"A virtuoso of acoustic upright double bass, Whiton slaps, bows, maneuvers, and manipulates his instrument with orchestral precision and street-corner desperation." -Silke Tudor, SF Weekly
"James Whiton plays a mean bass. Ferocious, in fact. He drives an amplified acoustic double bass with his foot floored on the synth pedal and his hands slapping for speed." -- Ron Swarner, Weekly Volcano, Tacoma, WA
"James Whiton's skills on the bass are
unpredictable and outstanding. His use of distortion and
"wah" effects is exquisitely uncanny. Occasionally, Whiton will pick up
a bow and play his instrument as if it was an amplified cello from
-- Nathan Anderson, The Orion, Chico, 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
"Whiton, who plays upright bass through an arsenal
of effects, has a startling original sound that often comes through in
his aggressive bowed solos." --Gene Stout, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
James Whiton plays the Double Bass differently than anyone you have ever heard. He has outstanding technique combined with a beautiful sense of musicianship, but the most remarkable thing about listening to him play is the strength of his voice on the instrument.
Currently, James lives in SF, CA but he's
spending a lot of time on the road, playing as full-time bass player
Eric McFadden Trio and Terese
In 2011, he was asked to record with the brilliant and iconic Tom
Waits and is featured on several tracks of Waits' album Bad as Me.
When he’s not on the road or in the studio, James plays both as a solo artist and with several different Bay Area ensembles.
He has invented and developed a right-hand slap technique that has given his upright bass playing a signature voice. He uses effects widely, transforming the wooden sound of his bass into caterwauling, distorted wah-wah, electronica synth or buzzsaw distortion, orchestrating the rhythm section around the textures he pulls out of his bass. Above all, he remains tasteful, building space into groove and playing with an attention to the whole.
James was first introduced to his instrument from within the womb....his mother was a professional bassist, sitting principal with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra for 26 years; one of her career highlights was playing the famous bass solo from Mahler's First Symphony while eight months pregnant with James; she played even though her arms could barely fit around the instrument.
When James turned three, his Mom gave him his first real string instrument, a half size 'cello. When he was six, he was taken on tour with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra playing a 'cello concerto as part of a children in music program. He studied classical music, both with his mother and local string players, but was always equally influenced by his Dad, who played big band drums and introduced James to the music of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington.
Throughout high school, James was a featured musician with several youth symphonies and won top honors at many local and regional competitions. After graduating in 1988, he attended music conservatory at Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas and began playing professionally with many regional symphonies in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas.
In 1990, he enrolled as a student at the University of New Mexico and began studying jazz with bassist Mark Tatum and reedman John Truitt. He began playing jazz and improvised music wherever and whenever he could. He played with virtually every local jazz and blues luminary in the Southwest in addition to leading his own groups; he also played with and co-led the folk-rock band Apricot Jam.
In September 1994, James was in a car accident that shattered his left arm, leading more than one doctor to recommend amputation while even the optimists were doubtful that he would ever resume his career as a musician. Throughout seven grueling surgeries, a dedicated and talented Dr. Luis Cuadros was able to reconstruct James' arm and wrist, setting the wrist in position so that James could continue playing the bass despite a severely limited range of motion. Ask him to show you his scars some time. Working with a focused and supportive occupational therapist, Lynn Burns, James was able to regain most of his hand strength and finger dexterity within a relatively short time: in April, 1995, Apricot Jam was playing regionally again and recorded their cd "Live at the Fox Theater," which would become one of the best-selling local recordings in New Mexico and the Southwest. Apricot Jam became one of the most successful independent bands in the region, building a local fan base into a national base that allowed them to tour constantly for the next three years throughout the U.S. After seven years with the same lineup and over 1000 shows, Apricot Jam disbanded in 1998.
James moved to Seattle in 1998 and began playing with local musicians such as Skerik, Joe Doria, Michael Shrieve and Jessica Lurie and going on the road with Ben Klein and Taarka. He also released his first CD, Rhythm & Motion. It was during this time that he reunited with old friend and guitar hero Eric McFadden, who was a touring member of Parliament/Funkadelic and leader of several bands in the San Francisco Bay Area. The collaboration between James and Eric became known as the Eric McFadden Trio or EMT; over the past decade, EMT has toured relentlessly throughout the United States and drawn widespread acclaim for their remarkable live performances. They have released four CD's and continue to record and perform throughout the US and Europe.
In 2005, James formed the psychedelic band the
Downtown Apostles, which recorded a CD for Hipsync Records
called The Way Your Mouth Moves and toured the West Coast
and Southwest until 2008.
James moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 and currently plays with several different ensembles, as well as touring and performing across the US and Europe with the Eric McFadden Trio and Terese Taylor.
He recorded with Tom Waits in 2011 and is featured on several tracks of the album Bad As Me.
Over the past 20 years of his professional career, James has played with national, local and regional musicians in just about every style and genre conceivable, including collaborations with George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Lige Curry, Blackbyrd McKnight, the Rev. Horton Heat, John Popper, Wayne Horvitz, Lady Kier (Dee-Lite), Col. Bruce Hampton, Pat mAcdonald, Thomas Dolby, Rev. Jeff Mosier, David Blackmon, Jim Page, Skerik, Michael Shrieve, KJ Sawka, Artis the Spoonman, Blake Lewis, Lee Oskar, Amy Denio, Leif Totusek, Alice Stuart, DA Sebasstian, Jason Webley and many others.
Click here for a list of recordings.