Fifty-one years since being discovered by Miles Davis, Holland’s global influence cutting across a swathe of post-bop styles remains immense. The beating heart of In a Silent Way. Pick out his work with Kenny Wheeler for later thrills. Still a force to be reckoned with especially on 2018’s UnchartedTerritories and the brand new Good Hope with Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter.
2 Esperanza Spalding Breakthrough bassist/vocalist Spalding has rewritten the rulebook in terms of what a 21st century bassist can do.
3 Marcus Miller Fusing jazz, soul, and African music Miller’s sound whether heard as far back as Tutu with Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, or more recently on Laid Black is instantly recognisable.
4 John Patitucci With a solo reputation for leading his own bands and making his own records nonetheless it’s for his role in the Wayne Shorter quartet that has defined the technically accomplished US bassist’s career over many years now.
5 Reid Anderson As a member of one of the leading small groups in contemporary jazz in The Bad Plus bassist Anderson has an eclectic approach influenced by jazz, rock and classical approaches that appeals to a new generation exploring jazz often for the first time.
6 Larry Grenadier Best known for his work with Brad Mehldau and the Fly trio Grenadier thrives on a riff, his impossibly woody sound cornering tricksy rhythms with consummate ease.
7 Arild Andersen Playing Cork this autumn. Was part of the history making Triptykon.
8 Ron Carter Elegant and refined, the heir in some ways to Ray Brown, Carter was the bassist in the Miles Davis “second great quintet” fact enough to be included in this list. He is still leading bands to this day, and is a regular visitor to Ronnie Scott’s.
9 Stanley Clarke Hugely influential from Return to Forever and George Duke days and in demand as a movie composer.
10 Cecil McBee The Forest Flower bassist. Need I go on? OK, yep McBee is on the title track of Journey in Satchidananda too.
11 Richard Bona The Cameroonian with the jaw-dropping bass guitar technique and unique vocal style, jazz, African music and a sense of improvisational adventure all roll into one.
12 Reuben Rogers The Charles Lloyd and Joshua Redman bassist has some of the best chops in jazz as at ease with free-jazz as straightahead.
13 Gary Peacock Avant gardist by reputation and also the ultimate standards bassist for many years with Keith Jarrett.
14 Linda May Han Oh Adventurous chamber-jazz stylist globally known through touring with Pat Metheny, already with a formidable track record of achievement on her own genre-busting records.
15 Dan Berglund He reached a huge global fanbase with EST and now leads his own group Tonbruket. Look out for Rymden.
16 Thomas Morgan Big toned US bassist known for his work with Tomasz Stańko, he’s a revelation with Jakob Bro.
17 Richard Davis As well known as an educator as for his appearance on some classic records Richard Davis’ big sound has decorated albums as influential in very different ways as Astral Weeks and Out to Lunch.
18 Christian McBride Straightahead heaven from the Oscar Pettiford influenced James Brown loving Philadelphian.
19 Avishai Cohen Hugely athletic bassist Cohen thrives on leading from the back. Bassist, and occasionally vocalist, as showman par excellence.
20 Henry Grimes Avant god. Ayler, Cecil Taylor, another time, another place. Lost now found.
Ginger Baker, Why?, Motéma Music ****
A quartet record recorded at Real World in February this year the Cream legend joined by JBs great, tenor saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, Generation Band bassist Alec Dankworth tremendous here, and the percussionist Abass Dodoo yin to Baker’s yang, at once a curiosity, as Baker isn’t often heard these days on record playing jazz although he’s been touring a lot recently with his Jazz Confusion band, the unit here. But it also connects with Baker’s jazz past: relatively recent as ‘Ginger Spice’ was written by trumpeter Ron Miles who Baker worked so well with on Atlantic record Coward of the County at the end of the 1990s; and long gone past, a paean to Baker's Graham Bond Organisation days.
Baker, as you can see above on the album cover looks right at the camera defiantly, the drum icon’s face shrouded by smoke. That swirling constantly changing sense is also here on the eight tracks, Pee Wee Ellis’ ‘Twelve and More Blues’ allowing Baker to eventually seem like he could even be the musical granddad of Seb Rochford.
The loping delicious sound of ‘Cyril Davis’ or ‘Cyril Davies’ as it should be (again a link to Coward of the County) Baker’s tune next, a nod to 1960s harmonica ace Cyril Davies who Baker used to play with in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated brings out a lot of soul from Pee Wee here exhibiting some of his strongest playing in years, Dankworth coming alive. The spirit of the revolutionary jazz and blues of the 1960s rarely equalled in jazz history has never left Baker and it’s on display here, and it’s fitting that one of the great ballad anthems of that decade is included with a puckish take on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’ from 1966, Baker sensibly taking the tempo up a notch as Pee Wee delves deep into the nuts and bolts of the tune. Baker’s ‘Ain Temouchant’ sees Ellis come over like Sonny Rollins and it’s a handsome sound full of character. Newk’s ‘St Thomas’ is the next track appropriately enough, though it’s the least effective treatment here, more a jog along than anything else. The Nigerian traditional piece arranged by Baker, ‘Aiko Biaye’, is a good reminder that Baker and Fela Kuti had an understanding and Why can easily be said to be an AfroJazz album.
The title track at the end has a humongous groove beginning briefly like the beat behind ‘Coming Home Baby’ before a spell of offbeat hi-hat clashing, Dankworth coming back to reprise that ‘Coming Home’ thumping momentum and a melody that has a ‘Wade in the Water’ spiritual feel to it Baker scrapping away with a little vocal response from Kudzai and Lisa Baker. No need to ask why at all, just let Baker be. SG