Artist Spotlight: Rhonda Smith Brings the Bass

by Boogie on July 1, 2010

in Mesa Boogie Artists, Mesa Boogie Bass Products, Tours

Rhonda Smith smiles big under the stage lights with the bass duty under control.

Rhonda Smith & the Jeff Beck Experience

Rhonda Smith continues to set the bar high on multiple levels of bass playing excellence. Her extended run as Prince’s bassist for nearly a decade was a major springboard toward being more widely recognized as a bona fide bass legend. But, it’s Rhonda’s sheer talent, feel and musical intuition, and a glowing stage presence that are the core reasons behind her success.

Her gig and session work with the industry’s top superstars like Beyonce, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Patti Austin, Lee Ritenour, Larry Graham, Patti Labelle, Little Richard, Justin Timberlake and Candy Dulferjust to name a few – is only the beginning of her amazing resume. The last few years, Rhonda has toured frequently with C.O.E.D., (Chronicles of Every Diva) – an all-female collaboration of Rhonda, Kat Dyson, Shiela E. and others. In addition to touring and session work, Rhonda is also very dedicated to her solo projects – most recently, the funk-filled and bass thick RS2. Rhonda Smith's Solo Album cover - RS2 (click to enlarge)You can always count on Rhonda to not only be rock-solid on the low notes, but more likely a star of the show even when in the supporting role.

Getting the gig as Jeff Beck’s bass player comes as little surprise to those who have seen Rhonda play live before. Jeff’s latest release, Emotion & Commotion, is his first studio album to be released in seven years and is cause for a 2010 world tour that has been a the subject of rave reviews wherever it goes. Rhonda has been also been receiving accolades for faithful renditions of Beck’s favorites as well as bringing both her fire and musical class to the stage night after night. Rhonda is just as easily at home with vocal roles in this band as she is in her own projects and she has been leaving crowds speechless with her bass solo section in the set.

Beyond Rhonda’s obvious raw talent lies a very discerning taste for great bass tone and she discussed her love of Mesa bass gear in detail in a video with Boogie a while back. While some of her rig has evolved since the Prince days, core pieces remain while new pieces have been incorporated to include some of Mesa’s latest and refining Rhonda’s tonal preferences for the Jeff Beck gig. 2×15′s were the cab-du-jour for many years with Prince but Rhonda is now leaning on Mesa Powerhouse 2×12 and 4×10 both powered by her faithful M-Pulse600. The Slave out on the M-Pulse600 is then run to the Big Block 750 driving the second Powerhouse 2×12 for added punch and reinforcement on the big rock stage. The M9 was tried late in reherasals and worked well but in the end, the already established rig with M-Pulse 600 and Big Block 750 won the spot until more time is available to incorporate the M9 Carbine full time. By all accounts, the bass on the Jeff Beck stage is well heard! Check out some rig pictures below (click on a photo to enlarge):

Rhonda Smith live with Jeff Beck at the New Orleans Jazz Festival

Hey Rhonda – Thank you for the many years of loyal representation of the Mesa Bass Line and for being one of the classiest and funkiest ladies in the game. Here’s to many more years to come…

Rhonda Smith would like to welcome you to good bass tone...This photo by – Frank Bevans Photography

Live and Rig Photos by Clayton Call – www.claytoncallphoto.com

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitch October 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Ms Smith certainly can deliver with the Mesa amp, thats not even worth discussing. Her strong onstage presents is remarkable. I do wonder why JB decided to change the bass and drummer. However, listening to the live “new” support crew was truly and ear opening experience.

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Scott Perry July 8, 2010 at 8:09 pm

There’s no doubt, that Rhonda is an awesome bass player, and the fact that she uses Mesa equipment, makes it that much better, because I’ve been a die-hard Mesa player for many years. But why he would replace Tal, is a mistery to me. I realize she used EBS equipment, but that girl was amazing! But, for whatever reason, Rhonda definately smokes, and the fact that she uses Mesa equipment, makes it that much better!!!

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Ian Perge September 2, 2010 at 6:13 am

Like any artist, I imagine after several years with Jeff that Tal wanted to move on and try something different. As she’s currently touring with and recording several tracks on Herbie Hancock’s latest release, that’s hardly a drop in gigs – much more like moving from one legend to another as well as getting some experience in a different genre of music. And Rhonda Smith is certainly no slouch as a bassist – in some ways I prefer her more heavier, “Rock”-based style to Tal’s Jazzier playing. But again, two complete pros who can easily handle this gig.

As for EBS vs Mesa gear, they’re both top-notch and in the very high-end of bass gear. Comparing recordings of Tal and Rhonda with JB, they both have their positives and negatives depending on what one likes as a bassist – I love the “full” rock sound of Mesa bass cabinets, but as a Person with a Disability weight is a *major* issue, and the fact that EBS has a dedicated Neo-loaded line is a plus in my book. Still, if EITHER company were to leave a 4×10″ and 2×12″ stack on my doorstep I’d hardly complain… ;-)

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Paul du Fresne July 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Saw Rhonda with JB at the legendary Palais theatre in Melbourne Australia last March. The bass was pumping! With Narada Michael Walden on drums it was a mind blowing experience.

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