Alert readers have noticed that this column has paid scant attention to the bass players of rock and roll. The jazz police, of course, have no problem with this oversight. However, for those who are a bit more open-minded, Part Three of our great rhythm section series will take a look at bass and drum duos from the world of rock. Don’t despair, jazzbos: I think you will find that most – OK, some – of these players owe a lot to jazz. Plus, if you are patient, you will be richly rewarded by the final video.
Geddy Lee and Neil Peart
Geddy Lee on bass and Neil Peart on drums have anchored Canadian power trio Rush since 1974. Although critics are often quick to dismiss them for a variety of reasons, they would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with their musicianship. Check out how tight the bass and drums are on this live performance of “YYZ.”
Tony Levin and Bill Bruford
Tony Levin and Bill Bruford have teamed up in King Crimson on and off for decades. Here is Tony Levin on the stick and later the bass with Bill Bruford on drums, performing “Satori in Tangier” and “Man With and Open Heart” in Japan in 1986.
Flea and Chad Smith
Together since high school in the Seventies, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith have successfully combined funk and punk rock in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here they are on one of Chad’s instructional drum videos demonstrating how years of playing together can create a locked-in rhythm section like no other.
Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun
When Doug Wimbish (Sugar Hill Gang, TackHead, Jeff Beck, Rolling Stones, Madonna) joined drummer Will Calhoun in Living Colour in 1991, a rhythm section was formed that has extended beyond the ground-breaking black rock band to other projects, such as Head>>Fake and Jungle Funk. Here, Living Colour covers the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” in a 2004 performance. While admittedly not the best video available of the two, it’s worth watching to see what a dynamic rhythm section can do with a song based on a simple but infectious bassline. The real action gets started at about 3:30. (Not sure why Vernon Reid is handling the vocal chores….)
Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker
Bassist Jack Bruce is probably best known for the two short years he spent in Cream in the late Sixties with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. But before then and to this day, he has played a pivotal role in rock, blues and progressive jazz. Often he pairs up with Ginger Baker on drums, as he does here in a 1990 performance from the David Letterman Show. A new Jack Bruce career anthology “Can You Follow?” was just released containing 110 tracks on 6 CDs. Well worth the hefty price tag.
OK, here’s the reward we promised you jazzers for tolerating the rock stylings of those featured above: Ella Fitzgerald performing Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969. Don’t know who the bass player and drummer are – not sure it matters in this case.