A few months back, I was asked to put together a list of 10 of my favourite basslines by Bass Guitar Magazine. I sent them a list of 10, and a little note about each one, but the article is now out without the little blurb. So here’s the blurb. They also numbered them, as though there’s an order to them, which there clearly isn’t. Music doesn’t work like that. and If I wrote the list again today, it’d be different.
But anyway, here’s the list, with links where possible, and a little bit about each one…
Le Freak – Chic : one of the funkiest lines ever from the Beatles Of Disco. I could’ve picked just about any of their hits. Bernard’s tone and feel are a thing of wonder.
Refuge Of The Roads – Joni Mitchell : My favourite bassline from my favourite album ever. Every note Jaco plays on the whole Hejira album is sublime.
Maxwell Murder – Rancid : carrying the ‘punks that can really play’ torch forward, Matt Freeman manages to be full of energy, inventive and a chops-monster at the same time.
Orphans – Deacon Blue : one of the first pop songs I ever heard with chords on a 6 string bass. This is almost all just bass, voice and tambourine. Beautiful
Chicken Grease - D’Angelo : Pino was The Man in the 80s, and he’s still The Man now, only instead of slide-y fretless and a curly mullet he’s the cool king of hip-hop. My whole understanding of rhythm changed when I heard this album.
Selene – Michael Manring : not exactly a ‘bass line’ but without a doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of solo bass music ever recorded.
I Keep Forgettin’ – Michael McDonald : what locking in with a kick drum is all about. Louis Johnson shows restraint, digs deep and has a bass tone to die for.
Forget Me Nots – Patrice Rushen : My favourite ever slap line. Freddie Washington probably even has a funky heartbeat.
I’m In Love - Frank Dunnery : Matt Pegg, son of Dave, basically soloing through most of this tune, in a way that sounds neither wanky nor out of place. Exceptional playing and writing.
Spirits In A Material World – The Police : again, could have picked one of about 15 Police lines. Something magical happens when Sting gets with Stuart Copeland, even though they both play ‘out of time’ most of the time. Proof if ever it were needed that you don’t need protools to make incredible music.
Feel free to post your lists in the comments. Would be interested to read them. But please, don’t bother with the ‘what??? how could you miss out ********** (insert bassist here)’ – there are only 10, it’s not a definitive list, as I said it’d change now, and it’ll be different again tomorrow. So relax, and gimme a list of great lines.
“Steve’s complex array of sound and rare, intimate
touch are rapidy turning him into one of the most
influential bassists in the world” – bass guitar magazine
“Lawson’s writing and his phenomenal command of the possibilities of looping creates a compelling and surprising variety of sounds one would never imagine the bass capable of producing.” – JazzWise
“Steve Lawson is a brilliant musician. I’ve known about him and listened to him for many years. He may not be one of the most famous bassists but he is definitely one of the most talented.” – Victor Wooten
“Steve..I look at you as one of the best innovators in the bass community. The path you have chosen to follow is special and deep. If anyone has any issues with this, I feel for them and they should not be paying any attention the what you do. Just move on to a more mundane approach to the instrument and be happy. You are a gift and I love your playing and concept.” – Leland Sklar
“one of the most gifted solo bass players on the planet” – Ian Peel, Record Collector Magazine
“sensuous melodies intertwine and fall away with the intimacy of Talk Talk?s Spirit of Eden and the cinematic production values of Brian Eno” – Sid Smith
“Lawson’s solo bass compositions include palettes of lush sonic soundscapes and layers of ambient textures which have helped to redefine the art of looping and live performance as a solo bassist.” – The International Insitute Of Bass
“one of today’s most inventive and original sounding voices on the
electric bass. He is a pioneering innovator in the art of looping.” – cliff engel, www.bassically.net
“a one man cosmic symphony” – Jerry Kranitz, www.aural-innovations.com
“Taking you from new-age jazz to Starsky and Hutch, this solo bassist is a must-see for anyone who’s ever
harboured dreams of being a professional musician. Catch him while he’s hot!” (4/5) – ThreeWeeks
“Lawson is a master of a whole universe of sounds…a truly original talent” – JazzWise
“Steve Lawson is better than good… …[his] sheer virtuosity communicates an infectious love for the music.” – Good Times Santa Cruz.
