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Check Out 3 Modern Bands With Fantastic Bass Playing

A great bass line is a great bass line regardless of the generation or style of music that it comes from. But first let’s ask ourselves: what makes a great bass player?

  • They play within themselves
  • They hold the band together
  • They add that extra bit of something to the band’s sound

Regardless of your age or playing ability, you’ve probably heard a great bass bass line pretty recently and it might not have been from one of the places that you might typically hear great bass playing in.

The purpose of this post is to shine some light on great bass players and great bass playing that has come through recently. Great bass playing didn’t only happen in the 1970s and ’80s with Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Jack Bruce and others and then resurface in the 1990s with Flea, Les Claypool, Billy Gould and the alt-funkers of that period.

Great bass playing is all around and really never left. Is it as apparent and easy to find as it might have been 20 years ago? Not at all. Now, you need to dig a little bit more to find it without a doubt.

Luckily – I have the time and the patience to do some of the digging! So let’s jump into the list:

1. BadBadNotGood

Bassist: Chester Hansen

BadBadNotGood (often abbriviated BBNG) is a post-bop/electronic/free-jazz trio from Ontario, Canada. The group rose to prominence with their cover/interpretation of Tyler the Creator’s track, Goblin, as well as rapper Gucci Mane’s track, Lemonade, which they performed during their high school talent show. The trio, on paper, is often listed as a jazz trio but goes far beyond that. The band carved a name for themselves within the last 4 years with lively sets including jazz standards and extended improvisations combining live instrumentation with programmed loops and samples.

The band has gone on to collaborate with some of the largest names in underground hip hop as of recently including Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, MF DOOM and collaborate with seasoned industry veteran, RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan on the tracks, Get Your Way and Rivers of Blood for The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack.

Check out their cover of below to hear Chester play on the band’s cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”:

You’ll like BadBadNotGood if you like:

  • Medeski, Martin and Wood (and John Scofield)
  • The Bad Plus
  • Electronic music and underground hip hop

2. Brazilian Girls

Bassist: Jesse Murphy

Brazilian Girls is a four-piece band from New York City. The band consists of drummer, Aaron Johnston, producer and DJ, DiDi Gutman, bassist Jesse Murphy and singer and frontwoman, Sabina Sciubba. Since their formation in 2003 to their end in 2010, the band released a total of three albums and three EPs showcasing a wide range of musical styles from pop to progressive, bossa nova to samba, electronic to dancehall and much more.

The rhythm section of the band consting of Johnston and Murphy provide a strong, consisten backbone throughout all of the stylistic and genre-jumping musical snapshots. Whats more is that the Brazilian Girls recordings all have Murphy turned up, making his punchy and distinct lead bass lines all the more audible and distinguished from the rest of the band.

Check out Murphy’s bass playing in the song, Don’t Stop, below:

You’ll like Brazilian Girls if you already like:

  • 80’s dance pop
  • Electronic music (especially if it has the”four-to-the-floor” feel)
  • Brazilian bossa nova and samba
  • Female singers

3. Blood Orange

Bassist: Devonté Hynes

Blood Orange is the moniker of British producer and multi-instrumentalist, Devonte Hynes. Though his latest album from which this song comes from, Cupid Deluxe, features additional guest musicians including singers Despot and Skepta on two of the albums tracks and producer, Clams Casino, contributing additional production work on one of the tracks, the album is primarily live instrumentation with all instruments – including bass duties – done by Hynes.

As a whole, the album is very reminicent of Prince during his 1999-era and 80s electro pop and old school funk acts like Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parliament if it were slowed down a couple of beats per minute and Rufus and much of this comes from the bass playing and the drum grooves put in by Hynes. The bass is by no extent “flashy” or technically complex, but it is very audible and very distinct sounding in the mix. In the track below, the bass only comes in periodically with a single pop and a few thumps in between, but the mids are so cutting that when the bass does enter, it pulls your attention right to it and the rest of the rhythm section.

Check out Blood Orange’s track, “You’re Not Good Enough” below:

 You might like Blood Orange if you like:

  • Old school funk bass
  • New school RnB like Frank Ocean, Miguel, Musiq or The Weeknd
  • 80s funk ala Prince, Michael Jackson or Rick James
  • Bass with a lot of mids in it ala Louis Johnson

 

It’s easy to continue to talk about the pioneers of bass as if they did it right first take and that was that while turning a blind eye to today’s class of players. With a little digging however, you’ll find that great bass playing never left. Even more, it’s exciting to think just that: good bass playing never left and it still lies in very capable hands and within very listenable music. 

Switching gears to address questions about radio music and “all music today being garbage”: you’re probably not going to find anything on the radio worth listening to anyway let alone anything with a strong example of good bass playing today. With the exception of this perhaps.

…perhaps.

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