Biography / Press
Over the past 25 years, James Whiton has performed both as a soloist and as a member of symphonies, big bands, jazz combos and rock bands. He has been featured on over 100 recordings, including over a dozen self-produced releases, and has traveled throughout the US and Europe, playing in an incredible array of venues in front of audiences ranging in size from five to 10,000 (Ah, the life of a working musician!). The dedication of playing upwards of 300 nights a year for 25 years has resulted in his deep understanding of the subtle nuances of music, as well as an absolute mastery of his instrument which is sharply evident the instant his finger touches a string.
"Whiton is an ace on the bass and uses classical, rock and jazz techniques combined with a knowing musicality to express deep ruminations and cryptic celebrations of what it means to be human... Whiton's scorching awesomeness is not to be trifled with."
- August March, Weekly Alibi
In 2010, Tom Waits recruited James to play bass on his 2011 release Bad As Me, alongside superstar artists such as Keith Richards, Charlie Musselwhite, Augie Meyers (Little Richard, Bob Dylan), Marc Ribot, Dave Hidalgo (Los Lobos, Bob Dylan), Flea and Les Claypool. James is one of six bass players on the recording, but Waits chose to use James' bass tracks on 7 of the 16 songs. Bad As Me was an astounding success; named as the best reviewed album of 2011, it outsold every other recording in Waits' catalog and was nominated for a Grammy.
Throughout his career, James has been fortunate to play with many of his heroes, including Tom Waits, The Rev. Horton Heat, Les Claypool, Vernon Reid (Living Color), Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Nels Cline, Eric Burdon (The Animals), George Clinton (P-Funk All Stars), Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads), Thomas Dolby, Lady Kier (Dee-Lite), Fred Wesley (James Brown), Angelo Moore & Norwood Fisher (Fishbone).
Currently, James lives in Albuquerque, NM and is touring the country as a solo artist.
James' solo playing is “beautiful, unexpected and mesmerizing” (SF Bay Guardian). He applies looping technology to his upright bass, using his skills with the bow and an arsenal of effects to produce music that instantly engages his audience while at the same time surprising them with the uncanny fullness of volume and texture he is able to pull from his instrument.
He performs covers of familiar songs in unusual ways, causing ears to perk up and faces to light up as audiences gradually recognize songs they have heard thousands of times, yet have never heard quite like this. His set never stays in one place for long, leaping effortlessly from dark, beautiful classical music to overdriven heavy rock n roll to Motown funk and pop to ambient soundscape. At one moment, you're listening to a multi-layered string section; the next moment, he is playing heavy, distorted rock n roll. He shifts through an amazing variety of seemingly disparate genres with ease, orchestrating the incredible range of sounds he is able to pull out of his double bass into a whole that is surprisingly full, sublimely tasteful, and simply fascinating.
James Whiton's Solo Loop Bass Madness was awarded one of the Best Live Shows of 2012 in Oakland, CA by the East Bay Weekly.
James Whiton Press Clips
“When I went to see James Whiton's solo loop bass madness, I witnessed a true anomaly: an hour-long bass solo that was beautiful, unexpected and mesmerizing. One man and one bass combine, emanating a wash of sound that is truly unbelievable. The uniqueness of Whiton's solo act is arresting, but the predominant attraction of his music lies not in its novelty; he plays beautiful music that transports the listener to a different place. It's like sex for your ears (or is that aural sex?).” --Jennifer Johnson, San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF, CA
“Whiton plays the double bass like Flava Flav played Charo...he makes it do some strange, distorted, unnatural things. But unlike Flava and Charo, the product of Whiton's slapping is beautiful. His technique is flawless and merges with his sense of music to create an unrivaled sound. Expect to hear a double bass do things that you never expected, then be glad that you did.” --Paul Schrag, Weekly Volcano, Tacoma, WA
“Listening to James Whiton play the string bass, it takes only a few seconds to realize that his is an absolutely unique voice. He plays with a flash and percussive brilliance that shines through his music and has invented his own way of playing the instrument that will most likely be copied, studied and emulated for years to come.” --Michael Strohgt, Jazz Steps, Seattle, WA
“Whiton holds his bass like he's taming a wild animal, whipping his bow against the strings, viciously plucking them, even using its wooden body as a drum, but other times he gently pets it in delicate strokes, allowing softness to emit from its bones.” --Whitney Phaneuf, East Bay Weekly, Oakland, CA
“James Whiton's mastery of the amplified, stand-up double bass must be seen to be believed. A classically trained bassist, Whiton has blended symphonic discipline with powerful, inventive chops, creating new dimensions of unexpected texture.” --Dave Constantin, Eugene Weekly, Eugene, OR
“James Whiton's skills on the bass are unpredictable and outstanding. His use of distortion and “wah” effects is exquisitely uncanny. Whiton plays his instrument as if it was an amplified 'cello from hell.” --Nathan Anderson, The Orion, Chico, CA