Is there or can there be a Virtuoso bass player?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by CaribooBass, May 4, 2021.

  1. bass183


    Apr 22, 2014
    One great bass player who was an incredible story teller who I would not classify as a virtuoso is the late great Charlie Haden. The virtuosic Gary Karr is a great story teller even if he plays written music. Jaco was probably one of the best electric bass storytellers who also was a virtuoso. Marc Johnson is another virtuoso storyteller. I don't think storytelling requires virtuosity, but I do think virtuosity does require "storytelling" (maybe lyricsm is a better word?).
    squarepeg and coy garcia like this.
  2. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    “Even if he plays written music?”

    This seems like a pretty backhanded compliment to a true master, and a nice human to boot.

    For his time, absolutely. There are many that have carried his torch, but are overlooked because JP is put on a pedestal.

    I will disagree. Virtuosity does not require “storytelling” or lyricism, but it makes it easier to listen to.
    Durham52 likes this.
  3. FRoss6788

    FRoss6788 Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2012
    Santa Cruz Mountains
    Technical prowess means NOTHING without musicality.
    Sam Reese likes this.
  4. Don't get me wrong, I agree that many, if not all, of the Jazz bassists mentioned are virtuosos, I was just speculating that most of those who mentioned them, probably don't look further than Jazz when considering which bassists are virtuosos. As for rock, which I didn't mention, what is "normal rock" and is there also "normal jazz"?

    I'm aware that Americans regard jazz as a form of music they invented and have a level of pride associated with that. Fair enough. But it does lead to a tendency for some to dismiss all other forms of music (except perhaps for classical) as "lesser". In many cases from a stand point of technical ability, that might be true, but music is about so much more than just technique, or knowledge of theory.

    Every branch of the human race, anywhere on this planet has an affinity with music, it seems to be natural to us. Music is about so much more than who can be the best technician. Having said that I realize this thread is about virtuosity, but there are virtuosos in other forms of music, possibly even including bass players. ;)
  5. coy garcia

    coy garcia

    Jan 18, 2020
    this!! Sadly he passed in 2020 :(
    Last edited: May 5, 2021
  6. If our egos and jealousy don't taint the Truth, the answer is yes. A virtuoso is a moving target defined by subjective artistic interpretation.
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Likewise. Quite the opposite, in fact.
  8. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I did that, and posted the definition. There have been 100 posts since then. Nobody seems to have read the last part of the definition...
    Is there or can there be a Virtuoso bass player?

    "...both technician AND artist." It is a shame it doesn't go on to say " equal measure." Perhaps if the Oxford editorial panel couldn't agree it should come as no surprise that we can do no better here.

  9. Kubicki Fan

    Kubicki Fan

    Oct 3, 2014
    Thank you for that! It is something new for me.

    After eight pages of postings, I have not heard Eddie Gómez mentioned, so I'd like to add it to the list of many illustrious bass players that were mentioned. Also, Jeff Berlin should definitely be mentioned.

    One of my favourites, Pino Plalladino can not be left off the list under any circumstances.

    Edit: Oh, I'd like to squeeze Sting in there, as well. Call me a troll if you want.
  10. hangman

    hangman Supporting Member

    I have this video (and the Vanhal and Dittersdorf) on my iphone and watch them all the time. Truly inspiring and the first person to come to mind when I hear "virtuoso bassist".
    coy garcia likes this.
  11. To me a virtuoso is a musician who has removed the barriers between their musical ideas and the physical challenges of producing them on their instrument. A player whose musical expression is unimpeded by the physicality of technique.
    I live in a village surrounded by a National Park near Sydney. The local postman played saxes and flute. I would hear him play sometimes when I went walking through the bush. He spent hours out in the bush playing once his postal rounds were done. He became very well known in jazz circles hear and in USA. His name was Bernie McGann. He’s no longer with us now but he was such a player. His ideas flowed unfettered and free straight from conception into beautiful sounds.
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
    Fun Size Nick likes this.
  12. WG Plum

    WG Plum

    Apr 9, 2021
    Renaud Garcia-Fons should be included.
    thabassmon and Jason Sypher like this.
  13. coy garcia

    coy garcia

    Jan 18, 2020
    So I'm not the only one. :) Thanks for the reply.
    hangman likes this.
  14. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Great point. As virtuosos are "crowned," they're raising the bar for the virtuosos that come after them. Rinse and repeat.

