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John Patitucci’s Soulful Bass

On his latest album, the virtuoso gives us his most personal statement yet

John Patitucci
John Patitucci (photo: Peter Freed)

In the late 1970s, John Patitucci heard Dave Holland’s Emerald Tears, one of the rare solo bass albums and an influential record for bassists of Patitucci’s generation. “His playing inspired me, but it was a little intimidating,” Patitucci says. So much so that it took him 40 years to make a solo album of his own.

His new record, Soul of the Bass (Three Faces), is a compendium of mostly original compositions performed, with great sensitivity and spaciousness, on six-string electric and acoustic upright. Patitucci came to prominence in the mid-’80s as a virtuoso with fleet fingers and a deep sense of funk, but at 59, he has mellowed and feels he has less to prove. Such an attitude led him to produce what is perhaps the most understated—and self-assured—album of his career. Not that he didn’t have some reservations about making such a personal statement. “I was a little afraid,” he says, “to jump in the water on this one.”

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Matthew Kassel

Matthew Kassel is a freelance writer whose work has been published by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and The Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications.