Born in Brooklyn in 1959, Patitucci started out on electric bass at age ten and by his teens was composing and performing on the acoustic bass. Initially self-taught, he gained facility playing along to Motown records featuring bassist James Jamerson (a big early influence), as well as albums by Ray Charles and the Beatles. Given a crate of jazz LPs from his grandfather, he quickly fell under the sway of players like Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, and Wes Montgomery. In the early '70s, Patitucci's family moved to the West Coast. There, he began taking lessons with teacher Chris Poehler, and started piano lessons and learning about music theory. It was during this period that he greatly expanded his skills, studying the work of legendary acoustic bassists like Ron Carter, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, and Eddie Gomez, as well as the electric style of players like Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco Pastorius. Live work followed, including early dates with Gap Mangione (brother of Chuck Mangione) and veteran vibraphonist Victor Feldman. After high school, Patitucci studied music at San Francisco State University and Long Beach State University. Following his graduation in the early '80s, he found himself in-demand for session and touring gigs, playing with luminaries like Wayne Shorter, Bobby Shew, Frank Strazzeri, and others.
In 1985, Patitucci joined keyboardist Chick Corea's Elektric Band, making his recorded debut with the group the following year on their Grammy-nominated Top Ten jazz album The Elektric Band. The band was Corea's first ensemble-oriented project since the breakup of his landmark fusion ensemble Return to Forever and, along with Patitucci, introduced such jazz stars as drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and guitarist Frank Gambale. Patitucci was on board for the group's 1987 album Light Years, which took home the Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance Orchestra, Group or Soloist. He would remain a collaborator with Corea throughout his career, appearing on albums like 1989's Chick Corea Akoustic Band, 1990's Grammy-nominated Inside Out, and 1991's number two Billboard Jazz Album Beneath the Mask.
As a leader, Patitucci made his debut in 1987 on GRP with John Patitucci, backed by fellow Corea bandmate Weckl, drummers Peter Erskine and Vinnie Colaiuta, as well as tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. The album, which showcased his crisp brand of crossover jazz and funk, landed at number six on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and took home the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. He returned with several more well-received albums for GRP, including 1989's Grammy-nominated On the Corner and 1990's Sketchbook. Heart of the Bass arrived in 1991 on Corea's Stretch Records label and featured Corea as well as percussionist Alex Acuna and pianist John Beasley. Patitucci rounded out his time on GRP releasing albums like 1993's Dave Grusin- and Larry Rosen-produced Another World and 1994's Mistura Fina, the latter of which found him expanding into Brazilian sounds and working with vocalists Joao Bosco, Dori Caymmi, Ivan Lins, and others.
Patitucci then moved to Concord and made his debut for the label with 1997's One More Angel, which found him embracing a more acoustic post-bop sound. Along with appearances by his wife, cellist Sachi Patitucci, the album featured saxophonists Chris Potter and Michael Brecker, drummer Paul Motian, pianist Alan Pasqua, and more. The similarly post-bop-leaning Now followed a year later and again featured Brecker and Potter, as well as guitarist John Scofield and drummer Bill Stewart. Along with his own work in the '90s, Patitucci appeared on projects with Jeff Beal, Lee Ritenour, the GRP All-Star Big Band, George Benson, Dave Grusin, and others.
In 2000, the bassist released the adventurous Latin jazz-infused Imprint, featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Danilo Perez, and drummer/percussionist Horacio El Negro Hernandez. That same year, he contributed to the Hudson Project, an all-star quartet album with guitarist John Abercrombie, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, and drummer Peter Erskine. He and Perez then joined drummer Roy Haynes for a trio album. The following year, Patitucci picked up a Grammy nomination for Communion, which found him exploring Afro-Cuban and Brazilian sounds alongside vocalist Luciana Souza, pianist Brad Mehldau, saxophonists Joe Lovano and Chris Potter, drummer Brian Blade, and others. Another Grammy nomination followed with 2003's Songs, Stories Spirituals, which featured a mix of folk, classical, and Latin sounds. That year, Patitucci also rejoined Corea for the Grammy-nominated Rendezvous in New York and the Elektric Band reunion album To the Stars, which reached number eight on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts.
In 2005, Patitucci was back with Wayne Shorter's acoustic quartet, appearing alongside drummer Blade and pianist Perez on the Grammy-winning Alegria. That same year, he contributed to Herbie Hancock's Possibilities. He then returned to his solo work with the 2006 small group date Line by Line, again featuring Blade, saxophonist Potter, and guitarist Adam Rogers. Along with dates for Al Di Meola and Ferenc Nemeth, Patitucci joined Michael Brecker for the saxophonist's final studio album, Pilgrimage, released posthumously in 2007. Following sessions with Tim Ries, Chuck Loeb, and Ralph Bowen, the bassist picked up a further Grammy nod for his 2009 trio album Remembrance, with Joe Lovano and Brian Blade. He played on Jack DeJohnette's Music We Are and joined Kurt Elling for the singer's 2011 album The Gate.
In 2015, Patitucci released Brooklyn, an electric guitar quartet collaboration with guitarists Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas. The album reached number 11 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. Likewise that year, he joined longtime associates drummer Blade and pianist Perez for Children of the Light. In 2018, he was back with Shorter for the saxophonist's Grammy-winning Emanon. The following year, he issued the intimate solo bass album Soul of the Bass, which featured guest spots from his wife, cellist Sachi Patitucci, and his daughters. He then joined pianist Tim Ray and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington for 2020's Excursions and Adventures. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
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