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Rob Wasserman

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A very versatile bassist, Rob Wasserman gained fame as both a leader and collaborator, with his trilogy of recording projects accurately titled Solo, Duets, and Trios ably displaying his creative range in the '80s and '90s. Wasserman began playing the violin when he was 12, not switching to bass until he was already 20. Within a year he was studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and playing with drummer Charles Moffett. The classical training he had received on violin, plus owning a very open mind, frequently came in handy throughout his career. Wasserman picked up early experience working with Dan Hicks, Maria Muldaur, Van Morrison, and Oingo Boingo. In 1983, he recorded Solo for Rounder, receiving very strong reviews. Later, Wasserman became a longtime member of David Grisman's group and also had lengthy stints with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, and the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, with whom he co-founded RatDog in the mid-'90s. Duets in 1988 matched Wasserman with seven very diverse singers (including Bobby McFerrin, Rickie Lee Jones, Cheryl Bentyne, and Lou Reed) and violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Arriving in 1993, Trios had appearances by such performers as Jerry Garcia, Brian and Carnie Wilson, Willie Dixon, Branford Marsalis, and Elvis Costello, among others. Although he worked throughout much of his career as a featured sideman, Wasserman's recordings as a leader were notable and distinctive musical accomplishments. After the release of Solo, Duets, and Trios, the space rock-influenced Space Island blasted off in late 2000, exploring new textures and incorporating hip-hop and electronic elements. He spent the next several years playing with RatDog and appearing with Gov't Mule and Rickie Lee Jones before returning to solo work and releasing Cosmic Farm, a fusion date featuring guitarist Craig Erickson, T. Lavitz on keys, and Jeff Sipe on drums. Rob Wasserman died on June 29, 2016 at 64 years of age. ~ Scott Yanow