There is just something so incredible about a good bass player. They root the music, giving it a foundation in the pulsating rhythms of the Earth, and if they’re good they can let it fly too, painting pictures with the dark patches between the stars. There is something so primal about the way the bass ebbs and flows, the way it pulls up the animal energy from down below, gets you drunk on pure sound. This album is all about pure sound. And if you drink it up, you will go dancing between the stars. There is really no way to describe it in ordinary words. Did you ever listen to Tom Cora? This has the same adventurous beauty, but lacks the harshness. Come on. Drink! It’s like technicolor chocolate dripping down your throat, like musical honey from seaworthy bees. It’s like having sex in slow motion. Molasses in excstasy. Go on. You love it. Drink it up!
A very versatile bassist, Rob Wasserman has gained fame for his trilogy of recording projects accurately titled Solo, Duets, and Trios. Wasserman began playing the violin when he was 12, not switching to bass until he was already 20. Within a year he was studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and playing with drummer Charles Moffett. The classical training he had received on violin, plus owning a very open mind have both frequently come in handy throughout his career. Wasserman picked up early experience working with Dan Hicks, Maria Muldaur, Van Morrison, and Oingo Boingo. In 1983, he recorded Solo for Rounder which received very strong reviews. Soon afterward, Wasserman became a longtime member of David Grisman’s group and has also had lengthy stints with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Duets in 1988 matched Wasserman with seven very diverse singers (including Bobby McFerrin, Rickie Lee Jones, Cheryl Benyne, and Lou Reed) and violinist Stéphane Grappelli. 1993’s Trios has appearances by such performers as Jerry Garcia, Brian and Carnie Wilson, Willie Dixon, Branford Marsalis, and Elvis Costello among others. Although he has worked throughout much of his career as a featured sideman, Rob Wasserman’s three recordings as a leader are his most notable musical accomplishments thus far. The space rock influenced Space Island blasted off in late 2000, exploring new textures and incorporating hip-hop and electronic elements. He spent the next several years playing with Ratdog and appearing with Gov’t Mule and Rickie Lee Jones before returning to solo work and releasing Cosmic Farm, a fusion date featuring guitarist Craig Erickson, T. Lavitz on keys, and Jeff Sipe on drums.
Precious few musicians demonstrate the scope to be dubbed renaissance men, but Rob Wasserman has more than earned the title. His daunting versatility has made him one of the last two decade’s most in-demand bassists — as demonstrated by recording and touring stints with Lou Reed, Van Morrison, and Elvis Costello. His longtime creative partnership with Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir have yielded a trove of fertile sounds. And, last but far from least, the albums issued under his own name have won awards from sources in the jazz, pop and rock fields. That acclaim has much to do with Wasserman’s unflagging devotion to artistic purity and the value of real musicianship. Trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he developed a style of upright bass playing that he likens to cello, more than standard bass methodology. He’s put that ability to the test in a variety of contexts over the years, most notably on a series of three albums — SOLO, DUETS, and TRIOS — that demonstrate his unparalleled knack for making his voice heard without shouting, for allowing the collaborative process to flower to its fullest That trilogy began with the release of SOLO, an album completed with the support of an NEA Composer’s Fellowship. Although already widely respected as a player — collaborating with artists as varied as Stephane Grappelli and Rickie Lee Jones — Wasserman far exceeded expectations of what a solo bass album could deliver, garnering acclaim in a number of venues, including Downbeat, which voted his debut Jazz Album of the Year and voted him Bassist and Composer of the Year. On the Grammy-winning DUETS (named Vocal Album of the Year by Billboard) Wasserman’s collaborators included Aaron Neville, Lou Reed, Bobby McFerrin, and others. While that album put the bassist’s interpretive skills to work on standards spanning a full half century of American music, it merely set the stage for Wasserman’s release, TRIOS, an album dubbed “dazzling” by Rolling Stone and granted a rare five-star rating by Downbeat. TRIOS brought together artists like Jerry Garcia & Edie Brickell, Bruce Hornsby & Branford Marsalis, Neil Young and Bob Weir, Elvis Costello and Marc Ribot, Brian & Carnie Wilson (produced by Don Was), and the late Willie Dixon (in his last recorded appearance), to perform a set of original material. “I never considered myself a sideman, since I was always involved in the creative process says Wasserman, “My nature is that I love to play this instrument but I won’t be limited by it. I don’t sing much, can’t play drums, can’t play guitar, so I have to say everything I