The One: John Patitucci's 1972 Fender Mustang

When John Patitucci moved from Brooklyn to Northern California in 1972, little did he know that he’d be right in the middle of an East Bay funk explosion.
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When John Patitucci moved from Brooklyn to Northern California in 1972, little did he know that he’d be right in the middle of an East Bay funk explosion. “It was an amazing time to go there, with bands like Tower Of Power, Sly Stone, Santana, and Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters, with Paul Jackson on bass,” he says. Is it any coincidence that he bought his first good bass there?

In search of a Fender Precision, 13-year-old Patitucci had gone to Brown Music in Concord, across the Bay, with his guitar- playing older brother, Tom. The store had neither a P-Bass nor a Jazz, but it did have a brand-new Fender Mustang. Patitucci took it home, stringing it first with flats and then round-wounds, and by the time he was 15, he was doing sessions.

“This red Mustang was such a great bass for me, especially when I was younger and my hands were smaller,” remembers the man who’d one day become an icon of 6-string bass virtuosity. “The only foolish thing I did to the bass was to remove the frets after hearing Jaco in the mid ’70s. Obviously, no other bass player ever sounded like Jaco, and taking the frets out of the old Mustang didn’t work out too well—I didn’t know you had to fill in the spaces with epoxy or something!”

Four-and-a-half decades later, Patitucci thinks warmly of the past and the future. “Oh well, what can I say? I am inspired to have the bass re-fretted and restored to its original condition.”

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WHEN IT COMES TO BASS ROLE MODELS, WE THUMPERS ARE fortunate to have John Patitucci. His firm grasp of jazz and myriad other styles is matched by his equally firm grip on both fretboard and fingerboard. Add inherent creativity and curiosity to the mix, and we’re talking about a forefront musician. This breadth is wholly evident in John’s 13th solo effort, Remembrance. The intimate, 11-track disc is a noble nod to the greats who preceded him via one of the boldest outposts in jazz: the sax-bass-drums (read: piano-less) trio. In truth, the setting—here with sax titan Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade—plays right into Patitucci’s penchant for contrapuntal writing and his ongoing quest to establish the 6-string bass guitar in the traditional acoustic jazz realm.