It began the way any great concert should, fashionably delayed, with a long line of eager attendees snaking around the circumference of the Key Club on Sunset Blvd; it ran the gamut from tears to cheers, with some surprises tossed in; and by the end it ranked as perhaps the most memorable of the five Bass Player LIVE! concerts held thus far in Los Angeles. The annual Bass Player LIVE! All-Star concert on October 20 launched with the presentation of Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s Lifetime Achievement Award by fellow Jamaican bassist Phil Chen and BP Editor Brian Fox. Barrett noted, “This is the first award I have ever received in America, and it’s such a great honor because it means the message of reggae music from Jamaica is reaching all the people of the world.” Chen, serving as musical director on guitar, then led vocalist/guitarist Eric Walsh, drummer Oliver Charles, and Barrett through a mesmerizing run of five Bob Marley classics chosen for their super-sub-hook Barrett bass lines, including “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Stir It Up,” and “Could You Be Loved.”
Rock legend and Yes founder Chris Squire next received his Lifetime Achievement Award from a group that included bassist Stu Hamm and Brian Fox. In his acceptance speech, a grateful Squire acknowledged his influence, John Entwistle, offering to lead the way in soon honoring the late Who bassist with a posthumous Lifetime award. Chris then guided his ultra-tight sextet (vocalist Jon Davison, guitarist Johnny Bruhns, keyboardists Matt Brown and Claudio Pesavento, and special guest, Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, who really turned heads with his powerful prog-rock stroke) through two songs from his 1975 cult classic solo side, Fish out of Water, as well as Yes smash hits “I See All Good People,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and most rousingly, “Roundabout.” Meanwhile, the green room beneath the stage again became the prime location for once-in-a-lifetime gatherings of top bassists and unexpected vistors. This year, the elite list included bassist Henrik Linder and his Dirty Loops band mates, on a break from preparing for their November Asian tour with David Foster.
The final and perhaps most moving segment was centered on a Posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award honoring the late great Jaco Pastorius. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, whose purchase of the litigated Bass of Doom and funding of the upcoming Jaco documentary brought a great sense of relief and peace of mind to the Pastorius family, took the stage with Jaco’s son, Johnny Pastorius to introduce a specially prepared 7-minute preview clip of Jaco [release date still unknown]. With emotions running high from the potent preview, Steve Bailey, Lee Sklar, Phil Chen, and Verdine White each offered some reverent words. Brian Fox then presented the award to Johnny, Mary, and Julius Pastorius. That provided a perfect segue to the annual all-star jam, with Julius jumping behind the drums, Trujillo strapping on the Bass of Doom (having earlier allowed guest bassists in the green room to try out the holy grail of groove machines), and Steve Bailey assuming his jam musical director role and counting off “The Chicken,” in tribute to Jaco. Steve, Robert, White, Brian Bromberg, Hadrien Feraud, Bakithi Kumalo, Bunny Brunel, and Damian Erskine each paid homage via fingers and from the heart.
The second and final jam tune, “Going Down,” was a nod to the numerous bassists sadly lost in 2012, in particular, two ’60s session giants: Duck Dunn (who played on the Freddie King original) and Bob Babbitt. Bailey, with John Ferraro manning the drums, welcomed a broad range of basso talent, including Chen, “Ready” Freddie Washington, Gary Grainger, Quintin Berry, Igor Saavedra, and Bernhard Lackner. A post-concert party at the famed Rainbow Bar & Grill next door with the Squire and Pastorius entourages seemed fitting, given the rich rock bass history of the club, noted for regulars like Squire, Entwistle, Bruce, Jones, and Lemmy. At 3AM, all that was left for the bleary-eyed remaining was to wonder what next year’s concert would bring.