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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bottom-end lovers take note, Jammin' Java's Sunday night show offers three aces of bass, taking their case right to your face.

In the early days of the electric bass guitar -- Leo Fender's 1951 Precision Bass was the first mass-produced such instrument -- it was common for pop and rock musicians to stick to the "bass should be felt, not heard" school of thought. The bassist was most often found in the back near the drum kit playing the root notes and keeping time with the drummer.

All that began to change when funk, jazz fusion and progressive rock began to take off in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Not content to be seen as simply parts of the rhythm section, some bassists began to focus on more melodic and virtuosic playing styles.

Stu Hamm, Billy Sheehan and Jeff Berlin, the three bassists who share the stage with guitarist Jude Gold and drummer John Mader as Bx3, are widely considered the modern maestros of the "lead bass" method of approaching the instrument. Each has earned a reputation as a go-to guy when bandleaders know that only the best bass player will do.

Hamm, in addition to releasing four solo albums, has recorded and toured with guitar wizards Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Frank Gambale. Hamm put Bx3 together in 2006.

Sheehan has toured with Vai and G3 and was a member of ex-Van Halen singer David Lee Roth's band. He had hit records with rockers Mr. Big in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In recent years, he has issued two full-length solo recordings.

Berlin's credits include four solo albums as well as stints with prestigious artists including drummer Bill Bruford and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, prog rockers Yes and singer-guitarist George Benson. A founding member of the Bass Institute of Technology in Los Angeles, Berlin also founded the Players School of Music in Clearwater, Fla.

The three musicians have combined to win numerous first-place finishes in Guitar Player magazine's readers polls of best rock and jazz bassists, and their names can regularly be found at the top of similar polls around the world.

-- C. WOODROW IRVIN

Jammin' Java is at 227 Maple Ave. E. in Vienna. Tickets are $20. Call 703-255-1566 or visit www.jamminjava.com. For more information, visit www.bx3tour.com.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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