John Patitucci has long been easily identifiable by his warm, singing tone on the bass, and by the nimble authority of his playing. A linchpin of the Wayne Shorter Quartet and a longtime associate of Chick Corea, he recently added an intimate new entry to his own discography: a first-ever solo recording, Soul of the Bass.
During a recent edition of the WBGO Yamaha Piano Salon in midtown Manhattan, Patitucci performed selections from the album. “He’s been an innovator, whether playing his beautiful antique acoustic bass or his hand-made (and also beautiful) electric bass,” says Michael Bourne, who served as the program’s emcee.
Patitucci began the evening with several pieces from Soul of the Bass, including the meditative title track and a saunter through Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not.” In a concert highlight, he also played his stirring solo version of “Morning Train” — signaling his deep feeling for the blues, and in particular the trailblazing hill country bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell.
The variety of approaches and styles in Patitucci’s solo performance could easily have made for a satisfying whole. But he came to the Yamaha Salon with two colleagues, guitarist Steve Cardenas and pianist Jon Cowherd, each a composer and bandleader in his own right.
Each musician joined Patitucci for an emblematic duet: “New Moon,” a drifting reverie by Cardenas, followed by the spiritual “Since I Laid My Burden Down,” which Cowherd dedicated to the memory of New Orleans legend Dr. John.
Then the musicians converged as a trio, playing a suite of three pieces from Cowherd’s album Mercy, which was released in 2013 on ArtistShare. The Mercy Project, which has toured widely, consists of Cowherd, Patitucci and Cardenas alongside drummer Brian Blade. This special chamber-like reduction of the group played “Mercy Suite Part One,” then “Baltica,” and finally “The Columns” — striking a deep chord of communion, and delivering no small amount of beauty.
The Mercy Project appears on Saturday at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.
John Patitucci, acoustic and electric bass
Jon Cowherd, piano
Steve Cardenas, guitar
Recorded June 12, 2019 at Yamaha Artist Services Piano Salon
David Tallacksen, audio engineer
Aaron Ross, video