BASS PLAYER AWARDS 2021
Bass Player|Holiday 2021
After a year off thanks to the pesky virus, BP’s annual Lifetime Achievement Awards return—and this time we add a new category. Raise your glass to this year’s winners, Marcus Miller, Gail Ann Dorsey, John Taylor and Charles Berthoud.
Here at Bass Player magazine, we’re keenly aware of our position in the bass community. As the first and oldest of a very small number of print magazines about bass in the world, and certainly the only one in the English language, we feel that our job is not only to chronicle events in the world of bass as they occur, but also to celebrate that world and to help it to move forward.

With this in mind, I and my predecessors have made an annual point since 1998 of awarding Lifetime Achievement Awards, in every year where business and/or pandemics haven’t prevented it. You will recall the amazing Bass Player LIVE! events that used to take place for this purpose: a similar live event will return when conditions allow. For now, we’re contenting ourselves with sending out the trophies to the winners, although believe me, we’d much rather be doing it in person and sharing a glass of champagne with as many of you as we could get into a venue. Watch this space!

The number of bass players who deserve this award is long, and growing all the time, making it tough to narrow the winners down to just four, as we have this year. Our legendary quartet are in esteemed company: For the record, here’s a list of the previous winners, which has never appeared in the magazine before, as far as I know.

1998 Milt Hinton, Bobby Rodriguez

1999 Chuck Rainey

2000 Joe Osborn, Percy Heath

2001 Jerry Jemmott, Leo Fender

2002 (no awards)

2003 (no awards)

2004 Anthony Jackson, Will Lee

2005 Ron Carter, Jack Bruce

2006 Stanley Clarke

2007 Lee Sklar, Tony Levin

2008 Carol Kaye, Verdine White, Mike Watt

2009 Rocco Prestia, Charlie Haden

2010 Bootsy Collins, Alphonso Johnson

2011 Jack Casady, James Jamerson, Larry Graham

2012 Chris Squire, Aston Barrett, Jaco Pastorius

2013 Geezer Butler, Lee Rocker

2014 Abe Laboriel, Sr

2015 Lemmy, Nathan East, Louis Johnson 2016 Billy Sheehan, George Porter Jr, Tim Bogert

2017 Flea, Jimmy Johnson, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn

2018 (no awards because BP was changing publishers at the time)

2019 John Patitucci

2020 (no awards thanks to the damn pandemic)

You’ll agree that we’ve barely skimmed the surface of deserving bass players over the years, but we’re doing our best to pay everyone their dues. With that in mind, we’re introducing a new award, the Rising Star trophy: This is aimed at younger players who deserve recognition for the good work they’re doing, even though they haven’t yet racked up many years in the limelight.

Without further ado, please join us in congratulating Marcus Miller, Gail Ann Dorsey, John Taylor, and Charles Berthoud as our award winners of 2021, and we’ll see you in a year, when we’ll do this all over again. Who knows... maybe it’ll be you in ’22! Joel McIver, Editor

MARCUS MILLER

The great Miles Davis alumnus takes home a much-deserved and long-overdue award after five decades at the top. We salute the maestro

Bassist extraordinaire, saxophonist, producer, composer, session musician, and one-man phenomenon Marcus Miller will require little introduction for most readers of this magazine. He first came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’s band in 1981, remaining with the jazz icon for the next eight years, and then built a phenomenal catalog of over 500 session performances, playing with Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Frank Sinatra, George Benson, Elton John, Donald Fagen, and many, many other top-flight artists. A high point came when Miller, Victor Wooten, and Stanley Clarke joined forces as SMV in 2008. Few bassists are as overdue for our Lifetime Achievement award as Miller: We’re glad we can now rectify that situation.

We’re delighted to present you with a Lifetime Achievement award, Marcus. Well, thank you. It’s very nice and I appreciate it. I’ve been playing bass professionally since the Seventies, so it feels great, especially after the last two years. I’m finally starting to play gigs and also do some producing.

How do you view the role of producer? You know, the producer basically supplies whatever is necessary. In some projects, my job is to help the artists get the best version of their vision that they can. In other projects, the artists are actually looking for me to help provide them with a sound. When I produced Miles Davis, it was more like, ‘Hey, Miles, here’s a new direction if you’re into it’, but when I worked with Luther Vandross, it was more about me helping him communicate with his musicians. I helped him with the orchestrations and with the mixing, in those more supportive roles—so whatever it is that is needed, that is what the producer will supply. But you know, it’s the same as when you were in your garage with your band when you were a teenager, working stuff out and recording it. You’d hear it back and say, ‘Hey, maybe when we do this guitar part, you might want to do something different?’ You know what I mean? It’s just a more official version.

“I met Marcus Miller many, many moons ago. I believe he was around 16 or 17. Through his conversation and his playing, I knew then that he was on a fast track to becoming a very, very special musician. He showed us at a very young age that his eyes were focused well beyond the bass. Not only did he become one of the world’s premier bassists, but also a producer of records, a film composer, a songwriter and an arranger as well as a bandleader. This Lifetime Achievement Award is well deserved. I am very proud to call Marcus my friend.” STANLEY CLARKE

Should bass players study music formally? Yes. I mean, if you have great ears, you have great ears, but a formal music education allows you to communicate with people, right? If you’re a musician who can’t read music, and you have a session coming up, you can say, ‘Hey, can you send me the track a few days early, so I can learn it?’, but when I was coming up as a musician, nobody would be sending you a track early. The arranger was writing the arrangement in a taxicab on the way to the studio! When you got to the studio, you had to read it fast, because studio time was expensive. So an education makes things go faster, and it allows people to communicate easier.

What’s your current gear setup? I play my Sire basses, and then there’s my signature Markbass amp, along with Dunlop strings.

How have you changed as a bass player over the years? I think that what I’ve been working on is clarity of thought, clarity of improvisation. I play in digestible phrases, you know. I try to play from my ears and not from my fingers. With a lot of musicians, I can hear their fingers are doing the thinking. Wherever they can get to on their instrument is what they play, but for me, I want to make my bass do what I’m imagining. I want to continue to develop the connection between my ideas. The other thing is that I had a sound that I developed in the early Eighties, so my challenge was, how do I get that sound to fit in the changing times since then? It’s a voice that I’m not willing to abandon, but at the same time, I don’t want my game to sound like it’s 1983. So I’ve had to alter what I’m doing im subtle ways so that it works with new styles.

What are you most proud of, professionally speaking? Oh, man, I’m just proud of having a career. I’ve seen so many other people who’ve had substantial careers, and I’ve seen the whole arc of their career from beginning to end—and I’m still here. When I started out, man, they were doing the original soul and jazz, and I’ve been around long enough to see the resurgence of that music. I’ve seen techno, I’ve seen neo-soul, all that stuff. I’m just really grateful to be around, and to see how music is evolving.

www.marcusmiller.com

GAIL ANN DORSEY

David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Gang Of Four: The great Gail Ann Dorsey is one of the most sought-after bassists in the world, and she’s earned this award many times over.

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