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Ska bassists

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by MCT, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. MCT


    Apr 11, 2005
    Ska was what basically what got me into playing bass and I notice that they don't get posted about in these forums, I want to know why? Are the things that they play easy to do or come up with? I always found ska bass lines a challenge to play and learn, and I've never come up with a good one, so I guess...????
  2. just read below me, that guy said it way better then i ever could have.
  3. Nice to see someone bring mention of this...I play bass in a traditional ska/rocksteady/reggae band and I'd like to see what any other ska bass player's have to say about this...

    In response to the topic, I think we need to really identify what style of ska music (and its musicians) you'd like to speak about...the word "ska" is thrown around quite a bit, distorting many truths about the genre and lumping together bands that hold hardly any similarity in musical or thematic content...

    If you're speaking about the traditional ska form, these are my thoughts..

    "Why don't you hear about many ska bass players?"
    -Traditional ska music is not a well known genre of music on any scale anymore, to many it is an oddity that it is still actually played and supported in the underground at all, in fact many Jamaicans have now idea that their "oldies" music is popular worldwide at all...if the general public hardly knows about a particular form of music, what are the chances that they would talk about the musicans

    Talent-wise, I think people fall into a trap over the talent/virtuosity/quality debate when applied to ska and Jamaican music in general...When ska was created, its players were for the most part seasoned jazz and big band players who gigged year round. They were as trained in musical theaory and arrangement as any jazz player is today. This goes for they're bass players as well. The most well known ska bass player, that you should look at is Lloyd Brevett, co founder of The Legendary Skatalites, the studio band that virtually created ska and propelled rocksteady and reggae. Another bass player just as important was Cluet Johnson, but his work with the Blues blasters is pretty hard to find as opposed to The Skatalites. Brevett composed all his own bass lines in the traditional walking bass style of jazz and blues. The newer recordings are of much better quality and one can hear all the melodic runs and fills that you couldn't before. Noboby alive would criticize the skill that it takes to compose AND improvise a crisp, complimentary walking line. Unfortunantly, Brevett's age has deterred him from playing live, but I've seen the Skatalites three times, and they're sets bordered on three hours, with Brevett leading the band through changes and steering the riddim.

    When ska morphed into Rocksteady and Reggae, the riddims became simpler, less hurried and more syncopated. Rocksteady songs are known for being comprised of three to four chords with repetive bubbling basslines..and you know what? those two bar basslines are some of the sweetest, soulful phrases I know. They range from smooth thumping lines to uptempo bubbling that just percolates the slow rhythm on top. My appreciation for them lies in the fact that these bassists(particularly Jackie Jackson, Leroy Sibbles) could say just enough with so little. Can you deny the funk on some of those early James Brown cuts?! and he's just riffing on one chord most of the time!! It's the same with oldies Jamaican music. The taste is in the space. Over time , these Rocksteady and Reggae basslines have been constantly versioned(sampled) under dancehall, roots reggae, ragga tracks for over thirty years!! They've remained that potent, that valid, and that much in the public's ears.

    So, to bring it back up to modern ska musicians and others specializing "Jamaican oldies" revival music, many are competent jazz players, as well as soul and r&b players who hold taste above any anything. Particular modern day players to look out for are:

    Victor Rice-Stubborn Allstars: amazing upright and electric player, producer and composer, has two solo albums that run the gamet of ska to dub

    Marcus Geard-The Slackers: great player with a pretty unique technique if you ever see pictures of it! Actually comes from a Jazz/Fusion background, but dropped the six string, simplified the lines and just ****in' grooved. I remeber talking to him once and he proudly said that he never finds the need to go beyond the 9th fret!!

    The Toasters: Forgive me for not remebering his name, but the current bass player for the band(they change players constantly) used to play in The Strangeways, an incredible FL band. This guy is an incredible front man, singer and can actually improvise a chat("toasting"-the Jamaican style of rapping) while playing the stankiest lines!!
  4. yikes didn't mean to choke up the thread! Its just that this is pretty dear to my heart, and I love it when people mention or appreciate it!
  5. Davo737


    Feb 29, 2000
    Syracuse, NY
    Jason Nwagbaraocha is now playing bass for the Toasters. :D Oh, and +1 to everything you said above.
  6. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    I remember really liking the bass lines on Madness' "Divine Madness", I don't know their bass player's name but he sure knew how to groove, wrote some nice lines and sort of drove most of the songs underneath the band's rather complicated arrangements. I especially loved "Our House" and its ever-changing harmonies and the nifty line in "It must be love".
  7. Thurisarz


    Aug 20, 2004
    Mark Bedford, a genious! :cool:
  8. Hey if you're checkin' out players from around that time...you have just got to respect Sir Horace Panter of The Specials!!! His frenetic, funk/disco inspired lines are ridiculously fun to play! Check out: "Night Club" both studio and live version.

    Side note: I once saw King Django and his reggae rock band play in FL. He made some drunk crack about disco fans, and his bass player started started goofin' around with some descending octaves/disco riffs. Django turned and said, "Hey man, quit it, that's the ****in' Specials, that's not in our set!" :D
  9. Starbucker

    Starbucker Guest

    Jun 29, 2005
    Billings, MT
    A really good ska bassist to listen to is Matt Wong from Reel Big Fish. He's very talented, creative, and his bass lines are always engaging.
  10. jow83


    Jun 3, 2005
    Sydney, Australia

    Also Aaron Kays who played in catch 22 for a while. ska bass lines on a 5 string fretless.
  11. Starbucker

    Starbucker Guest

    Jun 29, 2005
    Billings, MT
    Hell yes. +1 for you.
  12. Deadworks


    Dec 13, 2004
    St.Louis, MO
    The bass player from the Blue Meanies is a pretty, no pun intended, mean player. I'm not sure where they sit in the genre/sub genre heirarchy but I'm just not real aquainted with the style of music.

    I'm going to look into some of the bands mentioned here though. Always looking for new music to check out.
  13. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Jorge Casillas from the Voodoo Glow Skulls taught me tons (not literally.) Check them out.
  14. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    A lot of people treat ska like a novelty or a gimmick. Which is a shame, because there are some genuinely great great bands out there. Not just great ska bands, but great bands period.

    I don't remember their names, but the guy(s) from Inspecter 7 and Mephiskapheles are both quality players.
  15. Minimaul


    Jun 22, 2003
    I've just started getting into ska lately. I got some Streetlight Manifesto and I'm looking for more recomendations....
  16. I agree with all the players above. some of my favorite ska lines are "Nite Klub"(specials) "Mirror in the bathroom"(English beat) Another really good band is toots and the maytals. listen to songs like monkey man, 54-46, pressure drop. i saw them in orlando last year g. i think toots said it was his son but im not sure.
  17. fivaras


    Sep 13, 2009
    Athens, Greece
    From the first wave i would say that Lloyd Brevet is one of the greatest. During the second wave, The Specials and The Selecter made a difference with their bass parts. Now about the third wave, i would say that Eric Wilson is one that stands out, although he is not a purely ska bassist.
  18. Joe Gittleman the bass fiddleman of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones has been a big inspiration for me. But I'm particularly partial to traditional ska and rocksteady.