Between 1983 and 1994, bassist Rob Wasserman released three albums: Solo, Duets, and Trios. Essentially side projects by a top sideman (Stephane Grappelli, Rickie Lee Jones, Lou Reed, Grateful Dead, Bob Weir), the albums were a lot more than your typical vanity recording: they showcased Rob and his collaborators in some of the most amazing bass solo recordings, duets, and bass-led ensembles in pop (and jazz) music. The three albums have now been re-released as a box set, Trilogy, with two bonus tracks and additional notes, and put together they provide a rounded picture of the bass player as songwriter, leader, performer, and musical instigator unlike any I’ve heard.
I was most of the way through college when I heard Trios for the first time. Some tracks (notably the Bruce Hornsby and Elvis Costello tunes) drew me in immediately; others (notably the two Edie Brickell/Jerry Garcia improvs) left me cold. But I was still intrigued. Not intrigued enough, sadly, to go back and check out the previous two albums, which prove to be masterpieces of bass virtuoso work (Solo) and of stripped-down standards performances that are achingly exposed and impactful (Duets).
Good stuff all around, particularly the second disc, Duets, which stands for me as a classic. (And I’ve been looking for the Elvis Costello tune on Trios, “Put Your Big Toe In the Milk of Humankindness,” for almost eight years now, and it’s still as goofily good as it ever was.)