    Jaco was a true innovator and virtuoso that raised the bar. But nowadays, his type of mastery is almost a requirement and not an exception.
    zie, DrMole, thabassmon and 2 others like this.
  15. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    I think the Oxford def is referenced to the use of the term as an adjective to describe a performance.

    The noun would be the definition applicable to a person being a virtuoso.

    But when it comes to playing an instrument “technician” and “artist” are not mutually exclusive opposing concepts.

    The perception of any performance lacking in “artistry” is often the result of a lack or failure of a certain technique like proper dynamics, rhythm, touch etc.... or just playing the wrong notes. ;)

    Musical performance is artistry, you can’t by definition be technically proficient at it without the artistry.

    Some people might argue that some mindless dizzying display of notes is an example of “technical proficiency without artistry.” But that’s really just a matter of taste, beauty in the eye, so to speak.

    Anyway, I was responding to the many posts that seem to imply “virtuoso” is somehow reserved only for a few players who have achieved legendary fame.
  16. Well, I did think about folks in other genres, and none really came to mind. I suspect Prog Rock or Metal could be home to some, because there’s definitely an element of speed associated with them...but again, hard to name any on the bass. On the guitar, it’s easy. On the bass? Part of the issue is that the bass is shoved into a supporting role. Hard to demonstrate the talent associated with being a virtuoso if you’re second fiddle (so to speak).

    As for normal rock, I mean anything that’s not on the fringes. As for “normal jazz”, I’d probably draw some sort of line between the Big Band era and stuff that came after it...but it’d be a jagged line, because you also had Gypsy Jazz, and it’d be hard to argue that Django Reinhardt wasn’t a virtuoso.

    Remember, this is a conversation about being a virtuoso. Not who makes the most emotional music, or the one that speaks to your soul. Yngwie Malmsteen could be considered a virtuoso on the guitar, but it’s not like his music changed the world.

    Correct, but a virtuoso is bound together with technical skill. That being said, I agree that there is more to music than that.

    Consider the sport of racing - to win you need a car capable of winning, a driver capable of winning, a pit crew capable of winning, strategists capable of winning, and of course luck. Having one element might win the race, or you might need a few elements. If you have them all, you’ll dominate the sport like Lewis Hamilton does. Of course, I would rate Juan Manuel Fangio as the greatest driver of all time, because he won with four different teams, which demonstrates a technical skill that transcends everything else. But I digress....
    DrMole and CaribooBass like this.
  17. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    To me, a virtuoso is someone I can listen to for more than a minute.

    Also it has become clear to me that a lot of people have a rather narrow musical reference frame.

    I mean how can you not know who Jaco was/is, or think that if you listen to one genre of music other genres are excluded to you, or that nothing exists outside the norm, at least if you are a certain age and call yourself a musician and music lover? o_O
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  18. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    You have to read it carefully. A performance can be technical and/or artistic but only a person can be a technician and/or an artist. It is referring to the performer, not the performance. But you are 100% right - they are not mutually exclusive. In fact it is still my opinion that a vituoso performer must be both and a virtuoso performance must have both.
    CaribooBass, MVE and LBS-bass like this.
  19. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    I definitely knew who Jaco was, but I was a classical bassist since 11, and played jazz at 16. Jaco was in my frame of reference because that's what I was doing and the music I was playing. Personally, I was more drawn to Stanley Clarke, as he was a doubler like me. But I digress...

    Flipside to that is you have a player listening to Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Cliff Burton et al. in their bedroom, playing along to vinyl and then joining a rock band. Why would they know who Jaco was? It's out of their frame of reference.

    It doesn't make anyone less of a musician and music lover if you gravitate toward only a couple genres. There's so much music out there, it's exhausting trying to stay current on everything.

    My only issue is when someone discredits another genre without giving it a shot (which, older musicians seem to do a lot).
    zie and SteveCS like this.
  20. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I mean...

    Bear in mind that he has said that he composed this song *before* he even received the bass from Zon that was actually capable of playing it, given that it requires detuners on all four strings as well as a bridge that is capable of detuning all or combinations of strings in multiple steps.
    Jon Moody likes this.
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