If you were a rock bassist coming of age in the 1970s John Baldwin – aka John Paul Jones – was the standard you aspired to. Every other advert for bass players in the rock music classifieds cited him as a requirement for an audition! Jones, a multi-instrumentalist who enjoyed a successful career as a session musician, arranger, and producer previous to his high-profile tenure with Led Zeppelin, was heavily influenced by Motown icon James Jamerson. In the process, he taught bassists that they needed to go outside the confines of rock to be better at their instrument lest they be limited to a singular genre. Jones’ soulful bass inventions provided a well-founded platform to augment Jimmy Page’s ground breaking guitar work, Robert Plant’s charismatic vocal artistry, and John Henry Bonham’s propensity for poly-rhythms. Though the modest Mr. Jones garnered the least attention in a cooperative of bona fide stars – his mates could not have achieved their individual and collective greatness without him. To my ears, Jones’ masterwork is Led Zeppelin II – though he shines on all the band’s releases.
The most musically adventurous of the ex-Zeps (though Mr. Plant has distinguished himself in recent years), Jones’ wide array of collaborative efforts include dazzling recordings and performances with Diamada Galas, Them Crooked Vultures, Lenny Kravitz, REM, Ben Harper, and Questlove, among many others.
Many a modern metal bassist would be wise raise their instruments above their knees, study music theory and notation, and learn from hard rock’s most accomplished bassist, John Paul Jones.