By Kane Allias (Special to FBPO)
It’s been a while since any revolutionary “bass stars” have redefined the instrument or released that defining album that makes everyone view the bass in a new way. Major acts, record sales and contracts have lessened, club work has become scarce, studio work is covered by pre-programs and quick money gigs, like weddings, private parties, low-paying bar jobs, have become part of a competitive field of top-notch players simply looking for the opportunity to play.
Fortunately, with since the advent of the Internet, along with easy accessibility of recording equipment, musicians can record and post their work on YouTube, making it potentially visible to thousands of people. When it comes to music, specifically bass players, there’s a lot to see, hear, learn and enjoy on YouTube.
The following list, in no particular order, is a tribute to those who create music without monetary reimbursement or even the likelihood of acknowledgement. Consider these people the unsung heroes of the bass or, more accurately, the most famous bass players you’re never heard of.
#1 Viaceslav Svedov
It’s guys like this who can make you question why you ever decided to take up the bass. Exhibiting monstrous technique that never seems gratuitous, Viaceslav breaks all the rules with his unbridled, manic and passion-laden slap bass arrangements of metal and funk standards to which he adds an extra dimension at every turn. Viaceslav forgoes the typical slap and pop licks, taking the technique to another level. He not only covers bass the part, but incorporates guitar chords, melody and even drum patterns simultaneously with a ferocity and forcefulness that can be absolutely jolting. His slap bass version of “Tom Sawyer” makes the original Geddy Lee part seem elementary in comparison.
Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”
Marlowe can be considered the ultimate sideman. Pick any genre and Marlowe will nail it. His site consists almost entirely of cover songs that feature bass, such as Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do” and one of the few accurate transcriptions of the Bernard Edwards/Nile Rogers masterpiece “We Are Family.” Marlowe replicates the parts with the verve and authenticity of the original with more groove, more chops and more confidence.
The Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp”
The polar opposite of Malone DK is Zandor Zon. This bright new talent is someone who comes across as having zero interest in fitting the role of what a bass player should be or what a bass was designed to do. And that’s what makes it so wonderful!
Playing in mostly a finger-picking style with alternate tuning, Zon has his own concept of how to play the bass and it is truly one of beauty and depth. Zon’s bass becomes a vehicle with which to present the artists’ creative vision. His arrangement of the Pachelbel Canon breathes new life into an often overdone theme with inventive use of harmonics with superimposed chord melody movement, while his version of Metallica’s “Unforgiven” evokes an eerie moodiness. Zander may not be the guy to call when you need a sub to cover that gig at the local biker bar, but when you want to hear some magnificent music played on the bass, he has some wonderful video posts worth viewing.
#4 Plangentmusic (Nelson Montana)
This channel is not only one of the more eclectic, it’s also one of the most entertaining, consisting of mostly popular songs from the last 40 years. Each song is given full band treatment, emphasizing melodic bass lines. And there’s an additional catch: Bassist Nelson Montana plays all the instruments on all the tracks. This includes some classical pieces, where a symphony is completely orchestrated (on MIDI keyboards) and the basses are replaced with bass guitar, as highlighted on his arrangement of Beethoven’s 9th, second movement. Nelson’s jazz waltz, acoustic guitar and fretless bass version of Nirvana’s “Lithium” is an interesting take that includes a fine vocal as well. Nelson’s videos are not live performances, presumably since he’s playing all the parts so they’re more of a studio recording with “visuals.”
Going by no other name, Cannibalistic Zombie is another young man who shows tremendous dedication to a genre that is often considered harsh and unmusical: Death/Technical Metal. The skill level it takes to perform it is unquestionably impressive and this channel is a shining example of that ability.
Yielding a 6-string fretless bass and implementing a 3-finger right-hand technique, this guy rips though lines so fast and distorted it’s hard to imagine being able to hear the notes! This isn’t just fast finger wiggling, nor is it a display of tricks. This is stone cold awesome command of the instrument. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is impressive. It could be argued that this music lacks melody and thus commercial appeal, but the prowess necessary to pull it off this well is remarkable, to say the least.