“the life affirming stuff of dreams” Sue Edwards, Royal Festival Hall.
About the cds -
“What a beautiful recording! This is perhaps the best argument yet that the bass is a versatile, deeply expressive instrument and in the hands of a brilliant and visionary artist like Steve, is capable of making music of enormous emotional and musical depth. Please buy a copy and share it with your friends and family. I think they’ll thank you for it!” – Michael Manring.
“beautifully performed throughout” – Guitarist Magazine (uk)
“From the opening trills of ‘Flutter’ it’s clear that this is going to be an extraordinary album…
…Steve’s complex array of sound and rare, intimate touch are rapidly turning him into one of the most influential bassists in
the world.” – Bass Guitar Magazine (uk)
“one of the most refreshing, listenable and unpretentious albums i have heard in one long time!” – warren murchie, global bass magazine (Canada)
“i encourage the rest of the world to get this album and find out just how versatile a bass guitar can be – 10/10 “- cross rhythms magazine (uk)
“A excellent set of truly inspired improvisational music.” – aural innovations e-zine. (US)
“Frisell, Fripp and Garbarek revisited in unique ways.” – JazzUK Magazine. (UK)
“steve has something all his own, and with it a bright future as a solo bass performer and likely anything else he chooses along the way. pick it up now so you can say you know of him from the beginning.” – bass frontiers magazine (us)
“I highly recommend this CD! As Steve’s playing and concept grow he makes ever more gorgeous and engaging music that really demonstrates the expressive depth of the bass. The richness of this music makes for a rewarding listening experience on all levels and I think Steve’s approach represents a real step forward for the art of solo bass.” – Michael Manring.
“All in all, “and nothing but the bass”, is a most delectable and auspicious debut release from a very talented artist with the vision and ability to think and play outside the box. Definitely recommended listening” – www.ambientvisions.com (US)
“Take the playing expertise of Phil Keaggy mix in a healthy dose of the solo work of Robert Fripp and transfer that to a six string fretless bass guitar. What you have as a result of the best of both is a gentleman known as Steve Lawson.” – www.tollbooth.org (US)
“On technical terms alone, Lawson holds his end up alongside American stars of the lyrical bass suchas Victor Wooten or Michael Manring. But his work showcases not only prodigious playing talent
but also a thorough lack of self-consciousness about engaging with his listeners.” – Misfit City E-zine (UK)
“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.” – www.bassically.net (US)
” This is such a special album that a short review like this can hardly do it justice. The moody melody of ‘Need You Now’, the funky slap and pop of ‘Channel Surfing’, the atmospheric ‘Jimmy James’, all these and every other track are worthy of careful examination and I only have 200 words! ‘Chicken’ is an album that invites you to sit back,
close your eyes and get involved in it’s shimmering melodic beauty for an hour.” – Euphoria Magazine (UK)
“The marvelously musical result on Lawson’s second [solo] album, which tends toward a mellow, ambient vibe that sometimes recalls new age
music and ’80s art-rock, has as much to do with Lawson’s melodic sense as it does to do with his technical mastery.” – Bass Player Magazine.
“Folk music, Frippertronics, fretless Jaco Pastorius flights, country melodies and world-music trance epics mingle here, plus a few hints of past effects-pedal kings like Dean Carter or Pat Orchard. And it’s utterly inclusive music, lacking the smugness and self-love that blight many solo instrumental jaunts, and more interested in raising a happy smile rather than pulling an anguished ‘guitar face’ ” – Organ Magazine (UK)
“In summary, Lawson succeeds in showcasing the range of his instruments’ possibilities while also creating enjoyable and interesting music. The album’s real strength
lies in it’s variety, from Frippoid soundscapes, to jazz, and ambient space. – www.aural-innovations.com (US)
“On the last piece – “Pillow Mountain” – Lawson shows that, with a few electronic gizmos, even very “unbasslike” sounds can be produced. A
wonderfully melancholic fretless solo is played over an underlying mood reminiscent of Brian Eno. Beautiful.” – Jazz Dimensions Magazine (Germany)
“Only a musician with great talent and sensitivity can provoke such emotions, giving us these 52 minutes of pathos from solo bass and effects.” – No Warning e-zine (Italy)
“Steve Lawson [is an] innovative bassist dedicated to stretching the boundaries of bass. On Lawson’s And Nothing but the Bass album,
the simple boom-di-boom we know as bass is transformed into a spray of chords, arpeggios, hammer-ons and rangy melodic runs, flecked in harmonics and reinvented by effects.” – San Jose Metro (US)
“Lawson and Carr alternate playing Jekyl to the other’s Hyde. Dreamy pastoral visions interrupted by an invasion of drunk Martians. Steve’s sonic pallette allows him to blend beautifully, or create havoc, a dichotomy he clearly enjoys. A fascinating listen. A Little Nitrous Music anyone?”
- Ed Friedland, Bass Player Magazine (US)
“The music Steve and Jez make is reflective, intimate and powerful. It takes you on a journey that is
simultaneously familiar and exotic, engaging and serene.” – Michael Manring
” ‘Conversations’ finds pianist Jez Carr and bassist/loopist Steve Lawson deftly walking a fine line between
new age and avant-garde, drifting from meditative serenity to angular abstraction so smoothly that the seams
barely show. With its extended and often reflective feel, the highly-attuned duo improvisations allude to the
vintage eras of record labels like ECM or Windham Hill.” – Andre LaFosse (guitar looping genius)
“This is subtle music that demands your undivided attention.” – www.aural-innovations.com
“Close to perfection… …Magnificent” – No Warning (Italian e-zine)
“I can’t say enough to recommend this CD adequately. Just do yourself a favor and get it if you haven’t already.”- Ted Killian, Loopers Delight.
” There’s music here to appeal to a diverse crowd… from space ambient to jazz fans to prog fans. And I can’t imagine any musician who wouldn’t appreciate the results of what are actually solo performances. Recommended.” – www.aural-innovations.com
About Steve’s gigs…
“Most bass players settle for one distinctive tone and make it their own, yet solo loop guru Lawson is a master
of a whole universe of sounds all conjured from his fretless six-string bass. It’s a feat equivalent to juggling
half-a-dozen lit torches that not only he makes look and sound effortless, but his sense of otherworldly narratives
makes his a truly original talent.” – JazzWise magazine.
“Steve’s style is to look like he never knows what he’s doing in the first place,
he talks nonsense to distract you from how frighteningly good he is at what he does.” – www.bassworld.co.uk
“steve plays with a wonderful fluidity. his fingers glide lovingly, effortlessly over the fretless, the chording and intonation never less than perfect. whether a simple, relaxed glissade or a line demanding
huge control and dexterity, his fingers did the talking.” – michael cowton, journalist and author of ‘level 42 – the definitive biography’ (UK)
“[steve is] very much his own musician, and one capable of taking on any of the american virtuosi on equal terms… his improvised melodies…make for an assertive and individual new voice.”- dann chinn, misfit city e-zine (uk)
“…an evening of technological wonder and musical psychadelisizing.” – Santa Cruz Sentinel
“a gifted and imaginative bassist, whose melodic ideas and encyclopedic chordal knowledge are at least equal to many (currently) more well known artists.”- www.globalbass.com online magazine. (Canada)
“Bottom Line: Virtuoso technique + imagination + a vision + improvisation chops to burn = Steve Lawson.”- www.bassically.net (US)
“At last! Steve Lawson – a bassist with a commanding technique that doesn’t mean more notes,
but a truly good sound and great time, with melody a priority. Finally, lots of notes when needed.
