Category Archives: Jamaaladeen Tacuma

Bosses Of The Bass: Andre’s Top 12 Funk/Jazz/Soul Bass Players

Space Bass

Ever since my fourth grade music teacher Mrs. Gockle forced me to give up the upright bass due to her fascination with the melody based violins and violas? A deep life long interest in the bass as a musical instrumental emerged. Started listening for it closer in my fathers jazz records. And it was the foundational element in my favorite form of music-funk.  As time went on? I understood the sound it made to be so flexible,it could bring the melodies right out of the rhythms it created-when in the right hands of course.

As an adult? I’ve gravitated towards listening for how the bass is used on a song. It may have something to do with the old saying about how funk/soul lovers want to turn up the bass with rock fans prefer to turn up the treble. Since my understanding of the bass is almost totally oral rather than academic? The bass players I’m talking about here today may not all be the most renowned or well know. Though many of them are. These are people who have a distinctive approach that just reaches my type of musical ear. So here are my twelve (current) bosses of the funk bass.

James_Jamerson

James Jamerson is one of those bass players even non instrumentalist music lovers can pick out of the crowd in a second. Just listen to the opening of Motown hits he played on like “My Girl”,”Reach Out I’ll Be There”,”Don’t Mess With Bill” and “Just My Imagination”? And you understand how this key member of Motown’s now iconic Funk Brothers house band opened up the melodic possibilities of the electric bass probably more than anyone of his day. Jamerson’s sound probably got stuck in my consciousness those mornings half asleep going into town,from our family summer camp,in 1991 listening to the radio’s Motown Monday’s before I even realized it.

Larry Graham

Larry Graham,Bay Area bass player extraordinaire for Sly & The Family Stone,basically created the slap bass approach to playing that became one of the rudiments of the 70’s funk sound. Even before venturing out on his own with Graham Central Station,a solo career and session playing with Prince later on? Larry had already innovated the fuzz bass as well with the Family Stone’s breakout hit “Dance To The Music”. He’s probably one of the most renowned and famous funk bassist ever of course. And whatever I hear other bassists playing after? In some way it comes down to Larry in the end.

Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins,having spanned playing with the JB’s and than George Clinton’s P-Funk,picked right up in terms of bass innovation where Larry Graham left off. Bootsy’s effect on how I listen to music is one of personality. Rock musicians often call themselves guitar gods. And if I ever wanted to use such a term? Bootsy,with his glittering outfits and superhero like persona,is something of a bass god in that regard. He doesn’t just slap the strings. He pops out thundering,round tones. He snarls his bass like a guitar as well. Collins therefore probably has the most flexible and diverse style of playing the electric bass than many that I’ve heard.

Louis Satterfield

Fellow Earth Wind & Fire member Verdine White once said that everything he learned about bass came from this man,Louis Satterfield. One thing that really makes Satterfield fascinating to me is that he plays two low toned musical instruments: the trombone and the upright/acoustic bass. Often regarded more as a member of the iconic Phenix Horns,Satterfield has a long history playing for Chicago blues greats before essentially becoming the musical godfather of the totally rhythmic experience the bass played in EWF during their key years of the 70’s.

Wilton Felder

Wilter Felder,speaking of horn players,was only known to me to be a bass player as well when my blogging partner Rique informed me one day that Felder played bass on the Jackson 5’s first hit “I Want You Back”. As a bass player? Wilton did the reverse of what Louis Satterfield did. He helped to bring his melodic saxophone approach to his bass playing. Quite appropriate with the key role all the Crusaders played in late 60’s/early 70’s Motown-a label whose music always had a core of the melodic style of bass playing.

Michael Henderson

Michael Henderson,a musical disciple of James Jamerson,helped me to completely come to  terms with my understanding how the bass could be a powerful compositional instrument. Henderson played with Stevie Wonder,Miles Davis,Aretha Franklin and Dr.John in his earlier years before venturing out on his own solo career as a singer. He continued the tradition of melodic bass playing that came directly from his Motown education. And than took it onto a career as a premiere funk performer as well as being an instrumentalist.Louis-Johnson

Louis Johnson,much like James Jamerson before him,entered into my subconscious without me even fully realizing it the very first time I heard Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Johnson’s major contribution to my understanding of the bass came from his fusion of Larry Graham’s slap bass approach with the melodic innovations of Jamerson. This man was a monster play in the Brothers Johnson with his guitarist brother George. Not to mention an enormously important part of Quincy Jones’ iconic Westlake Studios instrumental crew who shaped much of the way I hear pop,funk and soul of the 70’s and 80’s

Bernard Edwards

Bernard Edwards,late of Chic and partner to iconic musician/producer Nile Rodgers in that band,probably did more for innovating the disco bass style within the musical sub-genre of funk than anyone else in his day. One of my very favorite basslines in fact comes from Edwards-the slippery jazz oriented intro to Chic’s 1977 hit “Everybody Dance”. Pretty much every electric bass player today playing danceable pop music has something of Edwards in what they’re playing.

Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller not only helped engineer the early 80’s comeback of Miles Davis. But he also went on to become a star producer and bass player for Luther Vandross at the same time. All before launching his own solo career in the 90’s up to the present day. What gets me about Marcus is how he took the slap bass approaches of funk players such as Larry Graham and Louis Johnson and bought jazz improvisation into the equation-a more hyper melodic alternative to earlier slap bass jazz icon Stanley Clarke. As a multi instrumentalist,he was also able to construct heavily funkified soundscapes with the bass as it’s core rhythmic element as well.

