The Bottom Line: Bass On Top

Thanks to fellow bassist Milt Hinton's prodding, Oscar Pettiford moved to New York and became one of bebop's most innovative musicians. (Courtesy of Bethlehem Archives)

There's a good reason why the contrabass resides at the center of nearly every rhythm section and every mix in the recorded history of jazz music. Notes from an unamplified double bass rank among the most beautiful man-made sounds; in jazz, the creator of those notes is always in the middle of the action, charting the harmonic direction of a band and plotting the rhythmic narrative as both an accompanist and a soloist.

It's no small task, but here are five musicians who performed the duty with aplomb.

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