2019 has been another bass-packed year, with tons of new talent emerging down at the low end to compete with the established heroes of yesteryear.
Funk and jazz bass requires, as ever, the most technically accomplished musicians - and there’s plenty of those bassists in our poll results - but that doesn’t mean that rock, metal and electronica-influenced low end doesn’t get a look in.
We have a truly eclectic range of performers in this Top 10 of 2019’s most popular bass players, headed up by the astounding Snow Owl, whose artistic vision for the bass - and an otherworldly range of techniques - make him truly un-categorisable...
Joel McIver, Editor, Bass Guitar and Bass Player magazines
1. Snow Owl
Born in Colombia, raised in the USA and now resident in Austria, Juan Garcia-Herreros - Snow Owl to his disciples - unites a whole world of bass. Having honed his skills with Elton John and elsewhere, Juan is now an acclaimed solo artist as well as holding down the low end at stadium shows for Hans Zimmer. Truly a bassist for our times.
2. Robert Trujillo (Metallica)
The thinking man’s metal bassist, the great Robert Trujillo also spent time this year flexing his slapping thumb in the funk-metal band Infectious Grooves - but of course he’s best known for his astonishing fingerstyle speed in Metallica, the biggest heavy metal band there has ever been or ever will be.
3. Victor Wooten
Arguably the most technically accomplished bass player in the world, the mighty Wooten continues to attract wholly justified levels of adulation - but the man himself doesn’t require such acclaim or indeed, take it seriously. His philosophy of bass playing as a language that we can all learn is one that applies to us all.
4. Joe Dart (Vulfpeck)
Every generation of bass has its hot young gunslinger, and Joe is the bassist of today’s cohort, delivering fleet-fingered funk lines with the pulverisingly energetic Vulfpeck collective. Sure, his influences are obvious, but he takes the established Flea/Rocco bite and makes it all his own. Proof that new bass talent always comes along.
5. Stanley Clarke
At 68, the veteran jazzer Clarke is still the bassist to measure up to. A master beyond all reasonable standards of electric and upright bass in a variety of idioms, he’s also a prolific composer of original music and soundtracks - as well as the bassist who first pioneered that trademark bent-wrist picking-hand position (ouch).
6. John Patitucci
We gave ‘Patitooch’ Bass Player’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Guitar Show back in September for good reason. A sublime composer in many fields of endeavour with four Grammy awards, he marries supreme technique with a mastery of jazz harmony that is almost superhuman. One of the absolute greats.
7. Stuart Hamm
If Stu Hamm can’t play it, it doesn’t deserve to be played - but the legendary session and solo star isn’t just about fast fingers. His compositional style is courageous, forward-thinking and restless, even after four decades at the top, so place Stu in the shredder category at your peril. He’s a master educator to boot.
8. Henrik Linder (Dirty Loops)
Swedish bassist Henrik has earned his stripes several times over as a member of the jazz-funk band Dirty Loops as well as with his phenomenal sessions. While his star has never risen quite as high as his contemporary Joe Dart - a player with a similarly broad outlook when it comes to bass - he commands a large set of disciples, as indeed he should.
9. Ida Nielsen
Singer, songwriter, solo and session bassist and member of the short list of elite bassists who held down a groove with Prince, Ida Nielsen plays circles around more or less any other bassist we can think of. Although her work with the late Prince is obviously her best known, it sometimes overshadows her excellent solo music, so make sure you dig into it.
10. Yolanda Charles
Robbie Williams, Paul Weller, Mick Jagger, Squeeze, Hans Zimmer - just some of the names on Yolanda Charles’s phenomenal CV. She also runs her own bands and is an educator and clinician, delivering a career’s worth of wisdom to a new generation of admirers. Little wonder she made this list - it’s bassists such as Yolanda who form the heart of our community.