It’s not every day you get the chance to see a rock legend for free.

Feb. 4, 2010, 9:16 p.m.

It's not every day you get the chance to see a rock legend for free.On Tuesday, the small Roble Hall Theater slowly filled up in anticipation for Chuck Rainey, who at one time was heralded as “the hardest working bass player in America.” The Ohio native has appeared on everything from the soundtracks of well-known TV shows like “Sanford and Son” to the albums of some of the most important recording artists of the last 50 years.

Although Rainey may not be a household name, he has collaborated with many musicians who are, including Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Quincy Jones and most notably Steely Dan – with whom he performed on five albums. This performance in Roble marked the end of Rainey’s first visit to Stanford, during which he also participated in a Bass Master Class on Monday in Dinkelspiel Rehearsal Hall.

The crowd was a mix of diehard jazz and bass fans, along with a large number of curious onlookers who decided to drop in on the free event and find out who this Chuck Rainey character was. These varied from the guy two rows in front gushing about how awesome Rainey had been in the Masters class to the guy sitting next to me quickly scrolling through Rainey’s Wikipedia page before the performance started.

The big question in many people’s minds was: how does a bass player perform solo? Sure, musicians like Paul McCartney play the bass and have no problem with solo shows; but while McCartney is more well known for his vocals and lyrics, Rainey is first and foremost a bass guitarist. Because of that, he let his bass guitar take the spotlight for the most part. The stage setup was simple – just a microphone and stool for Rainey. He sang and played along with prerecorded tracks of all the other musical parts, save for the bass, which he, of course, strummed live.

It was an interesting departure from typical rock concerts where the lead guitarist typically gets all the glory while the bassist provides the support. Here, naturally, it was all about Rainey’s thumping bass. Rainey is clearly no superstar singer, but his voice was decent and pleasant enough to accompany his electrifying bass riffs.

Shortly into the set, Rainey told the audience how he likes to tell stories and launched into a series of them, interspersed with some more songs. He preferred to tell stories “his way” which was almost evocative of beat poetry. He supplemented his storytelling with his bass guitar by alternately speaking and singing to the rhythm of his instrument. His tales were mostly amusing and silly like “The Signifying Monkey,” which mainly focused on the exploits of a monkey, a lion and an elephant.

Rainey put on an intimate show, casually chatting about hanging out with the “fellas” back in Ohio and their long summer talks about women and life. The bassist put on no airs. He came off as a funny, unassuming guy who just loves to make music. He threw out a few quips throughout the night, off-handedly remarking how “this mike, by the way, tastes terrible.”

While Rainey performed a short, entertaining set on his own, it seemed like he missed the camaraderie of a full band. He might not have been quite used to the autonomy of a solo artist; he did mention it was a nice change since he was used to being one of the “side men.”

Rainey closed with a cover of the funky “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” originally recorded by The Undisputed Truth in 1971, but made famous by the Temptations’ rendition two years later. A short intermission followed before the night ended with a brief, informal Q&A with Rainey.

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