BP Recommends: February 2016 CD & Book Reviews from a Bass Perspective

February 19, 2016

PETER ERSKINE
PETER ERSKINE IS DR. UM
[Fuzzy Music]

Drum great Peter Erskine’s latest disc summons his Weather Report days, both musically and via the featured role of Janek Gwizdala. The simmering “Lost Page” sets the pace, with Gwizdala’s funky, offbeat ostinato, his doubling of the B-section melody, and his expansive, expressive solo. “Hawaii Bathing Suit” swings via a classic Jaco/Weather Report two-feel, while Joe Zawinul’s “Bourges Buenos Aires” is a backbeat samba long on group interplay. Gwizdala handles the melody on “Mahler” (pianist John Beasley’s arrangement of the composer’s early 20th-century themes), as well as the melody and solo on “Speechless,” Zawinul’s follow-up to “A Remark You Made” from Weather Report’s self-titled 1980 disc, the last with Erskine and Jaco Pastorius. Toss in Janek’s melody and support role (via overdubs) on the closer, “Northern Cross,” and Dr. Um is arguably the Brit bassist’s finest and most complete sideman showcase to date—no doubt thanks to Erskine, who in the press notes calls him the most talented electric bass player to come along since Jaco. —Chris Jisi

RUSH
R40 LIVE
[Anthem]

Thanks to the rumors of Neil Peart’s retirement, fans are clutching tight to all things Rush, and rock’s Holy Trinity has just released a four-disc live recording to meet the demand. Celebrating 40 years as a band, Geddy Lee and company bring their electric energy to Air Canada Centre for two shows with career-spanning setlists that include “YYZ,” “Tom Sawyer,” “2112,” and just about every other classic in their catalog. Lee’s legendary bass tone and urgent vocals lead the way on this journey through the history of Rush. —Jon D’Auria

SMASHING HEARTS
SO COSMIC
[smshnghrts.tumblr.com]

It’s no surprise Raphael Saadiq has given the debut EP by Oakland five-piece Smashing Hearts a thumbs up: They flaunt a bonedeep love of late ’80s/early ’90s R&B, and bass man Jaden is a big part of the magic. On syrupy-sweet jams like “About a Girl” and “Space,” he reveals himself to be an astute student of Saadiq’s tasteful, slinky style, and the funkalicious “Just Friends” would be nothing without his elastic pop & pluck line. —E.E. Bradman

NEW YORK GYPSY ALL-STARS
DROMOMANIA
[NYGAS]

For its sophomore effort, the New Yorkbased band of Balkan baddasses once again rides the sympathetic bass of Panagiotis Andreou and the sonic vision of his Now Vs. Now partner, keyboardist and album producer Jason Lindner. Pana steps out with a slapped ostinato on the bracing “Chaotica,” applies swung-funk feel and fills to “Catch,” brings melodic support to the tender ballad “Scarlet,” and adds dimension to the driving techno pulse of “Romantech 2” with his evolving staccato part. —Chris Jisi

JUDITH HILL
BACK IN TIME
[NPG]

After supplying backing vocals for the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John, soul singer Judith Hill embarked on an album of her own with the help of Prince and Andrew Gouche. Naturally, Back in Time—produced and co-written by Prince—is a funk fest, with bass flying in every direction. From “Turn Up,” reminiscent of Bootsy with P-Funk, to Gouche-powered soul ballads like “Beautiful Life” and “Cry, Cry, Cry,” Hill’s debut dishes out heavy servings of superb bass. —Jon D’Auria

SCOTT BARNARD
BASS HANON: 75 EXERCISES TO BUILD ENDURANCE & FLEXIBILITY FOR BASS GUITAR PLAYERS
[Hal Leonard]

Classical pianists swear by 19th-century Hanon exercises, aimed at developing wrist flexibility and finger speed, precision, agility, and strength. Using both notation and tab for 4-string, Bass Hanon attacks common weaknesses by breaking things down into core techniques (pull-offs, hammer-ons, string-crossing), harmonic technique (intervals, arpeggios, scales), and advanced study (chords, muting, harmonics, etc.), helping players at every level take hands, ears, and eyes to the next level. —E.E. Bradman

LALAH HATHAWAY
LIVE
[Hathaway Entertainment]

When it’s time for thick tone and soulful R&B grooves, Eric Smith is the man for the job, and he shows exactly why on Live. Recorded at the Troubadour in L.A.—yep, the same place where her father, Donny, recorded his best-known album 43 years ago—Lala’s album is led by the prominent bass work of Smith. From the Motown-inspired rolling lines of “Little Ghetto Boy” to the envelope-filtered “Lean On Me,” Smith is the centerpiece of a stellar veteran soul outfit. —Jon D’Auria

TORTOISE
THE CATASTROPHIST
[Thrill Jockey]

Bassist/co-founder Doug McCombs is way upfront on Tortoise’s first album since 2009, and that’s just the way it should be. As loops, samples, and other instruments happen around him, it’s easy to imagine McCombs in the middle of the maelstrom, his authoritative lines acting as both unshakeable foundation and connective tissue. Whether laying down the law with a pick (“Odds With Logic,” “Ox Duke,”) leaning back in the cut (“Yonder Blue”), or adding simple depth to the gorgeous “The Clearing Fills,” McCombs is tasteful and note-perfect. —E.E. Bradman

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