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December 2006

John Patitucci
Line by Line
Concord Records

Graceful, buoyant, plaintive, delicate, relaxing, restrained. These are some of the adjectives that came to mind during repeated listens to bassist John Patitucci’s gorgeous new album. Patitucci, who has had a long association with pianist Chick Corea, is probably best known for playing fusion. His solo albums of late, however, have been exercises in introspection, some of them neoclassical in nature. His new disc, Line by Line, is glorious—a quiet session of tender group interaction, solo meditations and recitations with strings.

Patitucci alternates between double bass and six-string electric bass, and his main cohorts here are guitarist Adam Rogers and drummer Brian Blade. Saxophonist Chris Potter sits in on three tracks, and a string quartet joins in for three. But this is Patitucci’s record, through and through. His understated yet forceful approach blossoms on “Agitato,” a powerful composition that nevertheless finds the group in reflective mode. It would be tempting to play this tune with gusto—with agitato—but the musicians resist any urge to pump up the volume. “Circular” has them soloing over one another, with no one member keeping time but all of them hearing it. “Nana,” an acoustic duet between Patitucci (playing arco) and Rogers, shimmers with elegance but never gets overly precious. The trio goes electric (but not loud) on its funky-Monk take of “Evidence,” which leads to Patitucci’s perfect upright solo rendition of the spiritual “Jesus Is On the Mainline.”

Strings don’t often belong in jazz, but they occasionally have their place. Here they are integral and essential, not relegated to support status (a la Charlie Parker with Strings). When Gunther Schuller coined the phrase “third stream” 50 years ago, he was probably hearing Patitucci’s “Theme and Variations for 6-String Bass and Strings” in his head.

Originally published in December 2006
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