Bass Extremes

S’Low Down

Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten’s recording, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their group Bass Extremes, is a largely satisfying representation of modern bass. Everybody who is anybody in the contemporary bass pantheon, from jazz icons Ron Carter and Marcus Miller to classical master Edgar Meyer and Tool’s Justin Chancellor, is in this mix.

Credit Bailey and Wooten for a collegiality and patience they didn’t possess 30 years ago. Credit them, too, for assembling a recording that sets genre against genre.

The group’s third album and its first in 20 years starts with a Bootsy Collins vocal that gives way to the ever-tasteful drummer Greg Bissonette, essentially the third member of Bass Extremes. On “The Chrome Addict,” the band goes chromatic (this shifty aggregation loves puns), deepening texture with bass clarinetist Jeff Coffin, pizzicato bass from Otell Burbridge, bass harmonica from Howard Levy and bass banjo from Béla Fleck.

At best, S’Low Down nails the groove, and it’s rigorously contemporary, spanning the cartoon funk of Collins, the principals’ adaptable virtuosity, even the unexpected pop of fusion master guitarist Mike Stern on six-string bass.

At worst, this group can seem reluctant to end a tune. “Justin Time” feels aimless despite its diversity, and “Silent Night In Tunisia,” Bissonette’s channeling of Art Blakey in an amalgam of Christmas carol and bop classic, is cute but gimmicky.

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