Pino Palladino’s best basslines

Pino Palladino of D'Angelo and the Vanguard performs onstage at This Tent during Day 3 of the 2015 Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival
(Image credit: Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

Quite possibly the world's most famous working session bassist, Pino Palladino has built a career as the ultimate supporting player: providing a Stravinsky-inspired fretless performance on Paul Young’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat,’ contributing to D’Angelo’s landmark album Voodoo, replacing the late John Entwistle in The Who, touring with the John Mayer Trio, and much more.

Pino has come to encapsulate everything that a sideman should be. “The sideman role just came out of me playing on records that people heard and liked,” says Pino. “It's not something I planned or even dreamt of.” 

Join us, then, on Pino’s 65th birthday, as we list the songs that prove he is a true bass genius. 

Pino Palladino, Roger Daltrey, and Zak Starkey of The Who perform at Arena at Gwinnett Center on April 23, 2015 in Duluth, Georgia

(Image credit: Photo by Chris McKay/WireImage)

Wherever I Lay My Hat - Paul Young (1983)

No one did more to promote expressive bass playing back in the '80s than Pino Palladino. His big break came as a member of Paul Young’s band, culminating in a truly amazing piece of fretless bass accompaniment to one of Young’s biggest hits, his 1983 cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat.’ In this clip Pino breaks down his soaring fretless line.

Chicken Grease - D'Angelo (2000)

Perhaps it was John Mayer who said it best when, in 2017, he attributed one of his favorite bass lines to 'Chicken Grease (opens in new tab).' Having met D’Angelo in 1997 while recording for BB King’s Deuces Wild, Pino went on to provide many of the flatwound-swinging bass lines on his 2000 landmark album, Voodoo.

Here he is performing 'Chicken Grease' live on the Chris Rock show. The harmony is open to interpretation, but Pino felt a B7 as the overall tonality.

My Generation - The Who (2007)

Pino’s next call came following the untimely death of John Entwistle, who had died just as the Who was launching its 2002 tour. Pete Townshend later said on his website that he had made only one request of Pino; "that he fucking turns up his amp and plays as loud as he can!"

In this next video Pino plays probably the most famous bass solo in rock – ‘My Generation’ – on Later… With Jools Holland.

Who Did You Think I Was - John Mayer Trio (2008)

Recorded live at the Nokia Theatre in LA, together with John Mayer and drummer Steve Jordan, Pino’s performance on 'Who Did You Think I Was' is stratospheric. The main riff is based around an A7 pentatonic shape that Pino anchors on the 5th fret of the E string. Keep your ears open at the 02:40 mark as the trio kick into ‘Power of Soul’ by Jimi Hendrix.

Sanctified - Nine Inch Nails (2013)

Pino’s next stretch came with Nine Inch Nails following Trent Reznor’s invitation to collaborate on the band’s 2013 Hesitation Marks. Pino wasn't the only special guest to appear in the studio: who'd have imagined Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac to crop up on a Nine Inch Nails album, let alone the king of the fretless bass? This next clip sees Pino add his slick fretless lines to Reznor’s 1989 track ‘Sanctified.’

Blake Mills - Notes With Attachments

In 2021 Pino released the first solo album of his career, collaborating with guitarist Blake Mills on an archive of musical ideas. Recorded at Sound City in a series of studio sessions that spanned two and a half years, the album pays homage to his love of classic film soundtracks, cool jazz and Burt Bacharach arrangements.

Watch Pino Palladino and Blake Mills, along with percussionist Abe Rounds and saxophonist Sam Gendel, perform three tracks from the album on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. 

Notes With Attachments is available now on CD (opens in new tab)vinyl (opens in new tab) and as a digital download (iTunes (opens in new tab) and Amazon (opens in new tab) MP3)

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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.