THE TEL-STAR SESSIONS [Evil Teen]
What makes the release of these earliest Gov’t Mule demos from 1994 intriguing is the pounding presence of the Mule’s original bassist, the late Allen Woody, his chemistry with guitarist Warren Haynes and drummer Matt Abts, and the band’s concept to feature a “dirtier” bass sound in reaction to the instrument having gotten progressively cleaner-sounding since the late ’70s. The sonic sullying pays off immediately on “Rocking Horse” and a cover of Free’s “Mr. Big,” with Woody applying his Allman Bros.-learned Berry Oakley support style, chasing Haynes up the neck during his guitar solos and stepping out up there himself on “Big.” Elsewhere, “Just Got Paid” turns on Woody’s 16th-note boogie, “Left Coast Groovies” mines progressive terrain with its angular unison riffs and time shifts, and the closing “World of Difference” rides Woody’s eerie arpeggio bass line.
THE SECOND [Blue Note]
With a diverse mix of songs that spans genres as effortlessly as he spans his fretboard, R&B and neo-soul ace Derrick Hodge has raised the bar, encapsulating all the far-reaching elements of his playing. The sideman for Robert Glasper, Maxwell, Common, and Jill Scott even took on the role of producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist to create this personal, moving sophomore-album masterpiece. It’s hard to pick favorites on such a loaded record, but “World Go Round,” “Underground Rhapsody,” and the Mingus-conjuring “For Generations” are great starting points.
NEW BIRTH CHURCH
NBC WORSHIP SESSIONS: VOLUME 1 [newbirthcal.org]
This well-produced snapshot of modern gospel includes choirs and big grooves for old-schoolers and just enough acoustic guitar and anthemic choruses to be current. Patrice “Pete” Boyd, always clear and muscular, keeps pace by finding the perfect feel for each track, from the staccato and long notes of “I Made It” and the snap and pop of “Awesome God” to the muted thumb funk of “You Are My Strength.” By incorporating judicious use of the B string and playing sumptuous fills where others might have chosen long notes, Boyd shows himself to be a player with a golden ear and a deep pocket.
A DECADE OF DIO: 1983–1993 [Rhino/Warner Bros.]
On these remasters of the first six CDs from Ronnie James Dio’s solo career, Jimmy Bain’s tough-as-nails bass lines anchor the first four, including Dio’s career-defining power metal masterpieces, Holy Diver and Last in Line. Lock Up the Wolves showcases the considerable chops of Teddy Cook, while Jeff Pilson’s mighty playing on Strange Highways is equal parts spacious, sinister, and sinewy.
GUIDANCE [Sargent House]
There’s a lot that’s different about instrumental post-hardcore trio Russian Circles’ progressive new album, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Brian Cook’s focus on tone: He uses what seems to be every last stompbox on his pedalboard to summon growling, piercing, and often domineering frequencies. Though he remains tasteful, favoring depth over pitch-shifting when necessary, he proves that even in subtle settings, there’s always room for bass-effect exploration.
RICH APPLEMAN, WHIT BROWNE & BRUCE GERTZ
BERKLEE JAZZ BASS [Berklee Press/Hal Leonard]
Three of Berklee’s most esteemed bass educators teamed up to write this concise instruction book, which offers a superb overview of playing jazz bass. In just 99 pages, they hit the key points of harmony, rhythm, note choice, song styles, soloing, and—most important—working with other musicians. Together, the authors have more than a century of teaching experience, and their collective wisdom shines through on every page, whether they’re providing practical instruction on constructing walking lines or sage advice on improvisation and “how to make the phone ring.” The printed examples are augmented by 166 audio files accessed by entering a code at halleonard.com. Whether you’re just figuring out the 12-bar blues or have already mastered the complexities of chord substitution, this is a terrific resource, thoughtfully constructed and written in lively, engaging language.