Tower of Power

Tower Of Power

Step Up [Mack Avenue]

TOP’s potent latest effort is both a reminder that the inimitable Bay Area horn band is unstoppable, as it enters its 51st year of touring and recording, and a heartfelt tribute to Rocco Prestia. Prestia, who appears on all 14 tracks, co-writing five, is honored in the liner notes as a bass innovator and “the most adored member of the band,” who has retired from the road. A shout-out to current bassist Marc Van Wangeningen is also included. Rocco gets right down to rhythm-and-business with lifelong drumming partner David Garibaldi to provide the bubbling underpinning for the “Oakland Stroke”-like opener and closer, “East Bay All the Way” and the riffy title track. “Look in My Eyes,” the first of two straight tracks Prestia co-wrote with Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman, sports a slick, syncopated start before Rocco settles into his trademark galloping groove. The second collab, “You Da One,” rides Prestia’s percolating, broken-16ths line as only he can phrase it. The Rock is at his most creative on “Sleeping With Ya Baby” and “Beyond My Wildest Dreams.” Both tunes give bass all the space to drive the engine both rhythmically and melodically, and Prestia takes advantage, using chord tones, drop downs, upper-register fills, and counter-rhythms through each composition’s cycle-rich chord changes. The legend lives on. —Chris Jisi

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots

Perdida [Play Pen Music]

Reenergized and inspired with the recent addition of frontman Jeff Guff, Stone Temple Pilots have notched a new first in their already illustrious careers by releasing an album of all acoustic songs. Robert DeLeo’s rich, warm acoustic tone and sturdy rhythmic playing fills out the album of ten originals, giving listeners insight on exactly how big of a hand DeLeo has in STP’s writing process. But beyond foundational support, DeLeo shows off his superb melodicism, delivering winding, soulful, beautiful moments throughout the record. “I Didn’t Know the Time,” “Years,” and “Sunburst” show exactly how important and central DeLeo is to the music of STP, while also giving a masterclass in how to melodically support a vocalist with the bass. —Jon D’Auria

Ben Kenney

Ben Kenney

Must Be Nice [Ghetto Crush]

For his sixth solo release, Ben Kenney flexes his muscles as a multi-instrumentalist and once again lets fans inside the musical headspace of his personal stylings. A mastermind of tones and themes who gives acute, meticulous attention to detail in his songwriting, the Incubus bassist tees off on his newest creation, oscillating from aggressive, dirty, and heavy to melodic, vulnerable, and decisively self-aware. His crushing tones on “Over Me” and “Red Hot” lay a vast contrast to the soulful pop sensibilities of “No Lives,” Blue Tint,” and “Sidereal.” More than being in awe of his mastery of bass, guitar, drums, vocal range, and production, the biggest takeaway from this album is that Kenney is an extreme fan of vastly different musical genres and knows how to authentically summon them at his will. —Jon D’Auria

Teymur Phell

Teymur Phell

Master Volume [teymurphell.com]

New York (by way of Azerbaijan and Israel) 6-string bass guitarist Teymur Phell, best known for his head-turning role in Mike Stern’s trio, swings for the fences on his much-anticipated debut. The ten-song disc launches with its aptly named epicenter track, “Zero to Sixty.” Phell first nods to his Pastorian influence with a burning “Punk Jazz”-reminiscent bass melody (complete with a “Continuum” quote) before settling into a halftime feel to sing his gorgeous wordless melody and take a soulful, arching solo. Stern’s influence and presence can be heard on “Papano Kimono” and “Unfinished Business,” both sporting angular, bluesy heads and 55 Bar-style, funky-two-feels — the former with a wicked Dennis Chambers drum stepout, the latter with a severe solo by Phell. Elsewhere, Phell’s writing and melody rendering are extra-heartfelt on the memorable ballad “Chances Are,” and “Worth the Wait” is a joyous, horn-laden mix of influences riding an odd-time Jaco-esque boogie. Perhaps most defining are the Azerbaijan and Turkish sounds of Phell’s youth, present in everything from his left-hand hammer approach throughout to his fretless work on “Old Window” to the B section of “Sweet Sweep.” —Chris Jisi

Kaveh Rastegar

Kaveh Rastegar

Haunted This Way [Ropeadope]

On his second solo album in just over a year, Kaveh Rastegar steps out of the sideman role with John Legend and sheds the many hats he wears as a musical director, studio ace, and reliable low-ender to reveal his expressiveness as singer–songwriter. Featuring ten songs that were written over an eight-year span, Rastegar focuses on his voice as a lyricist and singer, while holding down many of the album’s instruments. He does all of this without letting his bass playing take a back seat, as his lines shine through with tightly plucked riffs and a diversity of vintage tones. His driving picking on “The Half That Holds My Heart” and “Easy to Please” are great examples of his thoughtful playing on this immensely enjoyable album. —Jon D’Auria

Red 56

Red56

Eminence Funk [Bandcamp]

Best known for his hard-rockin’ stints with Quiet Riot and Dee Snider (and as one of Bass Magazine’s esteemed editors), Freddy Villano turns up the funk and soul on his latest project, inspired by James Brown, Tower Of Power, Brand New Heavies, and an early role in a disco cover band where he realized bass could be the dominant instrument. Partnered with his better half, vocalist Danielle Gorre, and a talented crew of upstate New York musicians, Villano indeed places his basses front, forward, and center — starting with the horn-accented stomp “It’s All Right,” which rides his relentless, galloping 16th-note groove. Switching to a pick, he keeps the wave of pocketed, steady 16ths coming on “Funky Attitude.” Other highpoints include the trippy “Salvation,” which sports a double-time slap B section, the taut, Sly Stone edge of the title track, and the Janis Joplin/jam-band haze of “Just a Little Secret.” —Chris Jisi