BASSISTS
JOHN PATITUCCI
BA SS EVERYMAN JOHN PATITUCCI IS A LAW UNTO HIM SELF WHEN IT COMES TO THE
LOW END. ANDY HUGHES ASKS THE GREAT MAN THE BIG QUESTIONS
b a ssists m ade a m assive contribution to the advanced
techniques of b a ss playing "
"I started off picking up stuff by ear, and then I learned
to read m usic, and w as trained after that. I learned
classical b ass for three years, and then I left school. I
never graduated. I w as the type w ho did well without
academ ic backing. I didn't need the motivation of a grade
to m ake m e w ant to learn as m uch as I could, and to
explore everything I could find.
W hat is his current bass of choice? "M y electric bass is
the six-string Yamaha, the red one which you tend to see
in pictures" he tells us. "I helped to design that bass, and I
play it a lot. W hen w e w ere designing the bass, w e talked a
lot about the w ood w e would use, w e used the old Fender
w oods that everyone loves, with a m aple top, and I also
advised them on the preamp inside the bass as well. I have
been with Yamaha for a long time, and I have been involved
in the design discussion s with them for quite a while. I
would su gg est a type of wood for a prototype and su gg est
that they put a bolt-on neck on the model to get back to the
basic sound. W ith m y favourite bass, one of the main artist
relations guys from Yamaha cam e over to m y house with a
frequency analyser, and w e sorted out the frequencies w e
wanted, and nailed them right there"
"I have been lucky" he adds, "because the ba sse s that I
have had input into with the design are prototypes, so I get
the hand-built ones to play. I have to say that the production
m odels are just as gorgeous, wonderful instruments. The
wood is so important to the overall sound of the bass, as
well as the look of it. The bass has to look good, so it's a
pleasure to pick it up and play it every day"
John is known as an innovator and pioneer in the field of
six-string b a ss playing, picking up the instrum ent alm ost 30
years ago. A s he rem em bers: "I played a four-string bass
ou could be forgiven for bracketing
John Patitucci solely as a jazz bassist.
After all, he's been on the road with
W ayne Shorter, as well as featuring
on album s by jazz greats such as
Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and
Dizzy Gillespie. But Patitucci is
nothing if not a versatile m usician, and his vast range of
bass techniques have led to his em ploym ent in the studio
with pop-rock titans Bon Jovi, blues legend BB King, and
even indie darlings Everything But The Girl.
Our conversation opens with a reminder about Patitucci's
start in m usic, following the footsteps of his older brother.
"M y brother Tom started playing guitar: he w as the first
m em ber of the fam ily to take up an instrument. I had a
try with the guitar w hen I w as about eight or nine, but I
couldn't really get along with it. I played with a pick and I'm
left-handed, so holding the pick in m y right hand felt really
weird. There w ere no known left-handed guitarists around
then, with the exception of Jim i Hendrix. I w as a child, so I
lost interest pretty quickly."
"M y brother w as pretty sm art" he continues. "H e
w anted som eon e to play with, so he su gg ested that I
could play the bass, because I could use m y fingers to
play. So w e got this Sears Telstar b ass for $10. It w as
actually hanging on som eone's wall dow n the street in
Brooklyn w here w e lived. It had a very short scale. I used
Labella flatw ound strings, and the b a ss buzzed a lot, but
I thought it w as really cool. I w as listening to pop m usic
on the radio: this w as the early 1960s, so there w as a lot
of M otown and rock'n'roll. I w as inspired by the people I
w as listening to, w ithout realising it at the time. I loved the
Beatles, and Cream . Paul M cCartney w as a real m usician;
he had a real dim ension to his b a ss playing. A lot of British
b a s s g u i t a r m a g a z i n e
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