Since attracting worldwide acclaim as a member of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and Akoustic Band—a creative association that has now spanned eighteen years—GRAMMY®-winning bassist John Patitucci has become one of today’s most influential musicians and composers. He has released several remarkable albums as leader of his own groups and made notable contributions to renowned ensembles led by Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard and Danilo Pérez, to name only a few. Patitucci’s sensitivity, inventiveness and tone have established him as one of the leading lights in contemporary and Brazilian jazz; few can emulate the scope of his impact on modern and traditional music.
Patitucci’s sixth Concord Jazz release, and his eleventh as leader, Songs, Stories and Spirituals (CCD-2149-2), showcases his talents on electric and acoustic bass, and his prowess as composer and arranger. Twelve tracks in a wide range of formats, from beloved jazz standards and Afro-Brazilian tunes to American folk songs bring the breadth of Patitucci’s prodigious musicality to the fore. "I am very pleased to offer an album that represents a more fully realized portrayal of my continuing love for the spiritual life,” says Patitucci, who characterizes Songs, Stories and Spirituals as a musical narrative of tales he likes to tell. Some are familiar, with an original twist or two; others are new compositions. All are treasures.
"These are tunes that I am really into right now, and eight of them feature singing,” he says. "I always sang with my family while growing up in Brooklyn but didn’t think I’d change the world with my singing. I sing in my head, sometimes even write that way, and I always try to achieve a singing quality on my instrument. Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza and gospel singer John Thomas are such amazing musicians. Both use their voices with lots of color, as an instrument, in a different way than the average singer of tunes.”
Patitucci invited long-time musical friends, Venezuelan pianist Edward Simon and drummer/percussionist Brian Blade, to join him in the trio at the heart of Songs, Stories and Spirituals. In the opening cut, Patitucci’s original "Tall Tale,” the trio lays down the foundation for the CD with a nostalgic, yet freed-up, jazz tune. "Brian and I are buddies,” Patitucci says. "We’ve played together in Wayne Shorter’s Quartet for a while now and are so free playing with each other. And, Ed is an amazing guy. He grew up in Venezuela and Philadelphia, moving back and forth between the two, and his understanding of jazz is much more complete than most. Together, the three of us keep the trio intimacy throughout the CD while allowing for various orchestrations and stylistic changes.” Indeed, in addition to the Brazilian and gospel flavors infused by Souza and Thomas, Songs, Stories and Spirituals features the Trinity String Quartet, flutist Tim Ries, and two of Patitucci’s family members, his wife Sachi on cello and his brother, Tom, on nylon string guitar.
Souza’s lush interpretations of Patitucci’s arrangement of the Rodgers and Hart classic, "It Never Entered My Mind,” Jobim’s lovely "Chovendo na Roseira,” and several other tunes celebrate the bassist’s long association with Brazilian music and musicians. Since 1980, Patitucci has performed with Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Astrud and Joao Gilberto, Dori Caymmi, Joao Bosco and others. "When I was about 23, I played with Airto (Moreiro) and Flora (Purim), and I loved listening to them play with Chick,” he recalls. "Airto taught me about Brazilian music. I’ve always loved Jobim’s music and Luciana’s arrangement of his tune using different time signatures is unique. And, I love standards like ‘It Never Entered My Mind,’ especially when they’re played with an open concept.” On Patitucci’s arrangement of Souza’s tune, "Now The River” (which features Tom Patitucci on nylon string guitar), he plays both electric and acoustic bass to create a distinctively Brazilian flavor.
Continuing his trademark penchant for mixing musical worlds, "Three Faces,” which Patitucci composed for Sachi and their two daughters, Gracie and Isabella, features Souza, Tom Patitucci, Ries, and himself on acoustic bass. "I infused this tune with some classical elements by using the bow in the beginning. It’s like ‘Bach Goes to Morocco’,” he says. "I combined a Bach counterpoint feeling for the way the lines move with African rhythms.”
