5 Solo Bassists Who Shaped My Musical World

It’s a truism that most solo bass struggles in ‘pure’ musical terms. It’s so easy to get caught up justifying our ‘right’ to play solo by doing clever acrobatic things that the meaningful deployment of those acrobatics, or the avoidance of them for more musical ends gets lost along the way, and YouTube ends up as a fumbling bass-circus.

For this reason, there are very few solo bassists in my list of musical influences. But those who are there are towering monuments to what’s possible on this amazing instrument of ours, and their influence on my music and musical outlook is massive.

So, in no particular order, here’s 5 solo bassists who shaped my musical world:

Michael Manring:

I’m not even sure I’d be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for Michael. He’s the reason I got interested in looping, the first solo bassist whose music connected with me beyond the bassness of it, he’s been a constant source of encouragement since we first met, and touring with him opened my music up to a whole new audience. His willingness to improvise with me on stage resulted in all kinds of musical and philosophical leaps for me, as well as making for some of the most enjoyable and satisfying gigs I’ve ever played. It’s astonishingly fortunate to be able to combine ‘dear friend’ and ‘biggest musical influence’ in a single person. For that I’ll always be grateful:

Jonas Hellborg:

Another towering influence on my music and musical vision who ended up being a friend. Jonas’ fearlessness on stage, his parallel pursuit of solo performance and group improvisation, his involvement in developing the right kind of instruments and amplification to serve his musical ideas are all things that have helped shape the way I play. The consummate risk-taker on stage, he’s constantly reaching beyond himself on stage, digging deep for ideas and sounds that connect. A hugely compelling thing to experience.

Victor Wooten:

The things I love Victor for are almost always not the things he’s most celebrated for. His dazzling dexterity is, I think, the least amazing thing about him (as demonstrated by the number of people who can copy his tunes note for note on YouTube while missing the magic…) – his groove, curiosity and continual progress are the things that inspire me most – he has a signature feel that is unlike pretty much anyone before him, and his ability to make people dance while playing solo is unparalleled. He’s also a tireless experimenter – every time I meet up with Victor, we end up talking about new ideas, new gear that may make new kinds of music possible… His questions regarding the looperlative are always the most insightful, revealing a deep level of understanding regarding what looping technology may make possible rather than getting lost in novelty.

Victor is also very visibly continually evolving and improving as a musician. The hagiography around his first album often obscures a more useful look at just how far he’s come since then in terms of his ideas and their execution. I’m sure being involved so heavily in education helps keep progress at the forefront of his mind.

the last thing I love about Victor is his amazing ability as an entertainer – he totally gets what it means to put on a show and as a result, ends up playing to a much wider demographic than the vast majority of ‘bass-led’ acts.

Trip Wamsley:

Trip was playing solo to audiences of non-bass players YEARS before I ever did a solo gig. Inspired by Michael Manring (and having gone through a Manring-clone stage), Trip has quietly been making some of the most amazing solo bass music anywhere for 20 years.

Trip and I have definitely been on parallel journeys since we met, culminating in two albums (Slow Food and Infrablab) in 2010. I’ve learned a whole lot from watching, listening to and play with Trip over the years. And I’m sure I will for years to come.

Julie Slick:

Julie’s not just one of my favourite solo players, she’s one of my favourite bassists in any context. Another artist who’s constantly restless, moving forward, learning new things, trying out new sounds and ideas. She’s a massive inspiration and makes amazing records. One of my favourite musical collaborators.

This list could easily have also included Doug Wimbish, Eberhard Weber, Liz Frencham, Todd Johnson… all players whose solo work has inspired me an awful lot.

Who are your favourites? Stick ’em in the comments below!

6 Replies to “5 Solo Bassists Who Shaped My Musical World”

  1. my 2 favorites ; Richard Bona, Linley Marthe ,but plenty of bassists are really excellents….;)

  2. Eberhard Weber, Miroslav Vitous, Janek Gwizdala, ‘An Ending Ascend’, Zander Zon…. 🙂

  3. ..great selection ! I never heard of Julie, but she’s great !

    My biggest influences is still koh morota ( he sadly passend away 1999 ), a fretlessbass player from Japan. He and his main band doom put the fretlessbass on a new level, never heard his unique style in rockmusic before, i LOVE his work and he still keeps me goin ‘ !
    Uh, and then there is les claypool…and Percy Jones, jaco, Mark king, Doug Keyser… the list goes on.. 🙂

  4. How in the hell had I not heard of Julie Slick. She’s really good. Just backed her Kickstarter project as penance (well a nice penance) for not hearing her before today.

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