John Patitucci: Songs, Stories and Spirituals

Robert R. Calder

John Patitucci

Songs, Stories and Spirituals

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2003-04-14
UK Release Date: 2003-03-11

It would be patronising to use the cant phrase "concept album" for this outstanding jazz bassist's musically versatile commentary, or essay on, or use the phrase as an image of his musical vision and the meanings underlying it. Out of the context in which I've been used to hearing him, here is something more like private music-making, on the model of some European chamber music festivals where the ensembles are of professionals pleasing themselves and audiences together. Jazz in a sense grew out of this sort of gathering, "after hours" being after the hours when the paid thing was done, and some of what matters in recordings of that was worked out (as can be heard from recordings made privately after hours and now variously available). This session isn't innovatory except in working out in different ways what John Patitucci's music, as I've known it, has to do with it.

The insert's reference to his Christian faith goes beyond the contents of a recording dedicated jointly to Jesus Christ and the memory of Ray Brown (sic! Why not?). It co-ordinates roots in black gospel music, Latin American song, European art (specifically chamber and song music) and the tradition to which Lorenz Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind" belongs. Subsequent jazz owes much to the very much Russian Jewish harmonic foundations of a great period of "American" song-writing, and on the character of melodic line which underlay both vocal (including solo instrumental) expression and rhythmic innovation. I know Richard Rodgers provided the notes, but with hardly an exception his contribution to the jazz repertoire depended on Hart's lyrics.

The opener "Tall Tale" (to the memory of the great bassist Chuck Domanic) is by a trio that keeps claiming it's worth a separate session -- Patitucci with the Venezuelan pianist Ed Simon and Brian Blade as percussionist. "Tall Tale" by its title remembers the Lester Young tradition of improvising on melodies while bearing the words in mind, which deepened the vocal character of instrumental playing, liberated timing and harmonically went to unusual places knowing only that the notes weren't wrong. Leaving melody and words out of consideration and improvising on the underlying harmonic structure Coleman Hawkins spelled out his intention always to "tell a story", and Patitucci gives a key to these more historical, too often forgotten considerations.

Carlos Jobim's "Chorendo na Roseiro" is here with words as a sort of story: "Jobim's lyrics speak of nature as a gift", of a garden after rain. "Rain, which brings life, fills the river ... brings Spring", to further paraphrase a synopsis of the song by its Brazilian singer, Luciana Souza. This might be an allegory of a jazz performance, or of her beautiful singing of the words to this tune. The light baritone gospel singer John Thomas replaces her with the trio on "I Will Arise", where Ed Simon switches to percussion. This isn't Latinised, the rhythms imply a common source alive in the dancing salvationists and the idiom of Ms. Souza's performance of Djavan's "Lei", which she says speaks "of love and passion as mysterious things. In love, things happen for reasons sometimes unknown to us." Patitucci's solos on 6-string electric bass, and Ed Simon swings.

The song cycle continues with Gustav Holst's setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter", the two singers alternating stanzas. (Mrs.) Sachi Patitucci is on cello in the string quartet, which her husband (who adapted the setting) augments on bass. The longing is intense. "Three Faces" (those it seems of Patitucci's wife and two daughters) follows, opening to slightly predictable effect with Souza vocalese and guitar and flute. The ungilded lily would have had Patitucci opening and closing on cello-high bowed bass with just Simon and Blades. "Now the River" omits flute and after more virtuoso six-string electric bass Simon surges forth on piano, vocalese weaving in for a few bars with each of them. This is a much softer sister of some Steve Lacy performances whose theme Irene Aebi sings both fore and aft. Ms. Sousa's "Soulmate", theme stated on Mrs. Patitucci's cello, is all about surrender and rebirth in love. Tim Ries's flute does opening honours for the "Rhapsodic Journey", whose title presumably if not ideally links rhapsody and journey as both story, but looks forward to "It Never Entered My Mind". The vocal melody has been altered, fitting a modal scale creating an ethereal effect, stretching the voice. The trio sounds especially relaxed in comparison.

After the wordless singing into a fade-out ending, Ed Simon accompanies Sachi Patitucci's cello in her husband's "Love Eternal" and the two float perfectly coordinated between his playing in the jazz idiom of the preceding songs, and her European almost ecclesiastical performance. Words have been left behind, and the set concludes with a duet between Patitucci and Brian Blade, Coltrane's "Wise One", dedicated to Jimmy Garrison, who died far too young and was always far more than merely the bass player with John Coltrane's classic quartet. Considered just as a collection of 12 lyrical and ever lively performances, this CD can also be well recommended.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.