Video: Pino Palladino's Neo-Soul Basslines with D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and José James

For the past many Wednesdays, Jake Hawrylak has guided us along the Bass Walk of the Week, dissecting and teaching some of the greatest basslines from giants of jazz, like Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, and Oscar Pettiford.

Today, Jake changes it up with a deep look into the soulful and funky playing of Pino Palladino—a session and touring bassist that has played with The Who, Nine Inch Nails, Elton John, Jeff Beck, and many, many others. But it’s Pino’s work with D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and other members of the Soulquarians neo-soul collective that Jake focuses on in the lesson above.

Pino’s melodic and thematic playing is rooted in simple grooves, but employs characterful trills, slides, and articulations to create feel and space—playing around the beat as he stays locked in to it.

Jake starts with the bassline from D’Angelo’s "Send It On" from Voodoo—a "very simple, very groovy line" in 6/8 that has "all these weird, kind of rubbery ways" that he slides across the neck. It’s a great example of the loose, laidback way he plays to the beat, while employing a specific mix of short and long notes to add drama and tension.

Pino rejoined D’Angelo for 2016’s Black Messiah and standout track "The Charade," which uses a go-to trick of Pino’s, crafting a melodic line up to the 9th position, which Jake says "draws attention to the bass, but not in a show-off-y kind of way."

The rhythmic drag Pino often uses to bring playful movement to the beat is well demonstrated on José James’ "Trouble," from the album No Beginning No End. There’s a two-fingered, double-tapped kick feel, in a technique that D’Angelo allegedly described to The Roots/Soulquarians drummer Questlove as "playing drunk." It’s like keeping the hi-hat in time while letting the rest of the beat sloppily fall into place.

According to Jake, Erykah Badu’s "Cleva" from Mama’s Gun is "where his style really shines through." There’s a faint, muted 16th-note passage, a snaky, chromatic bassline that jumps the beat in the chorus, and a call-and-response section. "This is one of my favorite things about Pino’s style—is how thematic he is," Jake says. "Planting these little seeds that come back to you later."

Be sure to watch the full lesson above, and check below for tabs for each song.

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