Among the world’s most “known” bassists, the musician / composer / playwriter / actor / activist who named himself for a small sharp-pointed organ on a bee’s abdomen is a giant of the instrument, though his actual playing is oft overlooked as his presence as a performer and writer is, in a word, overpowering.
Strictly speaking of his role as bassist, Sting’s body of work anchoring The Police with Andy Sumner and Stewart Copland is an exemplary study in rhythm and harmony. Sting adroitly deviated from the customary root note voice leading, and his phrasing – borne of deep reggae, jazz, and funk influences – along with his colorful counterpoint and harmonic extensions – created a genre unto his own.
His bass artistry is instantly identifiable – as was the sound of the ensemble whom he led. I compare The Police to such iconic “small groups” led by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane along with their rock counterparts Cream, Rush, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Akin to those aforementioned ensembles, every Police track is essential. Among my choice cuts include:
Note that Sting is also a master technician – muting, finger-picking, and plectrum playing – whatever the situation warrants.
Among Sting’s many weapons of choice with The Police include fretted and fretless Fender Precisions, Ibanez, Steinberger XL and L2, Spector, an 8-string Hamer, and an upright Van Zalinge, to cite a select few. Nowadays Gordon prefers a 1950s Fender Precision with much wear and tear. No matter what bass he uses – Sting is living proof that the artistry is in the player, not the bass.
With reference to Mr. Sumner’s outstanding solo career, I dug that for his much heralded debut TheDream of the Blue Turtles (1985) – he surrendered the bass chair to young-lion Darryl Jones fresh out of Miles Davis’ amazing crossover jazz fusion ensemble – to enhance the jazz component of his new direction. Though his bass playing is not as pronounced as it was in the Police trio format, Sting has evolved as more of a compositional player, much like Sir Paul.