“Bound by Eternal Penance”
Bassist Grezegorz Kosinski is a consummate virtuoso, whose videos are more akin to hearing a world-class concert cellist than a bass guitarist. His repertoire is made up of almost entirely of classical and baroque compositions performed with a touch and tone that is near flawless. His two-handed tap arrangement of Chopin’s Waltz in A minor is a standout and his Cliff Burton tribute is nothing Cliff himself would likely have imagined playing.
For pure technique, Grezegorz plays the bass as well as it can be played, on par with the world’s top master players. Not everything he plays may be applicable to most bassist’s situations, but he’s worth a listen for no other reason than his formidable bass skills. He’s in a class by himself.
Cliff Burton tribute “To Live is to Die”
Miguel Falcao has taken on the taunting task of devoting an entire channel to note-for-note interpretations of the work of bass pioneer Chris Squire. Miguel not only performs some ambitious works, such as the entire “Close To The Edge” suite, but he captures the touch, the time, the timbre and the attitude of the master himself. The Squire sound is especially elusive. Many think it’s simply a “Rick with a pick” sound, but there are textural changes through each song and Miquel gets them all.
It’s interesting to note, a few years back Jeff Berlin stepped in for Chris to play a few shows. He learned and transcribed the entire set and read it down on stage perfectly with no rehearsal. That shows almost unfathomable skill, but what was missing was the idiosyncratic Squire feel. This is what Miquel has captured to a tee. And for anyone who thinks he’s just a copycat player, Miguel also has a few originals posted and they not only sound nothing like Squire or Yes, they are both technically impressive and musically rewarding.
#8 Kaboes (Lydia on Bass)
In many ways, Lydia is one of a legion of bassists showing off the classic funk style of the ’80s and ’90s. The only difference is she slays it with power, precision and a time feel you can set your clock to, while laying down a groove that’s ten feet deep.
Lydia is a bit of a YouTube phenom. She has gained popularity, some say, due to the “gimmick” that she’s an attractive female. But it wouldn’t matter if she were a fat, bald 50-year-old man. Check out her cover of the Marcus Miller tune, “Free,” where she adds chord voicings and sings lead. The girl does it all and kicks some serious ass doing it. The style of her expertise might be stuck between “dated” and “retro.” Nevertheless, she’s worth hearing and learning from.
Marcus Miller’s “Free”
#9 Hadrien Feraud
If blistering fusion-style improvisation is your thing, look no further than Hadrien Feraud. It would be fair to make comparisons to Gary Willis, in that he plays in a very effortless and fluid manner, one idea following the other with complete command. It doesn’t seem to matter how complex the changes may be or how fast or long he may go on. It seems almost as if it’s impossible for him to hit a wrong note.
There have been criticisms of “sameness” in Feraud’s playing, since he blisters though solos with such adeptness there’s almost no risk. In his video with keyboardist Eddie Brown, Hadrien shows he can rock out with the best of them. When cued to “take a few choruses,” Hadrien launches into an impromptu demonstration of “lead bass,” including expressive bends, shred runs and soaring melodies. Hadrien is a true performer, playing genuine improvised music, absolutely crushing it every step of the way.
“Best bass solos”
#10 Andy Saxton
Now here’s a fellow who doesn’t just make showcase videos, but uses the medium to promote himself, his songs, his teaching practice and his career. Andy’s main style is techno/post prog rock with a punk flair. There is an aggressive slap element to his sound that goes beyond the Flea/Claypool school of riffs and licks. Andy creates soundscapes and compositions from the bass. The sound is strong but clean and always musical. This is music for bass players, yet it never suffers from a sense of excess ego, nor does the music sound “forced” into showcasing the bass.
As his YouTube title shamelessly promotes, Andy’s website is a well-produced amalgam of various works, showcasing his considerable prowess. His style may not be the next big wave of the music industry, but let’s give major props to a man who is hard at work promoting his art and his business, both of which are (and should be) the same thing.