Palladino was born in Cardiff, Wales to a Welsh mother and an Italian father. Deeply influenced by Motown, Led Zeppelin, and jazz, he began playing classical guitar at age 14 but switched to bass at 17. He bought his first fretless bass at 18, playing mostly R&B, funk, and reggae, inspired by his primary -- and lasting -- influences including James Jamerson, Danny Thompson, and Norman Watt-Roy. He also adapted techniques and tricks from bassists he admired including Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, Boosty Collins, and Michael Henderson. For a short time, he played with singer Geraint Griffiths in Welsh indie folk band Hogia'r Docia, and issued a pair of singles. After moving to London, he auditioned for Jools Holland His Millionaires and won a studio gig playing on their self-titled 1981 album. Gary Numan heard Palladino's fretless approach while prepping his own demos and hired him to play bass on 1982's I, Assassin. Producer, engineer, arranger, and Ian Dury the Blockheads' member Laurie Latham worked on the Numan sessions. Impressed by Palladino's playing, Latham hired him to back Paul Young on the 1982 album No Parlez. Its charting singles were all covers and included Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)," Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and Waylon Jennings' "Love of the Common People." Palladino joined Young's touring band but continued to play recording sessions with many artists. In 1984, he traveled to Los Angeles to play on Don Henley's smash album Building the Perfect Beast, and won a spot playing on Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's solo outing About Face. A year later, Palladino was remarkably busy, playing with Young, Go West, the Dream Academy, Pete Townshend, and Elton John. By 1988, he was also a session bassist with Chaka Khan and Joan Armatrading. In 1989, he began to make a name for himself critically as he appeared on blockbuster recordings that included Henley's End of the Innocence, Phil Collins' ...But Seriously, and Tears for Fears' The Seeds of Love.
Palladino also recorded and toured with Kirsty MacColl and joined Paul Rodgers' band the Law, playing in the rhythm section alongside drummer Small Faces/Who drummer Kenney Jones; they issued a self-titled debut album in 1991. Palladino was also experimenting with new techniques and instruments. He began alternating between fretless bass and fretted four- and six-string basses, adding a different depth and dimension to his already individual sound. (That evolution eventually resulted in endorsement offers and signature custom-made basses from various instrument manufacturers.) His experimentation also resulted in work with a wider variety of artists including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Melissa Etheridge (her historic 1993 album Yes I Am prominently featured his bass playing). At the same time, Palladino was working in-studio with jazz drummer Manu Katché, pop singer Michael McDonald, and French nouvelle chanson star Laurent Voulzy.
1994 proved an important year for Palladino. He worked with Bob James for the first time on Restless, with Bryan Ferry on Mamouna, Al Di Meola on Orange and Blue, and most notably on Seal's iconic self-titled debut album. The bassist spent the next several years branching out into theatrical pop with composer Michael Kamen, spacy prog with Rick Wright, jazz with Chris Botti and John McLauglin, and highly stylized pop with Peter Cetera. In 1997, at Clapton's suggestion, Palladino was hired as a session player for B.B. King's star-studded duets album Deuces Wild. One of the selections he played on was the NOLA R&B standard "Ain't Nobody Home" with old friend and fellow session player Steve Jordan on drums and with horns arranged by the legendary Wardell Quezergue. King's duet partner on the track was D'Angelo, who was knocked out by Palladino's fluid, meaty, emotional neo-soul approach. In a year full of other high-profile sessions with Phil Manzanera, Ofra Haza, and Celine Dion, his appearance on Deuces Wild resulted in D'Angelo asking him to participate in the sessions for his long-incubated second album, Voodoo, which eventually saw the light of day in 2000 and won a Grammy the following year.
Palladino established new relationships during those sessions; he played alongside drummer Ahmir Thompson (aka Questlove) and trumpeter Roy Hargrove -- both would become future collaborators. Palladino's playing deeply moved Thompson, who recommended him to his peers. Palladino went straight from those sessions to Erykah Badu's for Mama's Gun, using many of the same players. He also played on records by De La Soul, Musiq Soulchild, Common, and Richard Ashcroft.
