First, my background: I am a performer (bass trombone and electric bass) and an instructor. I am also a composer and arranger. My undergraduate degree is in Music Education (Masters in Music Composition); and the majority of my Air Force career was spent in the field of Education and Training.
I "collect" bass guitar method books, always searching for that "perfect" book for the beginning, intermediate, or advanced bassist. "The R&B Bass Masters: The Way They Play" is written by Ed Friedland who, once again demonstrates that he is truly a master at authoring bass method books that are well-organized and easy to understand, yet extremely comprehensive and informative. (I dare say that, if Ed Friedland is the author, then the book is worth purchasing without any further research required!)
Aside from the obligatory introduction, author's biography, acknowledgments and CD track list, "R&B Masters" is divided into 10 chapters, each featuring a different R&B bass legend. Each chapter contains a brief biography of the featured bassist as well as sections on his gear and setup, style and technique, and a lesson with examples from his repertoire (included on the accompanying CD). The lesson examples are explained and analyzed; and written in both standard music notation and tablature. I firmly believe that every bassist (i.e., "musician") should develop as least a rudimentary ability to read music and not rely on tablature. However, this is the precise circumstance where tablature is an invaluable tool to gaining insight as to "how" the R&B master played a particular bass line. What makes this book so great is that the drum part is also included with the music notation and tablature.
In addition (and this is the "icing on the cake"), each chapter includes a selected discography (with recommended "cuts") and a detailed "checklist" which covers each bassist's equipment (type of bass, fingerboard, condition [stock or custom], setup, strings, pickups, and amp), as well as the bassist's tone, attack, signature traits, influences and overall approach.
As an example of how this all fits together, the chapter on Ronnie Baker (one of Philadelphia's top session bassists in the late '60s-mid '70s) states that he used an Ampeg B-15 amp (as a monitor in the studio; but a direct box fed his sound to the mixing board) and a stock, pre-CBS Fender Precision bass with stock Fender Precision split-coil pickups, a rosewood fingerboard, and heavy-gauge flatwound strings (that had "possibly" been marinated in butter!). It goes on to state that his tone was dark with a very dead sound (strings muted at the bridge with masking tape or paper towels) with a very punchy, yet rounded sound. He kept solid time, and his bass lines were unassuming with occasional bursts of flair. He was influenced by Duck Dunn and James Jamerson, and his overall approach to playing the bass was with melodic, laid-back grooves with a behind-the-beat feel. Further insight into Baker's style and technique is provided by comments from his session-soulmate, drummer Earl Young, who states that Baker made sure he knew what was going on by watching the drummer and his kick-drum pedal. "Baker would watch my feet, explained Young. "He sat on my left side and he'd copy whatever my foot was doing."
All in all, a "must have" book for anyone interested in a bassist's perspective of R&B: both its history and bass playing style.