Why John Patitucci doesn't like bass-led albums that are just “technical overload”

John Patitucci during the 14th Tokyo Jazz Festival at Tokyo International Forum on September 6, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Image credit: Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)

Bass player-led band projects can often fall into two categories – the first being a dry technical one, with high notational values but seriously lacking in soul; the second is one that’s led from the bottom up, with our bass-toting leader showing just how a great bassist can shape a band and its music. 

John Patitucci is a great case in point. “I never wanted to get locked into the ‘bass only’ market, which can be like a technical overload,” he says. “Some people confuse the word ‘technique’ for ‘speed,’ but I’ve always tried to avoid the trap of using every song to display a particular set of bass tricks. I try to make my music about more than just bass mechanics.”

His most recent solo album, Live In Italy, was recorded with saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Brian Blade, and fulfills everything that you would expect from a Patitucci release - great tunes, mind-blowing performances and, at the heart of it all, his mastery of both electric and acoustic bass. “On my first few solo records I was really just experimenting with a bass guitar voice, but before that I’d played a whole lot of acoustic bass. People don’t realize how much you’re into acoustic music until they see you play a lot of it.”

Aside from his reputation as a first-call studio musician, John's solo career has seen him merge the worlds of jazz, Latin and classical music, and the fact that his fan base stretches far beyond the bass community says a lot for the respect he commands as a composer, and not just a technician. 

“I once told Chick Corea about a dream I had of making a record with an orchestra,” he says. “That later became my solo album Heart of the Bass, and when I look back on that record, it was a phenomenal experience. Who else would help produce a bass player’s record with an orchestra?! Chick kept wanting to help me like that, always.”

When asked to cite his other influences John is quick to mention saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who hired him as a part of his acoustic quartet back in 2000, alongside Brian Blade and pianist Danilo Pérez. “Wayne has actually been an influence on me since I was eight years old,” he says. "That was the first time I heard him on record. His playing has had a huge impact on me.”

John has recently been out on the road as a part of his Brazilian Trio with percussionist Rogério Boccato and guitarist Yotam Silberstein, in support of their critically acclaimed 2017 recording, Irmãos de Fé. “On that album, we featured some amazing music from some of the greatest composers that ever lived in Brazil,” he says. “That music is all about lyricism and poetry, so you can’t just play it straight. You have to be very lyrical, almost like recitative in opera." 

John’s latest release, Live In Italy, is available to download now. Visit johnpatitucci.com for more info.

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.