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Some favorite fretless bass guitar tracks

Rob Allen Mouse 30 Fretless Electric Bass Guitar

One of my own fretless electric bass guitars, made by Rob Allen

I love the sound of the fretless bass guitar. Apparently the modern version of this instrument was invented in 1961 by Bill Wyman, bass player of the Rolling Stones, though it was popularized starting in the early ’70s  by Jaco Pastorius, best known for his work with Weather Report.

Jaco kicks of my selection of favorite fretless bass tracks. There are dozens, even hundreds, of mind-blowing Jaco recordings to choose from (I tend to prefer his recordings accompanying others to those he led under his own name). A great introduction to his style and to fretless bass in general is the title track from Pat Metheny’s first solo album, Bright Size Life. Recorded in 1975, this recording is also one of Jaco’s first.

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Next up is Mark Egan, a prolific modern bassist probably best known for electric jazz (and also for his work with Pat Metheny). One of his many rock credits is So Red the Rose, a 1985 “art project” album by most of the members of Duran Duran. His playing on “The Promise” inspired me to get a fretless bass guitar. The song is essentially a duet between his up-front bass and Simon Lebon (with some great “Money for Nothing”-style background vocals from Sting, not to mention guitar by David Gilmour and keyboards by Herbie Hancock). Just listen to the huuuuge slides up and down the fingerboard.

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And third for this post is a bassist not known for fretless: the late Allen Woody, who played with Gov’t Mule and The Allman Brothers Band. The superb Shades of Two Worlds solidified the Allman Brothers’ early ’90s comeback, and it ends with an acoustic version of Robert Johnson’s classic blues “Come On In My Kitchen.”

Woody must be playing a five string acoustic bass guitar here, because he goes down low. And it sounds great, immaculately produced by the great Tom Dowd. Turn this one up loud (and like all of these, play on on a setup that can reproduce the very low frequencies – not your laptop computer).

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And I can’t resist one Jaco Pastorius bonus track: “Coyote” from Joni Mitchell’s Hejira. Jaco just in a great place, easing all around and through the song – he’s a character.

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  • Jaco Pastorius on Wikipedia here
    • Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life on Amazon here
    • Joni Mitchell’s Hejira on Amazon here
  • Mark Egan on Wikipedia here
    • Arcadia’s So Red the Rose on Amazon here
  • Allen Woody on Wikipedia here
    • The Allman Brothers Band’s Shades of Two Worlds on Amazon here

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One Comment

  1. Kristina

    It’s so cool that much of my favorite music as a grew up tends to have ties back to some of the same people. I’ve always loved Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, The Firm (from the 80’s) Weather Report, some Paul Young… After looking into to it a little more it’s just a couple fretless bass players

    Posted on 02-Sep-10 at 8:49 am | Permalink

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