The ten best jazz bassists of all time

In jazz discussions, the saxophonists and the trumpeters generally dominate the conversation, and rightly so. Equally as integral to the music, though, is the rest of the band. While we've already listed the top guitarists and pianists, today we focus on those holding down the low-end. Although there are a number of exceptional bassists worthy of consideration, these are the ten best jazz bassists of all time.

See also: Ten essential jazz albums if you know squat about jazz

10. Ray Brown While Ray Brown could swing heavy with bebop pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie, he's probably best known for part in pianist Oscar Peterson's trio from 1951-1966. Brown's buoyant playing seemed to match Peterson's relaxed attack on the piano. The bassist, who was briefly married to Ella Fitzgerald, backed up the singer, as well as countless other jazz luminaries until he passed away at the age of 75 in 2002. Brown released dozens of discs under his own name from the mid '40s to the early 2000s.

9. Paul Chambers John Coltrane once said, "Paul Chambers was one of the greatest bass players in jazz. His playing is beyond what I could say about it." Chambers played a vital role in both the Prestige recordings of Coltrane, as well as a part of Miles Davis's first great quintet, appearing on the 1959 landmark album, Kind of Blue. Chambers, who died at the age of 33, also released some fine recordings as a leader, namely Whims of Chambers and Bass on Top.

8. Dave Holland Over the last five decades, Dave Holland has established himself as one of the most skilled bassists in jazz. As a leader, the English bassist released some excellent forward-thinking recordings, like his 1972 debut, Conference of the Birds, which also featured Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers, and 1982's Jumpin' In, which featured frequent collaborator, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. His later work on his own Dare2 imprint over the past decade or so is also highly recommended.

Upcoming Events

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >