Tim Lefebvre: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Tim Lefebvre: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Feature Photo courtesy of Tim Lefebvre

When an artist needs a bassist who can handle any genre, there are a few they could call on. But lately, as evidenced by his outstanding work with the likes of David Bowie, The Black Crowes, Elvis Costello, Sting, John Mayer, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, and more, the go-to bassist that many rely on most to settle their four-string needs is Tim Lefebvre.

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and despite his lofty resume, neither was Tim Lefebvre’s status as a bass dragon slayer. But still, it’s incredible to see (and hear) what he’s laid down over the years—the most iconic of which may well be his groovy work on David Bowie’s final record, the uber-amazing Blackstar.

But while Blackstar—and the rest of his discography—speaks volumes, his linguistic approach bred through bouts of hyper-experimentation sets Tim Lefebvre apart most. While some bassists are purists, choosing to plug and play, Lefebvre is a mad scientist, interchanging pedals and calling upon different bass rigs in an ever-persistent chase for the perfect tone.

In reality, though, no one tone will settle things for Lefebvre. No, he’ll forever be searching for new soundscapes. And once he finds and tames them, he’ll be back on the hunt for more. Such is life for a genre-hopping bassist extraordinaire. It’s par for the course, and for Tim Lefebvre, it’s all part of the process.

During a break from the action, Tim Lefebvre beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into the ten albums that changed his life. Can you spot any of your favorites?

Sea Change – Beck (2002)

I knew Beck from the radio, of course, but as I was in L.A. in 2004. working on the Ocean’s 12 soundtrack, David Holmes, the composer/producer, shared all the temp music and a treasure trove of other music with me. So much of it changed the way I play bass. This was one of the dozens of records Holmes shared with me that moved me.

I got really into Justin Meldal Johnsen’s playing from this record (I credit JMJ as an influence on Bowie’s Blackstar). Also, I came to realize the large influence of Serge Gainsbourg’s music on these guys. So, I went down that rabbit hole, too. The picked bass aesthetic is something I have really gravitated to since discovering all these vintage and vintage-influenced soundtracks and records. It’s such a cool avenue to go down!

Plantation Lullabies – Meshell Ndegeocello (1993)

It was early ’90s New York when I first heard Plantation Lullabies. I had just moved there, and it became my NYC soundtrack. “Obsessed” doesn’t even begin to cover how deep I dove into this record—classic funk, yet all new and twisted up in such a cool way. And the bass and the chords were super avant.

Like “Step into the Projects” playing and writing! Just mind-boggling! There have been a couple of electric bass “earthquakes” where a record comes along and just blows your mind. This is up there with Jaco Pastorius’s Word of Mouth and D’Angelo’s Voodoo. To this day, Meshell is and remains a significant influence on me.

White City: A Novel – Pete Townshend (1985)

Okay, even before all the D’Angelo stuff, how about Pino Palladino on “Give Blood?” Lordy, it’s so bold and fiery! You can hear Jaco’s influence all over this, but Pino gives it his own slant. This absolutely blew my mind. We all knew Pino was playing a lot of fretless on hits from the ’80s, but when this hit—watch out! If anyone wonders if Pino could shred, check this out! The track features David Gilmore from Pink Floyd, Simon Phillips, and Pete, who is amazing with the writing on this one.

We Want Miles – Miles Davis (1982)

An improvised groove Bible! I stole so many ideas from Marcus Miller on this record. Like down tuning, neck pickup funk, the slap pockets; this was so huge. Marcus was and is a creative force and such a tremendous influence on me. That era, man, you had Victor Bailey, Marcus, and Darryl Jones—sheesh!

Black Codes (From the Underground) – Wynton Marsalis (1985)

Man, when this record hit, wow! Absolute fire. It’s still my favorite Wynton record. The way these guys built solo sections and played over vamps; they were always creating. Kenny Kirkland, Tain Watts, Branford, and Charnette Moffett (RIP) were just fierce! I wanted to play that way at every gig; I did after that.

Tain took the Elvin Jones thing and propelled it into the 21st century. I can put this record on at any time and be inspired by it. Nobody swung harder than Kenny Kirkland; I love how he surprises the guys by taking another chorus on the title track (8:15 or so). He still builds into another epic moment, then perfectly takes them out to the outro.