would say with those instruments through the bass. Another addition to the Rob Wasserman catalog, “Space Island” (Atlantic Records) broke new barriers for him as he teamed up with master mixer/producer Dave Aron (Snoop Dogg, Prince) to create a bass groove record with a hip hop rhythm. The record features drummer Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), scratcher DJ Jam (Dr. Dre) and other special guests. Billboard called it “Exhilarating…one of the most kinetically fun albums of the year.” Wasserman has consistently proven he isn’t shy about stretching the limits of his chosen instrument. Having worked on the designs for a number of new basses including, with guitar wizard Ned Steinberger, a revolutionary six-string electric upright bass, he’s turned his attentions of late to creating new sounds on his basses with the help of the latest effects technology. Not that such endeavors have taken Wasserman’s attention from his myriad of other projects. He served as a collaborator with and as a member of Lou Reed’s band from 1988 to 1995, and re-joined Lou’s band in 2006. Another creative partner is dance choreographer Mark Morris, who Wasserman collaborated with to develop and present “Dances to American Music” which world-premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, and then toured the U.S. and Europe. Wasserman has balanced such rather high-toned pursuits with projects like RatDog, the band he and longtime partner Bob Weir assembled after touring as a successful duo for ten years. Arista Records released Weir/Wasserman Live, a collection of the duo’s hottest live performances and followed that with RatDog’s debut studio recording, “Evening Moods.” In tandem with Grateful Dead Merchandise, Rob formed his own label, Rare Wasserman Records. Released were DUA, an album of original improvisations with world master sarengi player Ustad Sultan Khan, and BASSICALLY ME, a new collection of solo bass compositions. As a featured part of all Weir/Wasserman and RatDog concerts for fifteen years, Rob presented solo bass to enthusiastic acclaim. He has since begun an expanded performance schedule that features solo bass on tour with Lou Reed, DJ Spooky, Particle, John Popper, and DJ Logic, among others. Rounder Records has released “TRILOGY” – SOLO, DUETS, and TRIOS brought together for the first time as a three cd boxed set. The package features new notes and commentary by Rob and several of his collaborators, as well as 24 bit re-mastering by Joe Gastwirt. Rob is presently recording and producing his next cd, “My Name Is New York” to be released in 2009. A collaborative project with The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archive, it features Rob in duet with an incredible cast of singers interpreting unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics. Recorded so far are Ani di Franco, Lou Reed, Chris Whitley, Michael Franti, Pete Seeger, Nellie McKay, Studs Terkel, Keren Anne and Kevin Hearn– More unique collaborations will complete the project. Some of Rob’s recorded work with other artists: David Grisman Quintet – “Quintet ’80” (Warner Bros.) David Grisman/Stephane Grappelli – “Live” (Elektra) David Grisman Quintet – “Acousticity” (MCA) Van Morrison – “Beautiful Visions” (Warner Brothers) Rickie Lee Jones – “Flying Cowboys” (Geffen) Lou Reed – “New York” (Sire/Reprise) Elvis Costello – “Mighty Like A Rose” (Warner Bros.) Lou Reed – “Magic & Loss” (Sire/Reprise) Rickie Lee Jones – “Naked Songs ” (Geffen) Bruce Cockburn – “The Charity Of Night” (Ryko) Banyan – (CyberOctave) Ratdog – “Evening Moods” (BMG/Arista) Ratdog – “Live at Roseland” (BMG/Arista) Ustad Sultan Khan – “Dua” (Rare Wasserman Records) Les Claypool – “5 Gallons of Diesel” (Prawn Song Records) Hal Willner – “Sea Shanteys” (Anti-) Lou Reed – “Berlin” (The Weinstein Company)
Genre: New Acoustic; Jazz; Experimental
Review by Ron Wynn
Since bassist Rob Wasserman recently had a much-discussed session on the market, it’s not surprising Rounder would rush this 13-cut collection recorded in 1982 from the vaults. This one is a superior work in terms of showcasing Wasserman’s attributes, which include a huge tone, excellent compatibility and versatility, and tremendous overall skills. His talents were well displayed; he covers all the bases from bop to light fusion. He wrote every piece except “Lady Be Good,” and while they’re all short (none four minutes long and several less than three), he always manages to play a nifty phrase, elegant line or intricate passage. If you’d prefer a less bombastic, hyped example of Rob Wasserman’s music, here’s the ideal ticket.
1 Thirteen – Wasserman – 2:50
2 Lima Twist – Wasserman – 3:46
3 Sunway – Wasserman – 2:17
4 Punk Sizzle – Wasserman – 1:46
5 Clare – Wasserman – :54
6 Oh, Lady Be Good – Gershwin, Gershwin – 2:05
7 Strumming – Wasserman – 1:50
8 Bass Blue – Wasserman – 2:22
9 Bass Space – Wasserman – 3:11
10 April Aire – Wasserman – 2:19
11 Freedom Bass Dance – Wasserman – 1:37
12 Ode to Casals – Wasserman – 3:57
13 Sara’s Rainbow Dong – Wasserman – 1:56
vinyl, cleaned | mp3 >192kbps vbr | small cover | 51mb
as as per usual, I’m looking for a couple: Basically Me and his duet with Ustad Sultan Khan, ‘Dua‘