By Giovanni Russonello | Published July 2019
Amid all the slippery, capricious action of Wayne Shorter’s famous quartet, you might be tempted to say that John Patitucci’s bass serves as the ballast. It’s a logical construction: steady bassist, liberated band. But really, it’s the other way around. It’s precisely Patitucci’s comfort in midair that allows the rest of the quartet—his main concern during the past two decades—to fly freely.
Soul Of The Bass is a solo-bass record, with a few exceptions, but its main assets are the same: Patitucci’s effortless range of motion, and his ability to create a feeling of coherency without staying inside any bounds.
On his earliest leader albums, Patitucci played a broadly sourced fusion, typically on electric bass, often writing his own tunes. Despite the now-dated aesthetic, it was surprisingly convincing stuff, drawn from Afro-Latin, Romantic and post-bop influences. Then, in 1992, he abruptly went another way with Heart Of The Bass, featuring a concert orchestra and string quartet playing Patitucci’s suites and short-form pieces with indeterminate grace.
Some 28 years later, he’s out with Soul Of The Bass, an album that’s not quite the mirror image of its predecessor. It seems more personal and, ultimately, more engaging. Some of Soul’s most memorable moments take place with Patitucci alone on upright, playing a winsome, arpeggiated melody on the title track or using a bow to explore the instrument’s full tonal range on “Mystery Of The Soul.” And his fluency on the electric is a marvel, especially a reading of Bach’s “Allemande In D Minor,” with the six-string bass creating entire microclimates of airy harmony and bubbling melody.
Soul Of The Bass: Soul Of The Bass; Seeds Of Change; Morning Train (Spiritual); The Call; Mystery Of The Soul; Morocco; Elvin; Earth Tones; Seeds Of Change Reprise; Allemande In D Minor: Sarab; Trust; Truth. (37:39)
Personnel: John Patitucci, six-string electric bass, electric bass, piccolo electric bass, bass; Nate Smith, drums (4, 9); Greisun, vocals (11); Isabella Patitucci, vocals (11); Sachi Patitucci, cello (13).