Palladino's career was in full bloom. Not only had he retained his working relationships with almost everyone from the past, but he was forming new ones at a fast pace. Femi Kuti had heard the Voodoo sessions and hired him for Fight to Win; he was also drafted by producer Robert Glasper to play on Bilal Oliver's seminal debut 1st Born Second, and contributed to Nikka Costa's Everybody Got Their Something and Rod Stewart's Human. In 2002, Terry Callier made a comeback after decades away and chose Palladino as his bassist for the 4Hero-produced Speak Your Peace. Who bassist John Entwistle died just two days before the beginning of a U.S. tour in 2002. Townshend called Palladino and he joined the touring band, playing with them for 14 years.
In 2003 the Voodoo sessions kept on impressing musicians, and Hargrove hired Palladino to play in his jazz-funk outfit RH Factor for the album Hard Groove. He also played on Anthony Hamilton's Comin' from Where I'm From and on Simon Garfunkel's live reunion Old Friends. A year later Palladino worked with Clapton on his Robert Johnson tribute Me and Mr. Johnson. Over the next two years, he did session work, but was on the road far more. In January 2005 session drummer and old friend Steve Jordan (who also appeared on King's Deuces Wild and Voodoo) recommended Palladino to John Mayer as a replacement for bassist Willie Weeks, who couldn't make the gig at Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope. Their chemistry worked so well that they toured together as the John Mayer Trio and recorded Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert. In 2006 Palladino played on Clapton and J.J. Cale's Road to Escondido and on their tour; he also worked the road with Jeff Beck, played on Paul Simon's hit Surprise, and on Endless Wire, the Who's first studio album in a quarter-century.
Over the next few years Palladino worked extensively with Mayer, appearing on his third and fourth studio albums, Continuum and Battle Studies. He also played on Seal's second album, worked with Katché's ECM studio band, played on CeeLo Green's The Lady Killer, and, on the indie side, with U.K. acts the Herbaliser and electro-hip-hop progenitor IG Culture. Palladino managed to find time to form a live trio with drummer Simon Phillips and keyboardist Phillipe Saisse. In January of 2011, he re-entered the studio with D'Angelo to finish tracking his third album, The Black Messiah, though it didn't appear for another three years.
In 2012 and 2013, Palladino was on the road almost constantly. He did find time for some studio recording and guested on the Elvis Costello & the Roots collaboration Wise Up Ghost Other Songs; he played on and co-produced Jose James' No Beginning No End, appeared on Nine Inch Nails' Hesitation Marks, and joined the band on tour before returning to work with the Who. The following year, Palladino played with Keith Richards on Crosseyed Heart and was credited with appearances on the restored and once-thought-apocryphal The Diary of J Dilla from recordings made during the early 2000s. Palladino also marked his first collaboration with country star Keith Urban on Ripcord, and played on saxophonist Markus Strickland's Blue Note debut, Nihil Novi, and on John Legend's Darkness and Light.
In 2017, Palladino spent so much time in recording studios he could have used them as mailing addresses. His list of album and credits for the year include Katy Perry, Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Perfume Genius, St. Vincent, and jazzman Keyon Harrold. He spent 2018 the same way, working on Graffiti U with Urban, Steve Perry's comeback album Traces, James' Bill Withers tribute Lean on Me, Bettye Lavette's Things Have Changed, Chris Dave the Drumhedz, and on Beninese jazz guitar great Lionel Loueke's The Journey. Palladino also began working with Harry Styles, appearing prominently on 2019's Watermelon Sugar. He resumed his working relationship with the Who, not to tour but to play on their studio outing Who and on studio dates with Robbie Robertson and Jacob Collier.
Though 2020 was marked by the isolation of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Palladino doggedly kept working. He added bass tracks to albums by Josh Groban, Margo Price, and Urban among others. Most importantly, he began developing and recording his debut solo album with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Blake Mills. The set evolved from the bassist playing Mills his ideas and waiting for his musical reaction. As the session process evolved over the next several months, Palladino's ideas and Mills' layered responses resulted in a full collaboration. The sessions also included contributions from Strickland, Dave, Andrew Bird, Larry Goldings, Ted Poor, Rob Moose, and Sam Gendel. The finished eight-track instrumental set was titled Notes with Attachments and released in March 2021. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
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