The most famous bassist you’ve probably never heard of

March 30, 2015

The release of Black Messiah late last year brought D’Angelo back from his near decade-long hermit status. It was his first album since the release of his titanic, Grammy-winning Voodoo in 2000—an album that at once epitomized and kind of extinguished neo-soul as a genre.

D’Angelo has always had a knack for assembling powerhouse musicians and producers. Even with the absence of the late J Dilla, the mostly re-assembled Voodoo personnel on Black Messiah pretty much guaranteed some measure of success: Roots-drummer Questlove, engineer Russell Elevado in the form of his protege Ben Kane, and of course, Welsh (but surely also Italian, right?) bassist Pino Palladino. You might not be familiar with his name, but chances are you’re familiar with the sought-after musician’s work.

D’Angelo, Voodoo

Pino Palladino is perhaps the quietest (and by far the most Welsh, if you will) member of the renowned early 2000’s hip-hop/R&B collective known as the Soulquarians (which includes Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, and Mos Def among others). D’Angelo heard Pino’s work on a live B.B. King album, and was apparently pretty enamoured. He and D’Angelo discovered a mutual love for classic soul and jammed together for an unconscionable amount of time preceding and during the recording of Voodoo—with Pino providing many of the gut-swinging bass lines on the hit record.

Erykah Badu, Mama’s Gun

Another neo-soul masterpiece, Badu’s Mama’s Gun featured Palladino on bass almost exclusively; a couple of the tunes utilized some masterfully sampled bass-lines (thanks to Dilla once again), most notably and tastily on the track “Didn’t Cha Know.” The record was one of the finer Soulquarians projects, and received a lot of much deserved praise—it went platinum and was named one of Rolling Stone‘s top 10 albums of 2000.

Adele, 21

Adele’s 2012 Album of the Year 21 needs no introduction. Some of the album was recorded with a super-group of musicians assembled by producer Rick Rubin, including pianist James Poyser and, of course, Palladino. A few of the more emotive songs on the record came out of this recording session (during which, by all accounts, Adele’s vocal takes had people crying in the studio).

John Mayer Trio, Where The Light Is

John Mayer, drummer Steve Jordan, and Palladino recognized some collective musical chemistry while playing a benefit concert together in 2005. Since then they’ve toured and recorded together as the John Mayer Trio—the most impressive product of which has to be the trio’s live video album Where The Light Is, recorded during a promotional tour for Mayer’s Continuum.

The Who, Endless Wire

After long-time bassist John Entwistle died the night before The Who were to initiate their first tour in two years in 2002, Palladino was first in line to fill the spot. He continued to play with the band as a permanent member and contributed significantly to Endless Wire, The Who’s first album after what had been a twenty-four year recording hiatus. I mean, it’s not exactly The Who’s prime years, but certainly a nice notch on Pino’s belt.

Paul Young, No Parlez

English ’80s heartthrob Paul Young charted a monster number one hit in the UK with his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Wherever I Hang My Hat.” The song was praised for potentially surpassing Gaye’s original performance, and it’s utterly distinctive sound came primarily from Pino Palladino’s fretless bass work.

Paul Simon,  Surprise

Simon and Palladino had been friends for a while when Pino joined Simon & Garfunkel for their Old Friends Reunion Tour. The tour produced a live CD/DVD and Palladino ultimately contributed to Simon’s 2006 release of Surprise—a critical success.

Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails officially only consists of frontman and director Trent Reznor, but Pino Palladino has toured pretty consistently with the group, and appeared on four songs in the most recent NIN release Hesitation Marks (including “Copy of A,” which was temporarily released for free on Amazon). The album was a commercial and critical success, and was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2013 Grammys.

Additionally, since his career began in the mid ’80s, Palladino has also toured/recorded with the likes of Eric Clapton and JJ Cale, Common, Bilal, David Gilmour, B.B. King, Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Go West, Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Elton John, and Jeff Beck.


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