By Thomas Semioli
A composer, producer, bandmember, collaborator and recording artist – Kenny Passarelli has been the go-to bass player for numerous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists, serving as the harmonic and rhythmic catalyst on several seminal sides, and ensembles.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Kenny’s musical journey began as a classical trumpet player – studying with Byron Jolivett, and performing with the “Inaugural Band” as a member of the Denver Junior Police Band.
Following his meeting with Stephen Stills, who played him demos of his new group Crosby Stills Nash &Young, Kenny opted for a career in rock and roll. Though he missed the opportunity to work with the iconic guitarist at Woodstock in ‘69, Kenny nailed a gig with Joe Walsh, fresh out of the James Gang, with his band Barnstorm also featuring drummer Joe Vitale.
Working on-and-off with Walsh throughout the 70s, Kenny co-authored “Rocky Mountain Way” and his ascending fretless motif enabled Wash to live a “Life of Illusion” – another classic rock track which he co-wrote with Walsh.
Dig Tony Senatore’s rendition of Joe Walsh’s “Life of Illusion” https://youtu.be/guBps-ftmPk
Along with Rick Danko and Boz Burrell, Kenny was an early proponent of the fretless bass in a rock context which he plays with a decidedly soulful / rhythm and blues approach.
At the recommendation of Walsh, Kenny was the foundation of Reg Dwight’s second greatest band as heard on Rock of the Westies (1975), Blue Moves (1976), and the archival Captain Fantastic Live at Wembley (2005).
Dig Kenny on “Island Girl” https://youtu.be/H19MbiOICa0
Dig Tony Senatore’s rendition of Kenny on “Grow Some Funk of Your Own” https://youtu.be/ZuvUxFqiPyM
As the bedrock of the Darryl Hall & John Oates band, Kenny waxed Livetime and Along the Red Ledge (1978) in addition to Hall’s iconic Sacred Songs slab.
Dig Tony Senatore’s renditions of Kenny’s select work with Darryl Hall and John Oates:
“It’s a Laugh” https://youtu.be/kUyVrBftDGY
“Pleasure Beach” https://youtu.be/U-eDze5_f4Y
“Serious Music” https://youtu.be/U-eDze5_f4Y
“Room to Breathe” https://youtu.be/VL_hBn0UPkg
“Don’t Blame It On Love” https://youtu.be/2q9Tzc8CTwA
“I Don’t Want to Lose You” https://youtu.be/kUyVrBftDGY
An extended range version of “The Last Time” https://youtu.be/JnOJP6-L0AE
Several musical guests on Live From Daryl’s House have rendered compositions from Sacred Songs with their esteemed host– and with good reason: it stands among the seminal slabs of its era!
Go figure why RCA shelved it for three years fearing its lack of commercial potential.
Produced by Robert Fripp, who also renders his signature sonic guitar soundscapes, Sacred Songs prominently features the core of Sir Elton’s most dexterous ensemble : guitarist Caleb Quaye, drummer Roger Pope, and bassist Kenny Passarelli. The tracks, which were recorded in 1977, burst forth with the vibrancy a concert performance – even though they never played ‘em on stage!
Kenny works his gritty soul influences from cut to cut, and keeps the pocket percolating when reinforcing Daryl’s left-hand keyboard motifs throughout.
Dig Tony Senatore’s rendition of Kenny’s bass passages from Sacred Songs…
“Sacred Songs” https://youtu.be/NUxbDLSIGDk
“Something in 4/4 Time” https://youtu.be/W-SFYbN9BMg
Dig Kenny on Sacred Songs
Dig “Survive” https://youtu.be/0ZaLqTd9wWk
Dig “Babs and Babs” https://youtu.be/235nPzFOXSY
Kenny also shined on notable slabs by Stephen Stills (Stills and Stephen Stills Live -1975), Rick Derringer (All American Boy / 1973), Otis Taylor, and Dan Fogelberg (Souvenirs / 1974), among others.
His impressive solo canon, which also features Kenny’s talents as a pianist, includes releases which are a meld of classical, new age, and Spanish heritage.
Coda: In November 2016, I cited Kenny Passarelli among Eleven More Bass Players Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Huffington Post http://huff.to/2gHNIOA in the Musical Excellence category.
Among Kenny’s weapons of choice include the Fender Jazz bass, and the fretless Fender Precision bass.