The Late Movies: Virtuoso Bass Players

Ransom Riggs

Since my guitar virtuosos Late Movies post from last week ignited such a firestorm of controversy, I thought it was only natural to follow it up with a list of some of my favorite bass players.

Jaco Pastorius

He recorded with Joni Mitchell throughout the 70s, and was a successful recording artist in his own right. His signature technique included elaborate solos in the higher registers of the instrument, as well as lots of harmonics -- and like another of my favorite players, Les Claypool, Pastorius almost always played a fretless bass. He suffered from bipolar disorder and died in a bar fight at age 35, in 1987.

Charles Mingus

Continuing the Joni Mitchell connection -- they played together and Joni named an album after Mingus -- he was among the most important jazz pioneers, and pioneers of the bass, in music history.

Les Claypool

He famously tried out for Metallica back in the 80s but was deemed too weird. His main gig since then has been Primus, a band that, in my humble opinion, is awesome.

Victor Wooten

He's half of what makes Bela Fleck and the Flecktones a mind-bending band (besides Bela Fleck on banjo, of course).


Besides being a great bassist, Flea gives the Red Hot Chili Peppers an extra dash of funky personal style.

Geddy Lee

Of course, I can't leave out a member of Rush ...

John Myung

A founding member of Dream Theater.

Stanley Clarke

Jazz bassist Stanley Clark simply rules his upright bass.

Paul Chambers

Another jazz great, he often played with a bow, as opposed to many of his contemporaries.