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Interviews

John Patitucci: Celebrating Jazz Heroes

By Published: September 7, 2009
"I started writing pieces. I'm always writing all year long every year, but I started writing pieces with that thought in mind: doing the trio record. I knew who I was writing for. So I just kept on accumulating things. And I noticed as I was writing them, a theme emerged, in that a lot of these things were things that were for people that I really revered—some who have gone on and some who are still with us," says Patitucci.

He says the idea for the title is "remembering and rejoicing in the inspiration that these great musicians have brought to us... It's not meant to be a mournful thing. The record is not a mournful thing, to me. There's a lot of energy on it. But also the idea to remember to be present and not wait for people to go away before you acknowledge and appreciate them. Do that right now. And also to try to be in the moment—not dwelling on what happened before and not always projecting what's going to happen in the future—remembering to stay in this moment right now."

It was mostly recorded live in the studio with the players in the same room—no booths, no headphones. Patitucci says he felt more harmonic and rhythmic freedom in doing so. "I'm very excited about it. Sometimes you have a little dream, and there's a wonderful way it can come to pass at the right time. The timing was just right for us to do this—something we had wanted to do for a long time.

With players the caliber of Lovano and Blade, the music was bound to be remarkable. The feel of it is a gas. All the musicians excel, but the group synergy is remarkable. They're digging in, expressing themselves, conversing. And having fun.

In "Messaien's Gumbo," which pays respect to classical composer Olivier Messiaen, Patitucci puts down a funky electric bass line, with Blade adding to the funk, but with subtle polyrhythms. Lovano plays winding lines through the thing with his creative swell and beautiful tone. The bass solo is melodic, but with one foot still in the funk. "Sonny Side" is a leisurely stroll that allows Lovano to make his statement about Rollins—not imitating, but showing he's a fan and follower. His darting statements do justice to the tribute.

"Meditations," for the Coltranes, is a haunting ballad on which Patitucci strums the electric bass for a fuller feeling. Blade's mallets, in parts, bring a dramatic feel; elsewhere he caresses and buoys the music with brushes, as Lovano offers thoughtful passages in a stream of ideas that appears endless. "Play Ball," for Ray Brown, is a slow-paced number—the bass walking but also playing contrapuntal lines behind Lovano's laid-back, but rich, story. Patitucci performs a short solo, "Remembrance," for Michael Brecker, playing both six-string electric bass and six-string electric piccolo bass to create an airy feel.

Patitucci displays why he's such an in-demand player. His sound is intense, adaptable, thoughtful, musical, with a great sound. Lovano continues to show why he is one of the greats of his era—robust and inventive, always playing it right even when taking chances. Blade is always busy, but sometimes it might be quiet tic-tic-tic here and a sweeping subtle pattern there. It's almost like he takes the polyrhythmic Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, tones it down a bit, spreads it out and comes up with a wonderful amalgam that utilizes deftness and expands further the legacy of those great trap masters.

"Joe is one of the great improvisers that we have now," beams Patitucci. "He definitely embodies that tradition. He's been affected by all the great history of the saxophone. You can hear that great swing and swagger and great feeling that goes all the way back to people like Lester Young but also through all the modern guys. He has an ability to understand rhythmically what Sonny and Trane, Joe Henderson and all these other greats that we love were doing. He understands all that; it's in him. But then he has a personal way of playing. I can always tell when it's Joe. He has a very personal sound. His sound is huge, too.

"Brian and I have been playing together for over 10 years and that's a blessing... I first heard him on a Joshua Redman album. I think I almost drove off the freeway. I couldn't believe his drumming. I said, 'Who is this guy? I've got to find him.' I was really intent on finding and playing with him. Finally it came to pass that we did some playing on one of Danilo Perez's albums (Motherland; Verve, 2000). That was the first time we played together. Then all the Wayne Shorter stuff. He's been playing with me on my recordings and in my groups whenever I can get him, because everybody wants to play with Brian.

"He's an incredible link in the tradition of great drumming. It's not just drumming, it's musicianship ... His feeling and his beautiful sound on the drums... For any kind of music, any kind, this guy can play. He has an understanding of so many different kind of styles, rhythmic feels. It makes him real special."


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