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Staff Picks: Monster Bassists

We’ve discussed underrated guitarists, but what about those holding down the groove? Jazz virtuoso Rez Abbasi joins in the conversation.

Who do you think is the most underrated bassist?

Rez AbbasiGuest Picker
A: As far as playing ability in relation to recognition, Canadian electric bassist Rich Brown is one of the players that comes to mind. He’s celebrated among his peers, for sure, but should be better known in wider circles. He’s a cutting-edge soloist and accompanist along with being super versatile—at ease in odd-metered jazz and in simpler world-music and funk projects. He’s also a gifted composer as his new album, Abeng, solidly shows. I’ve toured with Rich so I know his playing intimately and it’s always surprising and musical!

Current obsession: I’m close to completing my (jazz) guitar method book for Hal Leonard and because it’ll probably be the only one I ever write, it’s indeed become an obsession. I've placed my own playing under a microscope and subsequently discovered a lot of new ideas pertaining to the nuances of guitar playing. I’m left wondering how I might have sounded today if I had this material presented to me 20 years ago.

Stephen LarocqueReader of the Month
A: I love all kinds of bass players, from the super technical, like Victor Wooten and Billy Sheehan, to those who service the songs, like Cliff Williams. But I would have to say the most underrated bass player is Water Ghoul from the band Ghost. Listen to songs like “Con Clavi Con Dio” or “Pinnacle to the Pit.” For sure there are more technically gifted bass players, but this guy services the songs so well, he keeps the bass lines moving, his lines are interesting and full of emotion, and he has a killer tone. Just a great, well-rounded bass player.

Current obsession: The never-ending quest for the perfect bass tone and coming up with original songs with my bandmates.

Shawn HammondChief Content Officer
A: Former Living Colour 4-stringer Muzz Skillings. He didn’t just funk up Vernon Reid’s manic riffs—his musical sensibilities imbued the first two LC albums with a rare buoyancy and vitality.

Current obsession:A New Wave of Violence, the new LP from Head Wound City—which features the Blood Brothers’ Cody Votolato and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner on guitar—is a gluttonous feast of angular riffs, anarchic feedback, and festering dysfunction.

Rich OsweilerAssociate Editor
A: John Paul Jones. The unshakable backbone of Led Zeppelin that he created and fed with Bonzo has yet to see an equal by another rhythm power-duo, so I’ve always been curious why his rock-legend status doesn’t seem to be at the same level as his three mates.

Current obsession: Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake. Between Max Kakacek’s clean, imaginative guitar work and drummer Julien Ehrlich’s falsetto vocals, this new record is chock-full of soulful tunes that harken back to really groovy ’70s soft rock, but with a decisive edginess.

Andy EllisSenior Editor
A. Free was a glorious rock ensemble that fired on all cylinders, but it was the late Andy Fraser’s nimble bass lines that glued Paul Kossoff’s Les Paul to Paul Rodgers’ raspy vocals. Just listen to Fraser’s groovin’ fretwork following Kossoff’s solo in “Mr. Big.”

Current obsession: When I saw this 1982 8-string squareneck resonator guitar on eBay, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Built by Richard Deneve in Pennellville, New York, this koa-and-spruce beauty rings like a bell.