Phil Palombi gets personal with Detroit Lean

bassist Phil PalombiPhil Palombi gets personal with Detroit Lean

NYC jazz bassists channels his own story… and Scott LaFaro’s bass

By David Sands
December 30, 2016

Hot NYC jazzman Phil Palombi has released a new record that’s close-to-the-heart and features a treasured piece of jazz history. Detroit Lean, the Grammy-winning bassist’s third album as a leader, uses his own history as a wellspring for the music.

“Most of the titles correspond to events or feelings that I had when I moved to New York City in 1997,” Palombi said in a release. “In my previous life, growing up in Ohio, I was a total gear-head. I used to rebuild muscle cars, cruise, drag race—all the fun stuff! The phrase ‘Detroit Lean’ refers to a style of sitting behind the steering wheel, looking cool.”

This deeply personal music also gets added boost from the powerful presence of jazz legend Scott LaFaro’s acoustic bass, which features prominently on the album. Palombi, who considers LaFaro a musical hero, wrote the first book of LaFaro’s solos ever published, Scott LaFaro – 15 Solo Transcriptions, and used the bass on his last album, 2011’s RE: Person I Knew—A Tribute to Scott LaFaro.

While Palombi’s prior albums have been more premeditated, this time around he threw out the script, choosing to follow his instincts instead.

“I was always trying to write music that fit into a specific style or band,” he said. “With Detroit Lean, I just wrote music stream-of-consciousness style— whatever popped into my mind. As a result, I think that I unconsciously channeled a wide range of influences and sounds that have been bouncing around in my head over my musical life. I didn’t really care what anyone wanted to hear or about trying to fit a genre. I wanted to see what was inside of me.”

Along with Palombi’s nimble bass-playing, the album features the talents of pianist Matthew Fries and drummer Keith Hall; also appearing are guitarist Tony Romano, vocalist Kat Gang, and mixing engineer George Walker Petit, who contributed both percussion and special effects.

Detroit Lean covers a lot of ground: Brazilian touches on “The Phoenix” stripped-down minimalism on “Sarah’s Theme,” Afro-Cuban stylings on “Alternate Side Parking” as well as pieces that cross more into modern jazz territory like “Standing Through Time.” Palombi’s wife,  jazz pianist Sarah Jane Cion, also contributed a tune, a reflective piano-driven piece called “Stay the Same.”

As for the presence of LaFaro’s prized 1825 Prescott bass, Palombi has done his utmost to bring a contemporary sensibility to its use on the album.

“For this record, I wanted to take Scotty’s bass and imagine what LaFaro might be recording in 2016 if he were still alive,” he said. “What does his bass sound like in a completely modern setting? I just really like that bass!”

Purchase Detroit Lean on iTunes:



Detroit Lean

Track Listing:

1. Beyond the Wall(Palombi)
2. Detroit Lean (Palombi)
3. The Phoenix (Palombi)
4. Push-Pull (Palombi)
5. I’ll Never Go Back to Brooklyn (Palombi)
6. Stay the Same (Cion)
7. Alternate Side Parking (Palombi)
8. Standing Through Time (Palombi)
9. Sarah’s Theme (Palombi)
10. Take Both Paths (Palombi)

Title: Detroit Lean
Artist: Phil Palombi
Release date: May 24, 2016
Label: XCAPPA

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FBPO interview with Phil Palombi


Scott LaFaro's bass donated to International Society of Bassists
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