Acclaimed bassist, composer, educator, and bandleader John Patitucci unearths old memories and finds fresh inspiration by returning home on Brooklyn, his diverse and electrifying new album. Due out in May 2015 (Digital - May 12, Physical - May 19) on Patitucci's own Three Face Records (distributed by The Orchard), Brooklyn pays homage to the vibrant, eclectic borough where the bass great was born and raised, looking back at the influences and experiences that have shaped his life and career while taking his music into thrilling new directions.
Patitucci's 14th album as a leader and first in six years, Brooklyn boasts a guitar-centric electric sound featuring six-string wizards Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas. Patitucci joins the fray with a new semi-hollow electric bass designed specifically for him by Yamaha, which allows him the fluidity of an electric guitar with the deep, rotund bottom end of an acoustic bass. The quartet is anchored by virtuoso drummer Brian Blade, Patitucci's longtime friend and bandmate in the revered Wayne Shorter Quartet and in the new trio Children of the Light (with pianist Danilo Pérez, other Shorter Quartet bandmate).
"I have a great love for the guitar and I've played with some great guitar players in various genres," Patitucci says, listing a fretboard who's-who including John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Pat Martino, George Benson, and B.B. King. "I wanted to have a different instrumentation because I've played with so many high-powered piano players in my life, so I wanted to change the orchestration up a little bit on my own record."
Brooklyn, which marks the first time Patitucci has released an album on his own label, is the long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed Remembrance, which garnered a 2010 GRAMMY® Award nomination for "Best Jazz Instrumental Album." The recording, which took place at Brooklyn studio The Bunker, was filmed for an upcoming documentary on Patitucci's life and career to be titled Back in Brooklyn (due out in late 2015).
Patitucci has always been proud of his roots, even during his two-decade stint in L.A. beginning in the 1970s when he made his name as a studio musician and an in-demand bassist for jazz greats including Shorter, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock. "People would say I was from California and I'd say, 'No - I'm from Brooklyn,'" Patitucci insists. "And I was, in my heart and in my soul. It wasn't just a place to me."
As Patitucci discusses his boyhood in the borough, one can picture 1960s Brooklyn as something out of a Martin Scorsese film (minus the gunplay). "I come from a very strong Italian-American family, and growing up in Brooklyn in that kind of situation was a very rich heritage," he says. "We played sports in the street- stickball, stoop ball, slap ball, roller hockey, football. I have a lot of great memories of being part of a neighborhood and a community where everybody knew each other and where a huge chunk of our family lived within walking distance."
Patitucci's family shared a house in East Flatbush with his uncle's family, while both sets of grandparents lived on nearby blocks. It was his maternal grandfather, a colorful character who was John's namesake but always went by the nickname Sonny, who introduced the future bassist to jazz. "His father had a speakeasy during prohibition where he became familiar with the stride piano style - also through albums by players like Eubie Blake and Earl 'Fatha' Hines," Patitucci says. "He played a little piano by ear and was a renaissance man - he was the best chef in the family, made dresses for my mother, and fought in World War II with Patton. He was an amazing guy."
One day, Patitucci's grandfather, who was working manual labor on the city streets, came home with a treasure trove of jazz records that some unfortunate resident had left in the trash. (A later bandmate suggested to Patitucci the most likely explanation: a spurned spouse or lover must have dumped the collection on the curb since, the musician asserted, "nobody would just give these records away.") The record stash included Jimmy Smith's Hoochie Coochie Man, the debut album by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Ray Charles' Genius + Soul = Jazz, and Art Blakey's Mosaic - Patitucci's introduction to Wayne Shorter - among countless other titles.
Perhaps the most coveted titles in that batch were those by Wes Montgomery, which Patitucci and his guitarist brother Tom found enthralling. "The Wes Montgomery albums drew us in because they were bluesy and the tempos were a little easier to deal with," Patitucci explains. "But the Art Blakey record was intriguing, powerful and jarring. We didn't know what to make of it, but we loved it."
Those early influences are reflected on Brooklyn through the inclusion of two compositions by Thelonious Monk - another name well-represented in his grandfather's haul - and a duo rendition of Montgomery's "The Thumb" by Patitucci and Blade. The piece originally appeared on Montgomery's 1966 album Tequila, which featured bassist Ron Carter, who remains one of Patitucci's biggest influences.
Not every track on Brooklyn is meant to look back; some, like opener "The Search," document how far Patitucci has come from those early roots. The piece, somehow simultaneously taut and airy, showcases Patitucci's contrapuntal writing for the guitars with melodies that weave and coil around one another. It also bears a trace of influence from the West African music that Patitucci loves and studies, which comes to the fore on "Dugu Kamalemba," a song originally recorded by Malian singer Oumou Sangaré.
"Band of Brothers," a title which Patitucci says aptly captures the spirit of the quartet, is a funky, laid-back blues/rock jam somewhere between Wilson Pickett and the Allman Brothers. "JLR" shows off the guitarist's blues chops, while the mysterious acronym may be explained by lyrics that Patitucci is holding in reserve until the day he can give them to Buddy Guy to sing. "Do You," based on the familiar "I've Got Rhythm" chord changes, shows off the Yamaha's robust sound as a walking bass, while "Bells of Coutance" is an impressionistic interlude that evokes the sound of church bells in a small French town.
Patitucci muses on his spiritual faith with his New Orleans-tinged take on the classic spiritual "Go Down, Moses," while the album draws to the close with the tender, heartfelt solo piece "Tesori," a love letter to his wife and daughters that translates as "Treasures."
Brooklyn is the latest landmark in a career that has seen Patitucci become one of the most versatile and inventive bassists in jazz and beyond. He's played with giants in nearly every conceivable genre, from Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter to B.B. King and Natalie Cole, Sting and Bon Jovi, Astrud Gilberto and Ali Farka Touré. At the same time he's been exceedingly active in music education, serving as Professor of Music at the City College of New York for almost a decade. In 2012, he joined bandmate and friend Danilo Pérez's Berklee Global Jazz Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as serving as a full-time faculty member at the school. Additionally, he launched an interactive online bass school through ArtistWorks.com and released a kindle book, Melodic Arpeggios and Triad Combining for Bass.
Upcoming JOHN PATITUCCI Performances:
All dates to feature the John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet Featuring Brian Blade, Adam Rogers & Steve Cardenas
May 13-16 / Iridium / New York, NY
May 18 / Jazz Kitchen / Indianapolis, IN
May 19 / SPACE / Evanston, IL
May 21-22 / Dazzle Jazz / Denver, CO
May 23-24 / Blue Whale / Los Angeles, CA
May 27-30 / Cotton Club / Tokyo, Japan
John Patitucci · Brooklyn
Release Dates: May 12, 2015 (Digital), May 19, 2015 (Physical)