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Trilogy by Rob Wasserman

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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.)

About Timothy Jarrett

  • Tom Johnson

    “Put Your Big Toe In the Milk of Humankindness” can be found on two of the recent Costello re-issue bonus discs – first on Spike as a demo and next on Mighty Like A Rose with Wasserman.

    I’m going to have to pick this up at some point. I heard Wasserman on Bruce Cockburn’s The Charity Of Night. His solo on “Pacing the Cage” gives me shivers every single time I hear it. I’d never even heard of the guy before then but I knew he was a phenomenal talent. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already – the whole album is equally fantastic.

  • Jim Carruthers

    “Duets” is one of my favourite albums on vinyl, and after seeing Wasserman on tour with Lou Reed (who has amazing taste in bassists and other sideman over the last 20 years), I really have to get this set.

    Though I’d have to say Steve Swallow is a better bassist, but less known.

  • Tom Johnson

    I think when you get to that level of playing, it’s pretty much impossible to determine a “best” among them. Guys at that level are all so amazing that each can only be judged by his particular specialty, it seems.

  • Mark Saleski

    gotta agree with jim on the Swallow comment. though i don’t tend to rate one player against another.

    Swallow is unreal. not just chops galore either.

    check out Real Book if you can find a copy.