In preparation for a long-overdue post on the mystery that is Carlos Santana (coming soon to a Rock Town Hall near you), I was plowing through some vintage Santana performances, and came across the above, from 1977. It’s not the greatest version of “Carnaval/Let the Children Play” I’ve ever seen or heard, but I was really taken by the performance of Pablo Tellez, the band’s bassist at the time. As I watched him dig in to his instrument (watch in particular at 2:56, and again at 3:54), horsing every note out for maximum impact, I thought (paraphrasing one of my favorite scenes from “Master and Commander”): that’s bassmanship, people; my God, that’s bassmanship.
Bassmanship, in my view, is the ability to stroke the thunderbroom in such a way that you bring extra life, extra swagger, extra joy, and extra extra to an entire band’s performance. It doesn’t mean adding more bass-as-cock-extension hip thrusting, or more Lee Sklar tastiness, or more in-the-pocket/locking-with-the-drummer-whatever-that-actually-means-ness. It means doing what Tellez is doing: making you enjoy the music more by watching the bass player love what he or she is doing.
Who’s got bassmanship? Well, this guy is the all-time heavyweight champion, in my view. Just watch. Don’t tell me he doesn’t know full well just how much he lifts the entire band with his subtle in-place sashay.
Or Dan Hartman, leading Edgar Winter’s White Trash into a whole ‘nuther groovy dimension in this live rendition of “Frankenstein”:
Bruce Foxton? Oh, yeah; bassmanship.
You know who doesn’t have any bassmanship? Bill Fucking Wyman. I actually really dig his playing, but on stage? Give me a break. It’s like watching mold grow.
Just thought I’d share.