Pino Palladino/Blake Mills
Notes With Attachments
New Deal Records
Pino Palladino is one of the most famous bass players alive – a session man from Wales who has provided deep funk for Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, and is now the new guy in The Who, filling in the sound created by one of the most famous rock bassists of all time. If you didn’t think you knew his work at all think back to Paul Young’s brilliant Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) which elevated a middling Marvin Gaye ditty and largely because of the fretless feel of Pino’s perfect bass.
He’s been a presence on so many records since the 1980s. Here he releases his first solo album, sharing the bill with Blake Mills, who, in a way, is like a younger-generation Pino. Blake’s axe of choice is the guitar and he’s already made significant impact as a producer and arranger – as well as being a player of great skill and taste; his supporting runs include time at the desk for Fiona Apple, Laura Marling, Jesca Hoop and Jim James, and in the bands of Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Avett Brothers, Lana Del Rey and many others. He was in the group that became better known as Dawes and he’s released a small handful of wonderful solo records.
These two – perfect for each other – met on a John Legend session. So, just when you thought nothing good was ever going to come from John Legend.
That Blake and Pino have found each other means that Mills could push Palladino’s solo recordings into place. These are songs and song-snippets that come from Cuba and African groove ideas. And they might just have sat in the cupboard forever while Pino kept slapping de bass for a paycheck. But now you can hear this messy, glorious album jam-packed with ideas.
The melodies waft and drift, the grooves are largely driven by guitar and bass and are sinewy and lithe and there and gone in an instant sometimes. It’s less of a funk thing, more esoteric and soundtrack-y and actually feels like Eno’s collaboration with Jon Hassell or, for that matter Eno’s legendary co-creation with David Byrne, My Life In The Bush of Ghosts. This is some Fela-funk instrumental update of Bush of Ghosts. No preacher-in-the-woods spoken word cut-ups, just guitar and bass merging to make glorious stews of comfort-food funk.
You could imagine Tom Waits howling and growling atop Ekuté, which features the fuzz so prominently in the duel-feel of guitar and bass that you have to figure these two have the cops on speed-dial.
The title track is an ethereal bit of bass playing that hangs in the air, a ballet performance for the low end, and this is the skill of Blake Mills, being able to correctly place and care for the song-ideas of other people, accentuating the positive, attenuating the background noise and distraction – making every note count.
West African and Griot-styled guitar drives Djurkel, and a song called Chris Dave gets its name because of the contribution from the master percussionist, and fellow D’Angelo bandmember.
Sam Gendel’s saxophone is another feature on this album – which makes more and more sense as the record progresses because even without his actual sound on some of the tracks I started to feel his presence, thought often of how this album feels like it sits so perfectly inside that magical sound-world; a new ambient set of groove pieces.
If you want big thundering cool grooves, if you want sharp fretless licks, you have got the wrong Pino Palladino. If you want consummate musicianship and great music that drifts and is therefore the perfect music to drift to – then you’ve come to the right place, you too will be grateful that Blake and Pino had found each other.
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