Among bassists, 10-time Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello enjoys a special kind of respect. Her far-reaching talent as a sidewoman has found expression in extraordinarily diverse projects, from collaborations with Herbie Hancock to Madonna to John Mellencamp. As a solo artist, she has veered from the bubbly grooves of Plantation Lullabies to the melancholy tone poems of Bitter to her recent Nina Simone tribute record Pour Une Âme Souveraine.
Given Ndegeocello’s idiosyncratic artistry, her decision to collaborate with Reverend on her signature Fellowship bass is understandable, since Reverend also approaches its art from a unique angle. The new Fellowship bass is based on the company’s Thundergun platform—a sort of angular P-bass-esque instrument—but with some substantial departures.
The most immediately striking qualities of the Fellowship are its sleek lines, lustrous satin-black finish, reverse headstock, and pretty bound-and-blocked fretboard. The bass’s Art Deco elegance is immediately appealing. Even the single P-style pickup’s blade magnets reinforce the sophisticated aesthetic.
The Fellowship takes a unique approach to the conventional P-bass-style electronics layout. The blade-shaped magnets improve the pickup’s off-axis response, and the concentric tone/volume knob situates the frequently used tone control for immediate access.
The body and neck also take a left-of-center approach, at least as compared to a P. As on all Reverend basses, the Fellowship’s body is made from korina, a tonewood frequently associated with Gibson’s late-’50s Flying V and Explorer. Known for its balanced frequency response, clarity, and sustain, korina is also appealing for its light weight, as the Fellowship demonstrates. The instrument’s top is thicker along the center, abutted by two thinner wings. Reverend claims this design puts the body’s mass where it needs to be—in line with the pickups and bridge—while allowing the thinner wings to resonate more freely for increased sustain and harmonics. The Fellowship’s set neck also improves resonance. It’s a 5-piece design, with alternating laminates of korina and walnut.
The Fellowship hard-core hardware contributes mass to the bass’s sonically influential parts. The lock-down bridge’s Allen bolts secure the saddles to the hefty bridge plate so that the string-contact points at the saddle work in unison with the bridge plate to improve clarity and attack. Players have the option of stringing the bass through the body. The heavy-duty tuners match the bridge’s beefiness. They turn smoothly, look well-finished, and feature 1/2"-diameter posts.
The bass felt comfortable strapped or in my lap. Its subtle contours conformed to my body, and the sleek, satin-finished neck is fast and well shaped. The set neck provides easy access to the upper registers. The bass is a little neck heavy, perhaps due to the body’s light weight and the massive tuners. But otherwise the bass feels fantastic, with comfortable string spacing and just-right low action.
I played the Fellowship live through several amps, including a TecAmp Puma 1000 and a Demeter HBP1-800D with Epifani and Bergantino cabinets. At home, I tracked a few overdubs with a Tube Tech MEC 1A and a Universal Audio LA-610.
Given the Fellowship’s P-style pickup and electronics, it’s not blessed with a huge variety of tones. But that’s clearly not the instrument’s purpose. It does offer a big and immediately beguiling Precision-like thump. It’s capable of pillowy fatness, especially with the tone rolled off, but manages to retain definition, string-to-string clarity, and presence.
With the tone knob all the way up, the Fellowship has impressive high-frequency response for a P-style bass. Rather than wallop the room with the usual midrange thonk of a P, the Fellowship provides a more balanced and subtle response. Massive lows are ever-present, but a genuinely airy and crisp high end is there when needed, lending definition to pops, Paul Jackson-style vibrato, and up-tempo fingerstyle work. But the Fellowship is pure meat-and-potatoes when played palm-muted and with the tone rolled off.
Ndegeocello’s signature bass looks fantastic, brims with style, plays smoothly, and pours forth a fat-but-articulate tone that works well in most settings. Any sonic limitation are consequences of the P-style design in general, and by P-style standards, the Fellowship is remarkably versatile. Players in the market for a P-style bass that stands out visually and sonically should include the Fellowship in their search.