Timing, as they say, is everything. So it seems appropriate that a day or so after someone died whose passion for life and his art was one of the glorious inspirations of my life, I'm reviewing a CD of music inspired by all the word remembrance can mean. In the liner notes to his new release Remebrance on the Concord Music Group label, John Patitucci talks about how not only was he attempting to pay tribute to those who have passed, but also remembering those who are still around and continue to inspire him with their playing. However, the disc is not just about remembering people – it's about remembering to be in the present, enjoying the moments we are blessed with, and not allowing ourselves to become caught up in the past or preoccupied with the future.
Patitucci doesn't draw a line connecting the former and the latter parts of the above, but the way I see it the work of those who have truly inspired us will have the power to ensure that we stay in the present. For their music, painting, or writing wouldn't inspire us if it wasn't able to attract out complete attention and keep us in the moment. Now these are all fine and noble sentiments, but how do you translate them into music? The first option is to create pieces in tribute to the folk you're going to miss and try to recreate some of what they had done that inspired you (the same can be done for those still living), while the other option is to create pieces of music that are powerful incentives to keep people focused on the here and now.
For this effort he's joined by other members of his trio, Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone) and Brian Blade (drums) on ten of the eleven tracks on the disc, while his wife adds some beautiful cello work to "Scenes From An Opera" and Rogerio Boccato fills some gaps with percussion on four tracks. For the final track of the disc, the title track, Patitucci plays against himself, bass against a piccolo bass. Oh – had I failed to mention that Patitucci was a bass player until now? Well he is, and while Jaco Pastorous was magnificent, there's something about the quality of Patitucci's playing that makes me feel like he is the superior musician. I didn't say bass player, I said musician which is an important distinction.
Don't get me wrong I love Pastorous' playing just as much as anybody's but he died young, before he had a chance to fully develop as a musician. What he could have accomplished if he had the time is another thing altogether. However, listening to Patitucci's playing and his compositions on this disc, he wrote all eleven tracks, you can't help but be impressed by his range of expression, the breadth of his artistic awareness, and his imagination. For while "Monk/Trane" is obviously a tribute to John & Alice Coletrane and Thelonious Monk as the title suggests, he doesn't just try and write something that will imitate those three great players, the song also manages to express something of what the music meant to him personally as well.
The same goes for any of the obvious tribute songs, "Blues For Freddie" and "Sonny Side" (for Freddie Hubbard and Sonny Rollins respectively I assume) as each of them contains elements of the named person's style while telling something of what their music meant to Patitucci. How did he manage to do that you might be asking, create a song that talks about how music made him feel? Well, first of all instead of any of these songs having anything at all to do with a dirge or eulogy of some sort or another, they all are full of life and elaborate creations that are too involved to be depressing. Secondly, they live up to his last objective in creating this disc – they absorb your attention so completely that you are held in the moment by the music.
Well, you might say, what's so hard about that? Well let me ask you something in return. When you're listening to music how often do you find your mind wandering and you start thinking about things other than the song you're supposedly paying attention to? Now there is the occasional song where the composer has gone out of his way to trigger certain reactions in their listener which will bring various thoughts to mind, but that's not the same as you're brain wandering all over the place. Anyway, when a songwriter's intent is for you to feel something in particular, it's not so you wallow in it at the expense of what you're doing in the moment, it's in order to ensure that you feel or experience things as intensely as possible at the moment of impact.
The title song, "Remembrance", on this disc is a great example of this in action. Patitucci has dedicated this song to Michael Brecker, not somebody whose music I'm familiar with so I wouldn't be able to tell you if it sounded like something he created or not, and while there is something decidedly poignant about the song, it's not designed to make you wallow in those emotions. While I was listening to the track I couldn't help but think of the person I knew who had just passed away, and while there was definitely hurt involved in that reaction as it brought my sadness to the surface, it was also positive. For as I listened to the song I wasn't thinking about how awful it was that he had died, I was thinking about all the wonderful things he had brought into my life. It helped me to celebrate his memory instead of only thinking about the grief that his loss caused.
There are many ways we can remember those who have influenced and inspired us. We can choose to mourn the loss and wallow in that, or we can count our blessings for having had the chance to have them in our lives and rejoice in the gifts they left us. Of course that same options apply to how we live our lives; either relishing every moment we are given for the opportunity that it presents us, or worrying ourselves sick over what might lie ahead and what came before. John Patitucci has created in his new disc Remembrance, eleven songs which manage to help us remember those lessons. Through heartfelt creations and loving performances he and his fellow musicians have created an album that is wonderful to listen to as well as being good for the soul. A gift which all of us can appreciate.