Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bass Extremes: S’Low Down (Self-released)

A review of the latest release by the long-running group led by bassists Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Bass Extremes: S'Low Down
The cover of S’Low Down by Bass Extremes

Bassists play together well, sometimes on the same stage. Bass Extremes, the long-running group led by four-string virtuoso Victor Wooten and six-string fretless monster Steve Bailey (with Gregg Bissonette on drums), has taken that concept to the, uh, extreme with its first release in nearly two decades. For S’Low Down, they relied on their bass-world connections—Wooten lives in the Nashville area and runs bass and nature camps; Bailey heads the Berklee bass department—to mix and match a roomful of notable players on 10 originals drawing from jazz, fusion, and other genres.

It’s largely a blast, starting with the giddy, infectiously silly insta-jam of “Ready, Set, Slow,” capped by guest funkateer Bootsy Collins saying, “Just like Motown, you gets the low down.” Wooten’s pal Marcus Miller joins the fun on the funky “Home Bass,” as do Ron Carter and John Patitucci. Béla Fleck’s rolling banjo plucking underscores Bailey’s pretty melody, sometimes doubled by Jeff Coffin’s bass flute, on “The Chrome Addict,” and classical double bassist Edgar Meyer lends some artful bowing to the jaunty theme of “Ping Pong,” named for the leaders’ favorite leisure-time hobby.

S’Low is nothing if not an unusually appealing variety show, a must-hear for bass players. Also on the bill: an overdubbed brass section, via trumpeter Matt White, and guitarist Mike Stern playing six-string bass on “Mess That Up?”; rocker Billy Sheehan’s gritty shredding on “Oh Tell Billy,” also featuring Oteil Burbridge and Linda Oh; and Patitucci’s inspired soloing on “Patchwork,” which references a variety of bebop heads and includes call-and-response figures by JP, Wooten, and Bailey. “We’re not as concerned with technique and chops anymore,” Wooten said to explain the album’s title, also the name of the laidback closing waltz. Take that with a grain of salt.

Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. Sharkskin, the second album from his long-running band, Acme Jazz Garage, has aired on radio stations across the U.S.