The founding bass groovers – where would we be without them?

Tracing the instrument’s lineage shows a lot about how we got here

By Jon Liebman
Week of September 7, 2020

It’s amazing how many great bass players we have today, doing things on the instrument nobody even imagined, even twenty or thirty years ago. 

But how much do we think about the ones who came before them?

I was talking about this with my old friend Mark Egan, whose interview we published this week. To call Mark a seasoned player would be a gross understatement, given how he’s worked with everyone from Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin to Roger Daltrey and Duran Duran. 

Even though Mark has been in countless musical situations, laying down bass grooves in every style imaginable, he still remains mindful of the evolution of the instrument, and shows great respect for the groundbreaking innovators who started it all.

In order to fully appreciate the history and development of the bass as a groove-making instrument, Mark recommends studying the early bass originators who paved the way for those who followed.

“Go back to the grandfathers of the instrument that really made a statement,” Mark says. “Go to the source, as opposed to going to the fourth or fifth generation that really liked the way these guys played.”

Mark doesn’t take anything away from the great players of today. Rather, he’s paying homage to the original groove architects and the incalculable influence of those who laid for the foundation for the rest of us. “Once I started to realize where this music came from,” says Mark, “I went back and studied the masters.” 

In that spirit, then, I suppose we should truly marvel at what Christian McBride has done for the upright bass, but not lose sight of players like Jimmy Blanton and Scott LaFaro. Similarly, we can remain truly awestruck at what Victor Wooten has done with the slapping technique, but keep in mind that it all started with Larry Graham. It’s that very same authenticity I instill in my lessons and groove instruction courses here at 

“If you listen to someone in a band who was playing a certain groove,” Mark says, “and then you realize where that really came from, then you can go back and say, ‘Oh, Jamerson, Bootsy Collins.’ It came from studying the lineage of the instrument.”

All I can say is that I hope future generations will continue to honor the true bass heroes who blazed the trail for the rest of us. Thanks, Mark, for keeping it top of mind.

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, you can check out my interview with Mark here.

Comments on The founding bass groovers – where would we be without them?

  1. I find it fascinating to see / hear the tradition of bass brass instruments to stringed instruments. One of the most enlightening ones are the early bass balalaika recordings coming out of Russia.

  2. marcus davis says:

    The Slap Technique on the Bass did’nt originate with Louis Johnson.Larry Graham was the one that originated the Slap Technique on the Bass.

  3. Jon Liebman says:

    That’s what I meant to say! Correction made. Thanks, Marcus!

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