Beauty and the Bass: Eight Great Female Bass Players
Leave it to the ladies to handle the bass with flair. Check out these eight pros who have stepped up to hold it down.
From jazz to metalcore, and just about everything in between, these eight artists boldly go where few women have gone … before, now or ever!
Melissa Auf Der Maur is a visual artist first and a bass player second. It came as an unexpected, yet appropriate surprise that her second solo album, Out of Our Minds (2010), was released as a multimedia trifecta: a record, a comic and a film. This multidimensional project is the culmination of Auf Der Maur’s incredible artistic journey.
First, she attended a performing arts school from first grade through high school. She continued on to study fine-art photography at Concordia University in her native Montreal, Quebec. Finally, her transition from a visual artist to musician took place. She joined Hole after the death of bassist Kristen Pfaff in the early ‘90s.
After her five-year contract ended, Auf Der Maur played bass with Smashing Pumpkins for a year. Her latest album is just the cherry-on-top of her phenomenal career. Needless to say, this chick rocks!
Check out some live MAdM here:
Jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding has a lot to brag about. Not only did she become the first jazz musician to take home the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, but simultaneously stole the title from Justin Bieber! ... And deservingly so! By age 5, Spalding was a self-taught violinist playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon.
A multi-instrumentalist, Spalding played the oboe and clarinet before finally landing on the bass in high school. Her outstanding musicianship hardly went unrecognized. Shortly after graduation from Berklee College of Music, she was hired onto the faculty of her alma mater at the young age of 20.
Spalding’s latest album, Chamber Music Society, was released in August 2010. After she took home the Grammy, the album regained its spot on the Billboard 200 at an impressive No. 34. On top of all that, she’s got a bangin’ fro!
Watch her groove at the 2009 Nobel Peace Price Concert:
Wanna know the behind-the-scenes dirt on White Zombie? Then meet Sean Yseult. In November 2010, Yseult released I’m in the Band, a book containing tour diaries and photos as well as detailing her 11 years spent as a member of White Zombie. Yseult played bass in White Zombie for 11 years before they disbanded in 1998.
But kickass bass isn’t all that Yseult lives for. Before her days as a bassist, Yseult earned her degree in graphic design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and had attended North Carolina School of the Arts for high school. Check out her boldly designed line of accessories and prints. As in-your-face as a rockin’ bass and somewhat practical, too! Shop and rock right here.
Check out this video tribute to Yseult:
With 10 career Grammy nominations, Meshell Ndegeocello is a true multi-genre artist, incorporating funk, soul, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, rock and jazz into her creations. Credited for having "sparked the neo-soul movement," Ndegeocello was one of the first artists to sign with Madonna’s Maverick Records.
She’s been called upon to play with legends like the Rolling Stones and Alanis Morissette, and her songs have appeared on soundtracks for innumerable films, including How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Batman and Robin, Soul Men and many more. Equally talented as a singer and bass player, Ndegeocello’s November 2011 release, Weather, shows a kinder, gentler, more contented artist who has come to terms with her place in the world. Check out this bass-arific taste here!
You know you have mad skills when Jeff Beck recognizes your talent when you're the ripe old age of 21. Australian-born Tal Wilkenfeld (pictured at the top of this blog post) fulfilled her dream of becoming a successful musician by doing what we all dreamed of in high school: dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to study the electric guitar.
She switched to bass within a year, and then graduated from the Los Angeles Music Academy in 2004. Now only 24, Wilkenfeld is commonly hailed as “the rising star of the bass guitar.” She has collaborated with a laundry list of crazy famous musicians including Jeff Beck, Chick Corea, Prince, Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Sting and so many more.
Wilkenfeld is working on an album that is set to release this year. This quote from Jeff Beck is too sweet to leave out: “I have witnessed special moments in my time, but to see all those ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ blues fanatics and guitar freaks go berserk half way through her solo left me emotional, and that is an understatement. The word proud is barely adequate.”
Watch her solo at the Crossroads Festival 2007 in Chicago with Jeff Beck:
Radio DJ David Jensen said that Quatro “took rock music by the scruff of the neck and empowered women by becoming a major rock star.” Quatro began her musical career at the age of 14, playing the bass in the all-female bands The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle with her sisters Patti, Nancy and Arlene.
But it may be her role as Leather Tuscadero on the hit show Happy Days that brought her the most U.S. exposure. With hits in the UK, Europe and Australia, Quatro is estimated to have sold more than 50 million records over her lengthy, take-no-prisoners career, and continues to perform more than 100 shows a year. She released her 15th studio album, In the Spotlight, in August 2011 and just released this new video of “Strict Machine” in November. She still struts her leather and rocks it like she means it!
Thirty years. That's how much time has passed since Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore formed Sonic Youth. Once the princess of New York's '80s underground music scene and now a hip cool mom with a clothing line, Kim has powered through the years with finesse, flair and a freakin’ hot bod.
Sonic Youth recently completed a tour this past November in South America. The future of the band is up in the air following the marriage separation between Kim and Thurston. Whatever happens, Sonic Youth has made its mark in musical history and none of it would have been possible without Kim.
Here’s a video of Sonic Youth playing live on The South Bank Show in 1989:
Hailing from Springfield, Mass., Jeanne Sagan holds down the bottom end and belts out backing vocals for the metalcore band All That Remains. Former bassist for The Acacia Strain, she paid her dues working merchandise tables for Prosthetic Records, and was asked to join All That Remains after bassist Matt Deis left. The only female performer on the Mayhem tour, Sagan jumped in with both feet. In a 2009 interview she reveals that her favorite place to play is Sweden!
Feel the scream on this official video of the band’s song “Hold On”:
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.