Remembrance (Concord Jazz)
John Patitucci Trio
Released August 4, 2009
Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2010
Given that jazz bass players are typically cast as part of the rhythm support team, only a handful of them have become leaders in their own right. Taking the lead from such jazz masters as Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, Ron Carter and Dave Holland who pioneered the advance of the bass, the next generation of acoustic and electric bassists have been crafting musical statements in leadership roles.
At the top of that class is acoustic and electric bassist John Patitucci, who delivers his latest Concord Jazz project, Remembrance, a remarkable outing of 11 straight-ahead-to-funky-to-classical-tinged originals featuring an astounding trio comprising saxophone maestro Joe Lovano and brilliant drummer Brian Blade. Almost every tune is dedicated to a musician, hence the title. The CD is the bassist’s 13th as a leader and seventh for Concord, with which he made his debut in 1997 with One More Angel. Guests include his wife Sachi Patitucci on cello and percussionist Rogerio Boccato, who delivers simpatico rhythms with Blade on four tracks that Patitucci says makes them sound “like one giant organism.”
“It’s not an easy thing for a bass player to be able to lead his own group and record today,” says Patitucci, who, in addition to being a leader, is a longstanding member of saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s quartet (along with Blade) as well as a regular participant in trios led by drummers Roy Haynes and Jack DeJohnette. He adds, “Our musical elders were the trailblazers who forged a path for us to follow.”
As for the trio that he has assembled, Patitucci says that this particular group is a dream band for him, which makes Remembrance a special recording. “I’ve been waiting for years to make a trio record like this,” he says. “Brian is a consummate artist whose contributions go way beyond the drums. He’s powerful, and he has great interpretive skills, incredible ears and a breadth of musicality. Joe improvises at such a high level, and he brings a great sound, phrasing and overall feeling to everything he plays on.”
Both players, says Patitucci, “swing hard and can change directions on a dime. I chose guys that I felt I could be vulnerable enough with to take lots of chances in the music.” Lovano and Blade also recorded with Patitucci on his 2001 Communion Concord Jazz album, but in a quartet setting with pianist Brad Mehldau. During one rehearsal that Mehldau had to miss, Patitucci, Lovano and Blade set up shop with revelatory results. “We freaked out,” Patitucci says. “We looked at each other and said that we should do a record like this someday. Ever since that time eight years ago, this album has been brewing within me.” With a minimum of overdubs, Remembrance was recorded live in the studio in the same room, with none of the players listening through headphones. “I wanted it to sound organic and let the bass bleed into other things Joe and Brian were doing,” Patitucci says. “Plus, my bass sound was able to be a little bigger, broader and warmer versus being in a small booth. I also felt more harmonic and rhythmic freedom. Even when I played the electric bass, the amp was in the studio so Joe and Brian were hearing it live, without having to use the headphones.”
On Remembrance, Patitucci pays homage to several of his heroes, including tenor sax colossus Sonny Rollins (the upbeat “Sonny Side”), the late trumpeter legend Freddie Hubbard (the bouncy, joyful “Blues for Freddie”), tenor sax titan Joe Henderson (the bold, bright “Joe Hen” with Lovano’s searing tenor solo) and bass elder Ray Brown (the lazy blues “Play Ball” that Patitucci says is “one of the slowest tempos I’ve ever played”).
Remembrance teems with that loving sensibility throughout. “We’re paying tribute, but we’re also shaping the music to reflect who we are,” Patitucci says. “We’re not just copying or resting on the musicians who came before us. We’re playing this music as our way of contributing to the evolution of jazz.”
1. Monk/Trance (John Patitucci) 7:14
2. Messaien’s Gumbo (John Patitucci) 5:28
3. Sonny Side (John Patitucci) 7:27
4. Meditations (John Patitucci) 5:04
5. Mali (John Patitucci) 7:16
6. Scenes from an Opera (John Patitucci) 5:23
7. Blues for Freddie (John Patitucci) 5:24
8. Safari (John Patitucci) 6:08
9. Joe Hen (John Patitucci) 7:44
10. Play Ball (John Patitucci) 6:47
11. Remembrance (John Patitucci) 1:54
John Patitucci: acoustic bass, 6-string electric bass, 6-string electric piccolo bass
Joe Lovano: tenor saxofone, alto clarinet
Brian Blade: drums
Sachi Patitucci: cello (6)
Rogerio Boccato: percussion (2, 4, 5, 8)
Recorded September 16 & 17, 2008,
at Avatar Studios, New York, NY
Strings recorded September 11, 2008, at Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ
Produced by John Patitucci
Associate Producer: Sachi Patitucci
Executive Producer: Nick Phillips
Recorded and Mixed by Joe Barbaria
Mastered by Fred Kevorkian
Photography by Mel Rubin
Art Direction: Mary Hogan
Grammy-winning bassist John Patitucci’s trio recording Remembrance, a heartfelt ode to his heroes and mentors, is the realization of a longstanding dream. Featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade, this stripped-down trio originally recorded as a quartet with pianist Brad Mehldau on Patitucci’s Communion (Concord, 2001). The seeds for this date were sown when an unplanned piano-less rehearsal for the Communion sessions revealed the trio’s affinity.
Containing all original tunes, Remembrance is Patitucci’s seventh recording for Concord and his thirteenth as a leader. Conveying the affable mood of a relaxed blowing session, the trio expounds on a wide variety of styles and genres. Lovano’s breathy cadences, Patitucci’s percolating phrases and Blade’s crisp rhythms conspire in an intimate, three-way conversation that veers from elegiac to ebullient.
An in-demand session player, Patitucci has performed with heavyweights like Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. A quicksilver virtuoso on both acoustic and electric bass, Patitucci’s effusive statements command considerable attention in this spare setting, yet eschew unnecessary pyrotechnics in favor of a conversational demeanor that allows ample space for his sidemen.
Blade and Patitucci’s deep-seated rapport can be traced to their membership in Wayne Shorter’s longstanding quartet. A tasteful, unobtrusive percussionist, Blade’s nuanced accents and complementary interpolations unify the trio’s cogent interplay. Lovano’s celebrated inside-outside approach combines harmonic sophistication with a subtle, expressive technique, augmenting Patitucci’s melodious themes with adventurous lyricism.
Many of the tunes are dedicated to jazz royalty, including Ray Brown, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. Though most of the honorees have passed on, the prevailing mood is celebratory and full of lyrical invention, ranging from luminous ballads (“Sonny Side,” “Play Ball”) and vibrant swingers (“Blues for Freddie,” “Joe Hen”) to labyrinthine excursions (“Monk/Trane,” “Meditations”).
Adopting a funkier approach, “Mali” invokes the uplifting rhythms and pungent timbres of Ali Farka Toure, recalling the Malian guitarist’s cross-over album Talking Timbuktu (Ryko, 1994), which featured Patitucci. The trio explores similar territory on the throbbing, polyphonic funk of “Messaien’s Gumbo,” and modal impressionism on the evocative tone poems “Meditations” and “Safari.”
Demonstrating remarkable dynamic range, “Scenes from an Opera,” features a neo-classical arrangement of serpentine alto clarinet, rubato percussion and an octet of overdubbed contrabass and cello—an uncharacteristic, but intriguing piece. The bittersweet title track is equally austere; Patitucci’s overdubbed solo electric bass meditation for the late Michael Brecker closes the album on an introspective note.
Mindful of the past, but not beholden by it, Remembrance is a sterling trio record, bolstered by the exceptional group interplay of three contemporary masters.
Troy Collins (All About Jazz)