Mark King

Mark King was key of bringing of bringing the fast paced,jazzy slap bass style of Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller into the new wave world as the bandleader for the UK’s jazz/funk/pop band Level 42 during the early/mid 1980’s. Also quite a fluid composer,King was a bass player that I came to love and appreciate within the last decade. And has actually helped me a great deal to understand new wave/synth pop as often being an instrumental outgrowth of American funk.

© Sasa Huzjak

Jamaaladeen Tacuma came out of jazz great Ornette Coleman’s 70’s and 80’s group Primetime to have his own solo career in the 1980’s. Tacuma bought together the free harmelodic approach of Ornette to his bass playing. Listening to his abstract slaps,thumps and vamps really fuel my imagination on just how much the electric bass can really do.

Peter Muller 2

Peter Muller,Berlin resident and modern day bassist,is one of my most recent discoveries. Muller’s sound comes out of the slap bass flower that Larry Graham got going almost half a century ago now. And he’s channeled it all into the jazz-funk revival that’s grown out of the smooth jazz production approach and is currently independently releasing some seriously strong bass oriented jazz/funk albums that have really peaked my interest as a listener.


While I am aware that people such as Stanley Clarke and the late Jaco Pastorious didn’t make this list? Well,these are only the bassists that had the most personal musical influence on me. And the appreciation of what we listen to and for in the music in our lives has a highly individual approach too. At the same time? If you can dance to the beat of the drum? Your probably already on the road to being able to pop to the beat of the bass line as well.

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Filed under Bernard Edwards, Bootsy Collins, Crusaders, Earth Wind & Fire, Funk, Funk Bass, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, James Jamerson, Jazz, Larry Graham, Louis Johnson, Louis Satterfield, Marcus Mller, Mark King, Michael Henderson, Motown, Peter Muller, Wilton Felder

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/7/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Trouble” By Jamaaladeen Tacuma

As a bass player for free jazz saxophone innovator Ornette Coleman’s band Prime Time,Jamaaladeen Tacuma bought the idea of funk’s “bass up front” ethic to Coleman’s harmolodic approach to music during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Especially since he’d already come to Coleman after playing for Charles Earland during his teens in his native Philadelphia  In 1984,the musically precocious Tacuma went out on his own with his group Cosmetic,and pursued an accompanying solo career.His sound grew heavily funk oriented during these this time. In 1991,he released an album called Boss Of The Bass. This album featured a more hip-hop based new jack swing groove-closer to  a harder edged Chuckii Booker than Ornette Coleman. One of the songs on the album stood out not only from this,but also as  social barometer for it’s time frame. It was appropriately called “Trouble”.

Starting out with Tacuma’s bass revving like a motorcycle engine the slow,thick,drum machine and electric slap bass fueled funk jam gets into gear as as the deep,husky soul singer Aziz’s vocals suddenly come on declaring “we’ve got trouble all over the land,we’ve got to make a stand”. The lyrics present the theme of an article in the “dirty press” and and asking why poverty is so ascendant when very few can live like “heirs to a throne”. After the two succeeding choruses,there are two instrumental breaks.  The first showcases Tacuma playing a dirty,snarling funk slap bass solo. The second is begins with a sample of a TV news report talking about an increase in the nuclear arms race before going into an electronic piano solo from Kae Williams Jr-late of the late 70’s/early 80’s  funk band Breakwater.  The main chorus of the song then repeats  itself until the song fades out.

The years between 1991 and 1993 showcased an America that was under pressure in terms of being able to maintain a universalist attitude between all fifty states. In more rural areas,you had the effect of trickle down economics causing mass decay. And in more urban areas,racial profiling and violence became a fact of life all too often. During the time the USSR fell,than US President George Bush got America involved in Operation: Desert Storm in Iraq and than came the senseless beating by Rodney King by the LAPD-following by the LA riots.  Hip-hop has been addressing the matters associated with this for many years before this-from KRS-1 and Public Enemy’s Chuck D. This song bought that sense of social urgency of political hip-hop to a more jazz inclined crowd,many of whom had difficulty with the blunt and sometimes profane language of rap.  And it framed this lyrics,set to a more 60’s/70’s preacher style of lyrics to a hard late 80’s style of funk.

Still this song retains hip-hop’s angrier tone in some of the lyrical content. Aziz’s blunt vocal approach has a very direct flavor to it. Also,while the lyrical content seems directed at working adults-perceiving the ills of the world and their community as they live their lives rather than idealist young people looking to change the world immediately,the lyrics maintain some of the “don’t believe the hype” attitude of late 80’s/early 90’s hip-hop. Generationally speaking? This isn’t surprising since Tacuma and his band mates were generally latter day baby boomers similar to Prince and Michael Jackson-often referred to today as “Generation Jones”. They were the same age as first generation hip-hoppers. So it was only natural that the lyrics of this song reflect both hope for the future and a sense of worried earnestness. Having first heard this closer to it’s time on one of my father’s jazz sampler CD’s? I’ve long considered this an unsung “people music” message song funk anthem for the early 1990’s!

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Filed under 1980's, 1990s, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Ornette Coleman, Public Enemy