THE ORIGINAL BLUES BROTHERS BAND
THE LAST SHADE OF BLUE BEFORE BLACK
This star-studded outing by the Blues Brothers covers a broad spectrum of classic R&B, from guitar-greased blues to horn-driven funk, with such luminaries as band members Steve Cropper, John Tropea, and Lou Marini, and guests Dr. John, Eddie Floyd, Paul Shaffer, and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. It also serves as a eulogy to longtime Blues Brother Eric Udell, who died after falling on a New York City street. Udell’s wide pocket, versatility, and hook-up with big-eared drummer Lee Finkelstein stand out via his stuttering boogaloo on “Itch and Scratch,” his “Bootsy-fied” take on “Sex Machine,” his Duck Dunn-like pocket on “Blues in My Feet,” his funky eighth-notes on “You Left the Water Running,” and his Crescent City pulse on “Qualified.” Rest in peace, bass brother.
MATTERS OF THE HEART
Bobby Vega may be best known for his funky pick mastery and long resumé with artists such as Sly Stone, Etta James, and Tower Of Power, but on this 18-minute EP, he lays back and plays seven unaccompanied, evocative originals, all but one with his signature model Rebecki Halfling acoustic bass guitar. Thanks to great arrangements, gorgeous production, and Vega’s masterful use of chords, space, dynamics, and harmonics, Matters of the Heart is a tour de force solo bass performance that lingers in the memory long after the music has stopped.
MATTHEW LUX’S COMMUNICATION ARTS QUARTET
[Monofonus Press/Astral Spirits]
Matthew Lux has been referred to as “the Kevin Bacon of Chicago music,” having played bass with everyone from Isotope 217 (featuring members of Tortoise) to a slew of groups led by avant-jazz cornetist Rob Mazurek. Contra/Fact is his long-overdue first album as a leader, and like his wildly diverse credits, it isn’t easy to pin down. Lux is known for his distinctive use of Elrick basses as well as his love of low-end synthesis, and it all comes through, from the electric-Miles dub vibes of “C.G.L.W.” to the tranced-out acoustic bass and Middle Eastern rhythms of “Israels,” which conjures the hypnotic astral jazz excursions of giants like Ron Carter, Cecil McBee, and Charlie Haden.
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS
SOUL OF A WOMAN
As bassist and producer Gabe “Bosco Mann” Roth describes the Dap-Kings’ last sessions with Sharon Jones before she succumbed to cancer in late 2016: “The band was cresting. We hit the studio hot off the road, and you could feel it.” Roth himself is right in the pocket, as usual, whether he’s swinging hard on the opening cut “Matter of Time” (with the woody, direct-to-the-board tone of his distinctive early-’70s Carvin SB60) or laying back, Willie Weeks-style, on the orchestral ballad “These Tears (No Longer for You).” Big-hearted and bittersweet, Soul of a Woman is carried by the dauntless power Jones brings to her final performances, while Roth and his bandmates draw added sustenance from the sheer weight of the moment.
[PRS Music UK]
The sixth solo studio album by Alberto Rigoni is a seven-track instrumental amalgamation of prog, funk, and fusion that weaves together his many strengths as bassist, songwriter, and producer. From his mellow, atmospheric use of harmonics and fretless on “Afterneath” and the delicate, keyboard-driven smooth-jazz flavor “Song for My Soul” to his creeping, formidable intro bass line on “Obsessions,” it’s clear that Duality is intended to illuminate the many facets of Rigoni’s immense musicality.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
If you remember the raw, raunchy sound of Chickenfoot—Satch’s team-up with the unlikely supergroup of Michael Anthony, Chad Smith, and ex-Halen screamer Sammy Hagar—then you have a taste for What Happens Next. Joined by Glenn Hughes, with Smith returning on drums, Satch gets down to brass-tacks power-trio rock, and Hughes sounds more than happy to sharpen the knives right along with him. From the head-stomping “Catbot” (with Hughes channeling Nick Oliveri-era Queens Of The Stone Age) to the loping “Righteous” (punctuated by Hughes’ tasty neck-walking and slap-and-pop fills) and the aptly titled “Super Funky Badass,” it’s a clinic for how a veteran trio can rock as one.
ELEPHANT WRECKING BALL
Instrumental, trombone-led power trio Elephant Wrecking Ball melds several styles on Engage, including jazz, hip-hop, funk, and dub. One might think an ensemble of monophonic instrumentalists would lack harmonic content, but Dan Africano’s deft playing and creamy tone provides such strong counterpoint to Scott Flynn’s trombone that a chordal instrument isn’t missed one bit. Songs like “Suspension Bridge,” “Case in Point,” and “Chipmunk Crusher” benefit from such sparseness. Clearly, Africano’s Berklee-honed skill set emboldens the material, shaping the tunes’ harmonic structure and neutralizing the need for a guitar or piano.
LEE ANN WOMACK
THE LONELY, THE LONESOME & THE GONE
Country music’s outlaw renaissance gets an East Texas-style kick in the chops on Lee Ann Womack’s latest. It’s not just that she can wail like Dusty Springfield or Tammy Wynette, but with an insanely talented band behind her that includes session aces Glenn Worf and Jerry Roe on upright and tic-tac basses, Womack taps a seam that’s rich in soulful, psychedelic texture—whether it’s in the funky back-to-Stax sound of “He Called Me Baby” or the trippy barroom tearjerker “Hollywood,” with Worf recalling the ’60s Wrecking Crew touch of Carol Kaye.
LIVE AT THE O2 ARENA + RARITIES
Live is dominated by the gritty, detuned bass and massive, earthshaking tone of Brian Marshall, who also has an uncanny knack for knowing when and how to elevate the material. Whether it’s doing tasty runs in the chorus of “Come to Life,” outlining the chord structure of the verses in “Ghost of Days Gone By,” or simply digging in to articulate the grooves of “Addicted to Pain,” Marshall seems to effortlessly tap into the essential components of stellar rock bass.