Though he admits it may seem a little funny to have another write lyrics for a love song written for your wife, Patitucci wholeheartedly endorses Souza’s interpretation of his tune "Soulmate.” "It’s a good feature for Sachi,” he says, "and Luciana perfectly captured the essence of my music in her beautiful poem and vocals.” In the same vein, "Lei,” composed by the famous Brazilian pop star, Djavan, and arranged by Patitucci, fuses a direct and intimate jazz flavor with hip Latin American and Brazilian influences.
The traditional tune, "In The Bleak Midwinter,” features the Trinity String Quartet with Larry Dutton (viola), Richard Rood and Elizabeth Lim-Dutton (violin) and Sachi Patitucci (cello), with Souza and Thomas sharing vocals to create a dynamic blend of cross-cultural elements. "Mixing musical worlds is fun for me,” Patitucci admits of his unusual arrangement and orchestration of the Gustav Holst classic. "And, my tune ‘Rhapsodic Journey’ is a straight piece of modern music that I wrote at the piano. It can very easily be linked to music of the Romantic period, such as pieces written by Rachmaninoff, but its dense harmonies and Brian’s drum solos make it modern in a very jazz sense.” Thomas is featured vocalist on "I Will Arise,” an old Baptist spiritual that Patitucci arranged. "I love this piece,” says Patitucci, "and we recorded it in only one take.” Patitucci sits one out as Sachi and Simon play as a duo on his passionately romantic composition, "Love Eternal,” which he penned for two friends’ wedding.
Apropos to the reverent underpinnings of Songs, Stories and Spirituals, Patitucci closes this set of twelve tracks with another duo, a spirited bass and drum treatment of Coltrane’s "Wise One.” "I dedicated this tune to Jimmy Garrison, who played with Coltrane on this tune on the album Crescent. I played this piece last year solo while on the road with Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove in a tribute to Miles and Coltrane. I’ve always loved this tune, it sounds like a prayer, a spiritual to me, and Brian’s use of mallets and colors gives it a very deep, earthy treatment.”
As leader, Patitucci propels his bands without overpowering, and his mastery of electric and acoustic bass has extended his voice and contributions in Afro-Brazilian and contemporary jazz, pop and classical settings. This versatility has not gone unnoticed by scores of musicians as diverse as Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Bon Jovi, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Sting, and Was Not Was. He has also worked with great film composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Ry Cooder, Henry Mancini, John Williams, Mark Isham, Carter Burwell and many others.
Back in the ‘80s, when Patitucci determined it was time to lead his own ensembles, his self-titled debut as a solo artist climbed to #1 on the Billboard Jazz charts. In 1986, he was voted "Most Valuable Player” on acoustic bass by his peers in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). His many recordings with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and Akoustic Band, and his recordings as leader of his own groups, have received nine GRAMMY nominations (the most recent for his previous Concord Jazz release, Communion), and two GRAMMY awards (one for playing and one for composing).
2002 was an exceptionally busy year for Patitucci, who toured internationally and recorded two CDs with Wayne Shorter’s acclaimed all-acoustic quartet (named "Best Small Ensemble of 2002 by Jazz Journalists Association”). "It’s been really exciting to work with Wayne these past three years,” says Patitucci. "I’ve known him since 1986, and he’s an amazing and very sweet guy.”
Patitucci’s approach captures the imagination and touches the soul throughout Songs, Stories and Spirituals. As a leader, arranger and composer, he has clearly reached his stride and shows no sign of diminishing the pace of his creative output. In 2003, he’ll be touring with his own ensembles, as well as with Chick Corea’s Reunion Band and the Wayne Shorter Quartet as an active sideman. Patitucci is also writing commissions to be performed by the groups Elements, Absolute Ensemble, and Ethel Ensemble. He teaches at City College in Harlem (in the position recently vacated by Ron Carter) and continues his long-standing association as clinician and workshop leader with The Bass Collective in New York City.
Songs, Stories and Spirituals is the latest chapter in a songbook that’s pure Patitucci—devoted, original and clearly inspired.