Chris's Top 12 Gal Bassists

Okay, this isn't some analysis of the choppiest female bassists in history covering a range of styles to flaunt my deep knowledge of music history or anything like that. This isn't a hall of fame. For me, it's better: a list of the women who make me feel the deepest when I hear 'em play the bass. Why women? Cos there's something very specific and special about the combination of sensitivity and power a woman brings to the task. Try to tell me I'm wrong! There are certainly many great ones I'm forgetting & anyone could make arguments for a myriad of others; I'm not interested in debating any of that stuff. Just sharing what I love. In alphabetical order by first name:

 

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ANN RUPEL: Getting involved in the East Village music scene in the late '80s/early '90s was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. There were incredibly powerful, cutting-edge ensembles doing brilliant, aggressive music. One group that personified this was No Safety, which included harpist Zeena Parkins, guitarist Chris Cochrane (now firmly entrenched in Church of Betty!) and Ann. She was a muscular player with a brilliant sense of counterpoint. And though no one would mistake No Safety's style for funk, she shook the bottom of the sound like a great funk player.

 

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BRENDA SAUTER: I discovered the Feelies in phase 2 of their golden age, when Brenda was the bassist. Her feel and sound on the Only Life album is one of my favorite supporting sounds in any pop rock album. She also sang great. She just made the music feel right - winsome, sweet, introspective yet groovy as shit.

 

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CATHERINE POPPER: Catherine has had a pretty rich career playing with numerous fine artists, including Ryan Adams, Rachelle Garniez, Joseph Arthur, M Doughty, etc. I know her from just one experience, working on a project for producer Jimi Zhivago in the mid-2000s at the Magic Shop: Tamerlane Phillips, son of John & Michelle. Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley was also involved. Tam had beautiful, simple folky songs and our band was making an amazing sound. Sadly, Tam's guru pulled the plug on his career and the album was never finished. But this woman impressed me so much with her laser execution and deep, deep feel that I've been a huge fan ever since.

 

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CINDY RICKMOND: Cin was a phenomenon in the worlds of pop, dance grooves, grungy rock AND the high ozone of 101 Crustaceans before we met and she joined Church of Betty in 1990. She was the original Betty bassist and drove the band like a Formula One race car engine during the years when New York was discovering our music. She was funky, melodic and packed the punch of a heavyweight boxer. This woman gave me so much. I've always loved her for her passion, power and lioness heart.

 

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FELICE ROSSER: Many moons ago I would see Felice working at the Sidewalk Cafe and had no idea what an unbelievable musician and bandleader she was. Years later I would thrill to the sounds of her group Faith. Her voice is one of the deepest and most powerful I know, and yet it's like velvet. Nina Simone comes to mind, but even deeper. Her ability to compose a complex bass line supporting her song while singing contrapuntally to it is unparalleled.

 

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GWEN SNYDER: aka Blueberry, Gwenny charmed me with her brilliantly eccentric compositional approach, fluid instrumental versatility and crisp command of loungey R&B feel on the bass. I met her around the time we started The Kennel in Dumbo, then a post-industrial wasteland. Through me she met future husband Kenny Siegal. She played a lot of accordion and sang in Church of Betty, but actually replaced me as the bassist in Johnny Society when Kenny and I parted to drive our own ships after the Hand. Since then she has impressively powered a half-dozen JS albums with as big a rock n roll sound as any dude.

 

z-heidiHEIDI RODEWALD: This relentlessly creative creature, who happens to be one of the sweetest people I know, embodies a sensibility I love: LA pop. Her music has evolved far beyond just that, but that's where it's rooted. Longtime partners with Stew, Heidi's bass is the rock upon which their whole oeuvre is built. Her voice is crystalline and seductive, her bass lines are precise yet relaxed, and her ability to write hooks is jaw dropping.

 

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JENNY WADE: In my early years in New York, Rude Buddha was one the groups we looked up to and aspired to be. They were utterly unique, largely based on the style, persona and bone crunching bass playing of Jenny Wade. Her voice was also completely singular; in the years since I've never heard a sound remotely like it. After Rude Buddha she played in other intrepid bands like Vodka, Timber and a group with me and Dan Fisherman called Goulash. Playing with Jenny was a musical thrill for me; I'll never forget it.

 

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ROSE THOMSON: Gender aside, Rose is one of the most powerful bassists I've ever heard, period. Babe the Blue Ox, her group with Tim Thomas, Hanna Fox and Eddie Gormley, was originally a trio (before Eddie) called B.O.X. I'd listen to them at McGovern's Bar in Soho and luxuriate in getting the hair blown right off my head. With a twisted sense of melody, a fetish for hard-turn changes in their music, and Rose's uncanny ability to marry funk and rock n roll in unconventional patterns, these guys were titans of alternative rock. I remain one of their biggest fans.

 

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SARA LEE: When I started listening to Gang of Four in the early '80s, I doubt I even knew the bassist was a woman. I just loved the sound so much I couldn't stop listening to the group. I listened to hear Sara even more than the tunes; she was just the shit. Sara has played a lot of other great music too with the likes of Robert Fripp, the B-52s, Ani DiFranco & the Indigo Girls. But back in the day, Gang of Four was it for me.

 

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TINA WEYMOUTH: She's the godmother of this whole list for me. Talking Heads was an absolute seminal influence; I loved them unabashedly. Tom Tom Club taught me what was possible in the arena of dance music composition. Omnipresent in all this was Tina's pocket, that incredible pocket. She was a master of understatement, always said more with less and played the instrument with supreme elegance.

 

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ZOE GUIGUENO: Relocated to NYC fairly recently from Canada, Zoe is the youngest player on this list. I heard her play with an old friend, brilliant composer/singer/pianist Michael Holt, a couple times and she blew me away. Gorgeous upright player with a nice voice, a great stylist of songs. This woman has already made a lot of great music and has a ton more ahead of her. Keep an ear out!

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