How refreshing! Now all we need is a Steve Lawson that plays double bass – are you out there?” – Danny Thompson (double bass legend)
“Steve Lawson has got to be one of the most tasteful bassists I’ve heard in a long time and is certainly a creative
player who focuses on sound and the quality of individual notes, not to mention different ways of speaking with his
instrument.” – Jerry Kranitz, www.aural-innovations.com
“Somehow I had never heard of Steve Lawson before and while at the recent NAMM show a friend of mine dragged me
to a booth to check him out. When I heard Steve play doing a live solo with self accompaniment I was instantly
transported to somewhere beautiful inside, even though we were in Anaheim of all places. The CD does the same
thing for me…I listened to it driving through the desert and again at home…lovely,
wonderful stuff…I’m a fan” – Andy West
(solo artist, bassist with The Dixie Dregs)
“When I first heard Steve Lawson it made me go home and practice my bass again, it was inspiring to hear his use of bass loops with great melodies.
He doesn’t play like a bass player, he plays like a musician. I am going to rip off every idea he has ever had!!” -
Matt Bissonette (bassist to the stars!)
Well, i’ve found somewhere to live… the relevant info will be sent to those of you that need to know in the near future. Great news is it’s not only sharing with lovely friends, but the landlords are lovely friends, so no piling money into the pockets of some price-hiking property magnate for me. )
On the down side, my car has just failed its MOT, and it’ll be tomorrow lunch time before I know whether the £140 + VAT repairs will actually get it through, and if they don’t, it’ll be a lot more than that… bugger.
And i’ve got to get to St Alban’s tonight to teach… actually, no, I need to cancel my lesson in St Alban’s tonight, as it was going to be tight timing-wise even with a car. Without, I’ve got no chance… So that’s another £60 that the MOT has cost me, though it’ll be moved rather than scrapped altogether… ho hum…
What’s more of a problem is I’m meant to be taking my lovely mum to see my lovely (and 97 year old) Grandad and my equally lovely (and only slightly younger) nan tomorrow… ideas on a e-card… Ahh, shit, I’ve also got a gig tomorrow night… balls. This is going to require some planning. OK, less blogging more planning.
Oh, and on top of all that, I’m days and days late on my column for Bass Guitar Magazine and have an album’s worth of bass tracks to record for an album by a fab singer from Leeds (more on that as it unfolds) – I did some last night, which sound good, but there’s lots to be done, in between overspending on the car, moving house, getting to East Sussex to see lovely old peoples, paying my tax bill (forgot about that bit) writing articles and teaching…
So not busy at all then.
Bass Guitar Magazine this month have a poll on the top 20 greatest players of all time. I was emailed to provide a list a while ago, and this is what a wrote – obviously they didn’t print it, as it was a) too long for a box-out and b) undermined the whole idea of such lists. But anyway, here were my thoughts…
here’s some thoughts – I haven’t been able to stick to your formula, cos I just can’t put players in an order like that – just doesn’t work with the way I see music at all. However, I thoughted I’d write a bit about a few people whose music has really moved me…
“While I couldn’t possibly put my favourite bassists in any kind of order, I’d definitely like to flag up a few whose music means a lot to me. Firstly, Michael Manring – not only is he the player than in my opinion has taken the physical playing of the instrument further than anyone else I know of, he’s a composer of some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard on any instrument. The bassness of it is irrelevant to the impact the music has, but hearing music that great just on bass is inspiring and makes me proud to play the same instrument. Tony Levin is another composer who writes great music with bass as his main writing tool. Whether playing in King Crimson, writing music for his own band, or doing sessions with myriad singer/songwriters around the world, his playing is always just right for the setting. Another big favourite of mine is Bernard Edwards – someone once referred to Chic as ‘The Beatles Of Disco’, but I think Bernard was more like the James Jamerson of disco – every note of every line I’ve ever heard by him is perfect. The timing, the sound, the feel and the note choice, absolutely spot on every time. At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Mike Watt, formerly of punk legends The Minutemen and now with Iggy and The Stooges, is an outstanding bassist – adventurous, exciting, progressive playing, with a killer tone and more passion than a Jackie Collins novel. His three solo albums are all vital listening. And finally, Matthew Garrison – he already had a stellar jazz sideman career underway when he brought out his first solo album, but has proved to be just as good a composer, arranger and bandleader as he is a hired gun. Putting his incredible technical command of the instrument to the service of great compositions, both his solo studio albums thus far are chock full of some of the most marvellous bass playing I’ve heard in years.”