Sorcerer – Miles Davis (1967)

Can you say: “A band at the absolute peak of their powers?” If not, I will! I love everything about this band. Miles, Wayne [Shorter], Herbie [Hancock], Ron [Carter], and Tony [Williams]—is there a t-shirt of this? Such awesome obtuse unison heads. Were they playing the form or playing free? I love how Herbie lays out so much, and usually, that’s when things get quiet.

But that’s now how it is with Tony Williams; if anything, it lights a bigger fire under his ass—and especially under Wayne Shorter’s solos. My Favorite tune is “Limbo.” Chords? What chords? Ron Carter underpins this whole thing beautifully in and out of six and four. Also, on “The Sorcerer,” I love how Ron and Tony play those medium-up tempos. It’s so meaty and interactive. It’s an awe-inspiring series of recordings from that lineup.

The Violent Sleep of Reason – Meshuggah (2016)

My roommate in Santa Monica, Troy Zeigler (drummer and all-around great musician and dude), turned me onto some live Meshuggah clips, and I was immediately hooked. I started listening to Nothing quite a bit and learned some chunks of Straws Pulled at Random. And then Koloss came out, and again, my mind was blown. No one is playing the kinds of rhythms these guys are.

The writing on songs like “Do Not Look Down” is just stunning, and the tuning of the guitars gives the songs a different kind of weight. So, anyway, Violent Sleep came out, and I thought, “Why does it sound different this time around?”

Well, apparently, they tracked it live. You can tell. It’s more “fun” to my ears! Anyway, I’m obsessed with “Born into Dissonance.” It was clearly done in 4/4 [time], like all their stuff, more or less, but this one destroys me. Their rhythmic and sonic influence pervades everything I do these days. Thanks for the hookup, Troy!

Fair Warning – Van Halen (1981)

Some of the finest guitar playing you’ll ever hear. My God… the intro to “Mean Streets” is one for the ages! I met Eddie Van Halen backstage at a Bryan Adams show at the Greek. He was fuckin’ around on an acoustic guitar.

I meekly asked if he could play that intro for me, and he did it effortlessly on a non-optimal guitar. I was obsessed with Van Halen and Rush in middle school. I learned so many of Michael Anthony’s parts, so Fair Warning and Women and Children First were staples for me as I was learning to play bass as a kid.

Hard Believer – Fink (2014)

No list I make about influential records should be without Fink, whose music I am always obsessed with. As a producer, I implement ideas I gleaned from all of Fink’s records. The magical voice, DADGAD guitar tuning, Roland Space Echo sprinkled about, tasty, simple piano ideas, super deep bass tones (Yes, Guy Whittaker!).

His songs are timeless and ear-catching. Addicting, actually. “Too Late” is a tour de force musically to me. The song starts with a simple chord progression, then beautifully melts into something completely epic (around 2:15), making me yell out loud whenever I hear it in my car.

Bring On the Night – Sting (1986)

This album is like “the jazzer’s Bible on how to play pop music.” I cannot overstate how much Darryl Jones and this music (and the movie) influenced me. Darryl is just a mountain of taste of chops, picking the perfect moments to fill, stepping on the octave pedal, and playing with the thumb.

It’s always funky, but you can hear the commitment in every note he ever played with Sting, who is no slouch and a significant bass influence. In addition, as great as Branford Marsalis already was, he really shines on this record. His solo on “Children’s Crusade” is one the best ever on a “pop” record.

Tribute – The Keith Jarrett Trio (1989)

Keith, Gary Peacock, and Jack De Johnette are national treasures, and this trio should be on Mt. Rushmore of Jazz if there is such a thing. Keith’s flow is just breathtaking. There are so many incredible ways to navigate the harmony of these (mostly) standards. His playing on “Just in Time” is just sublime. The way weaves around the form inside the very quick tempo just makes my jaw drop.

And in the outro (about 7:33), where the band is vamping on a 3-6-2-5 progression over and over, Keith takes us on a journey of music history. Kinda starts with some blues stuff and slowly creeps more out… until he’s in full-on eye-popping harmony bending.

I was told by the stunning pianist Michael Wollny (when I asked where the hell all these lines come from) that they are based on some Lenny Tristano, Art Tatum, etc. Didn’t know. Also, a shoutout to the naughtiest version of “Solar” I’ve ever heard to this day. Jack De Johnette rarely collapses into full swing and jabs in and out, propelling the tune surprisingly and entirely originally.

Tim Lefebvre: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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