously unreleased tracks for your listening pleasure that you won't be able to find anywhere else. "Shocktime", which features one of Victor's trademark, tour-de-force, slap bass-athon solos, was recorded during their trio period which would have appeared on a previous recording had there been room. Also, you'll find a smokin' tune penned "Road House Blues" that I believe is one of their hippest tunes ever that was composed during a European tour. Even if you own every other Flecktones recording, not to mention that your Flecktones' library would be incomplete without it, this is worth having just for the two new tracks alone. I don't think I could more highly recommend a Bela Fleck and the Flecktones recording than this. From the untrained ears of a rank beginner to the seasoned ears of a long time professional musician or Fleck-fan, this "greatest hits" offers something old and new for musicians and audiences alike. Bottom Line: Best "Greatest Hits" of '99.

C. Engel


CD-ROM


eMedia Bass Method: Volume I - 06/23/02

From the publishers of the best-selling guitar tutorial series of CD-ROMs, eMedia has created the first comprehensive, interactive software release for beginning electric bassists. Guided by bassist John Arbo of the New School of Music in New York City, you are presented with 114 lessons in an extremely easy-to-follow, step-by-step approach. The material found within this tutorial is primarily aimed towards the aspiring beginner who has never played the electric bass. Placed throughout the course, you'll find over 200 songs and exercises supplemented with instructor Arbo demonstrating certain techniques in over thirty full-motion, split-screen videos. eMedia has integrated animated fretboard technology into their method which displays a "virtual" bass neck that illustrates exactly where to place your fingers in right, left, or mirror views as the highlighted music exercises play. Also included with these lessons are complete, variable speed, multi-track audio examples, as well as bass-only and no-bass audio recorded versions. You can pause, rewind, and replay these examples to learn the proper fingerings and techniques as often as you would like, at your own pace. Within the contents of this program you'll be presented with the essential skills every bassist from beginner to professional should possess. Just a brief outline of some of the material which is covered in this method includes: learning the parts of the bass, tuning, bass set-up, string dampening, right and left hand techniques, intervals, major and minor triads, major and minor scales, how to build bass lines and create fills, understanding different rhythms, and basic music theory including how to read standard notation. To enhance your experience, eMedia has included an automatic tuner, recorder, and metronome. eMedia's Bass Method is a dual Windows/Macintosh platform. Bottom Line: I wish I would have had eMedia's Bass Method tutorial available to me when I started playing bass! For the cost of just a few private lessons, you can't beat this kind of offer anywhere. eMedia's Bass Method will keep the beginning bassist busy for a long time. I can't wait to see what they include in subsequent volumes! For more information on eMedia's Bass Method CD-ROM, go to: eMedia Music Corporation.

C. Engel