Your Top 10 Bass Albums

Q: I’m curious. What are your top 10 bass albums. What albums do you think everybody should hear?

A: I hesitated to answer this because of the inherently subjective nature of the question. My top 10 albums are not likely to coincide with yours, but I ultimately decided that for that reason alone, I should answer the question! Maybe I’ll turn somebody on to something. If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to get other lists as well.

I couldn’t possibly rate them, so I’ll just list some of my most musically inspiring albums. These are the albums that got me shedding, made me consider my voice or just struck me as music everybody bassist should hear.

Victor Wooten: A Show of Hands

Victor Wooten: A Show of HandsAmazon / iTunes

I have to list this one as it completely changed my perspective in college. The freedom Victor Wooten has on his instrument. The deep groove and time-feel. I just didn’t know you could do that, to state it simply (and I think that a lot of us felt the same way). This album opened my eyes to the reality that one could do anything they wanted when creating art. This album made me want to really explore my bass and what it could do.

Weather Report 8:30 (Live)

Weather Report: 8:30 (Live)Amazon / iTunes

In my opinion, still the best live album on the planet. After having quit playing bass for 7 years to focus on drums (from 13 – 20), this album is the reason that I picked it back up again. The thing I love about Jaco Pastorius is that he was coming from an R&B background. He played jazz as if it was soul music, and I think that is the thing that made him so unique. This album is that band at it’s best, I think.

Munir Hossn: Made In Nordeste

Munir Hossn: Made In NordesteAmazon / iTunes

Munir Hossn is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and satisfying musicians to come around in a long time. This album specifically just couldn’t be any better, to my ears. So musical, so rhythmically happening, so listenable… This is just about the only album I’ve listened to since it came out and one of the few that I listen to from front to back without skipping anything. Absolutely perfection. I want to be Munir when I grow up.

Avishai Cohen: Gently Disturbed

Avishai Cohen Trio: Gently DisturbedAmazon / iTunes

It’s insincere for me to actually pick just one of Avishai Cohen’s albums. I have them all and really love most of them. It’s not Avishai’s bass playing that gets me, though. It’s his compositions and rhythmic sensibilities. This trio was one of my favorites of his many incarnations, but you should also check out the larger ensemble recordings as well. Really fantastic music! I feel like getting hooked on Avishai’s music gave me a better sense of scope in my approach to music.

Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit: Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit

Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue UnitAmazon / iTunes

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Oteil Burbridge. He has an enormous influence on my playing in college and beyond. I much preferred their live shows to any of the albums (you just couldn’t capture those guys in a bottle in the 90’s. I think they were the best live non-jazz band of the 90’s). Everybody bassist should be aware of Oteil from his early days straight on through his time with the Allman Brothers and beyond. A class act and of my favorite bassists of all time.

D’Angelo: Voodoo

D’Angelo: VoodooAmazon / iTunes

Pino Palladino, Raphael Saadiq and Charlie Hunter (playing bass and guitar simultaneously in his specialized way) all have bass credits on this album, and it is the gold standard for “neo-soul” groove playing (D’Angelo also played all instruments on “One Mo’ Gin”). I feel like every one of D’Angelo’s albums should be required for any bassist interested in learning how to really groove. I had to pick one so… Voodoo!

Michel Camilo: Triangulo

Michel Camilo: TrianguloAmazon / iTunes

This is the album that fully introduced me to both Anthony Jackson and latin jazz in a meaningful way. I wore this puppy out! A masterfully played latin jazz piano trio album and one I reference often in my mind when playing similar styles.

Dave Holland: Extensions

Dave Holland: ExtensionsAmazon / iTunes

This album by Dave Holland killed me back in the day. This was my introduction to Kevin Eubanks, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and crew. Aggressive, beautiful, modern, swinging… This was the first time I thought to myself, “maybe something can swing AND be awesome” (I really didn’t like jazz much back in the day. Beyond 8:30, I didn’t get it yet). Totally killing.

Meshell Ndegeocello: Plantation Lullabies

Meshell Ndegeocello: Plantation LullabiesAmazon / iTunes

Meshell Ndegeocello changed my world with her first two albums (they’re all great in one way or another but man… those first two? Whoooooo!) The groove is THICK and her playing is phenomenal. She embodies the groove. So deep. Either this or Peace Beyond Passion. Take your pick.

Richard Bona: Scenes From My Life

Richard Bona: Scenes From My LifeAmazon / iTunes

It’s hard for me to pick a single Richard Bona album, but he had a severe impact on me when I first heard him. That voice and that playing?! what? The beautiful thing is that his albums are incredibly musical and beautiful. He doesn’t do a lot of the flashier stuff from his live shows – it’s all about the songs and the band as a whole. Bona changed my world when I first heard him. I had the pleasure of playing alongside him for a week at the Blue Note in Tokyo (with the Jaco Pastorius Big Band tribute band) and he was a wonderful hang. A very sweet dude and one hell of a player.

Okay, that’s my 10! Let’s hear it from you all. What albums helped to shape you into the player you are today? Please share your list in the comments.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. luckyme

    thanks pal?now I finally know the song’s name—?overjoyed??I‘ve completely forgotten the artist’s name?but the melody is unforgettable

  2. Scott Isaacson

    Any of the “CAB” recordings…Bunny is a killer! S. Ckarke’s “School Days” it opened my ears to what a bass could do. Also a M.Miller recording, I can’t remember the specific record…but it had the track ‘ Strange fruit’ on it.