Acoustic bass master Rob Wasserman is best known as Bob Weir's former compadre in both Ratdog and with their acoustic duo Bob and Rob. Now playing with other performers and projects, Wasserman is still highly regarded as an innovative stand-up bassist. Rob's new three-disc set Trilogy is a compilation of his previously released Solo, Duets, and Trios albums.
Solo highlights Rob's work on acoustic bass in a solo setting. All of the pieces are original compositions written by Wasserman for this purpose. Rob proves that the acoustic bass can be a solo instrument and his offerings here are compelling.
Duets showcases Rob's collaborations with a wide array of performers, like Aaron Neville, Rickie Lee Jones, Lou Reed, Bobby McFerrin, the late Stephane Grapelli, and others. Covering such American songbook classics like "Over the Rainbow," "Stardust," "Autumn Leaves," and "One For My Baby," along with a few songs written by Jones and McFerrin, Wasserman's style of playing both rhythm and melody at the same time reveals he can apply this to any style of music with great skill.
The unique idea of duets was expanded with the third disc Trios. As the title implies, this is a series of trios in which Rob collaborates on each number with two other interesting musicians. Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis appear on the Hornsby-penned "White Wheeled Limousine," which was later recorded by Hornsby with his band and covered by the Grateful Dead in 1991 when Hornsby was a temporary member of that band. Probably the most adventurous tunes on the disc are the improvisations of Edie Brickell and the late Jerry Garcia on "American Popsicle" and "Zillionaire," with Edie making up the silly lyrics on the spot. The newly-written "Easy Answers," a Weir/Hunter tune, first makes an appearance here with a collaboration finding Neil Young and Bob Weir teaming up; later this song would go on to be a Grateful Dead standard in the mid-90s, though this raw version with Neil is by far my favorite.
Trilogy is a great retrospective of Rob Wasserman's work through the '80s and '90s. A greater appreciation of his skill and influence on other upright bassists can be traced through these discs.
Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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