Sunday, October 14, 2007

Remembering Jaco Pastorius

On September 21, 1987, Jaco Pastorius – the hugely influential electric bassist – died at the age of 35.

He rose to prominence with the band Weather Report and became an A-list session musician... until mental illness and substance abuse combined to destroy his life.

I’m very tardy with this. But on the 20th anniversary of his death, NPR’s Michele Norris aired a splendid piece about Jaco on “All Things Considered.” It includes frank recollections from modern-jazz heavyweights Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Marcus Miller... as well as the voice of Jaco Pastorius himself.

I’m streaming an excerpt of that NPR piece here. (You can listen to the complete 8-minute segment by following this link to NPR’s website.)

I’m also streaming Joni Mitchell’s 1979 vocalese version of the Charles Mingus classic “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” It showcases Mr. Pastorius (along with his Weather Report colleague Wayne Shorter on soprano sax).

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is available on the Jaco Pastorius double-CD anthology “Punk Jazz.” The track is also downloadable from iTunes.


Roberto Rivera said...

Jaco the best there ever was and the best there ever will be at the electric bass. The only man who causes me to pause before typing those words is Stanley Clarke.

Ah! The mid-1970s and the music that dare not speak its name: fusion. Weather Report, Return to Forever and let's not forget Tony William's Lifetime. Soul food, dashikis and muslim skull caps. Pre-Disney Times Square, Blacks and Puerto Ricans living south of 125th street and west of Third Avenue in Manhattan.

I'm sorry. I got a bad case of nostalgia just then.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I was born a little bit too late. ;^)

And don't forget Deodato!

DeAngelo Starnes said...

RR, I feel ya on your feelings on Jaco.

I have to admit I prefer Alphonso to Jaco's version of Weather Report, but Jaco's solo work was great.

As influential and innovative as Jaco was on the electric bass, his compositions and arrangements smoked! Listen to the horn arrangement of Liberty City from his second solo cd. Wow! That intro blew my mind so much that I would listen to just that snippet over and over.

I saw Jaco when I was 15 years old at a Weather Report concert in Denver. I couldn't keep my eyes off him even though Wayne Shorter was my personal hero. He wore a headband, no shirt, high water apple red pants held up by suspenders. No shoes, hair flowing, and when he would do that "Wooooommm!" slide he would physically slide across the stage. At one point, he jumped off a stack of amps. He tore threw what I later learned was "Third Stone from the Sun" during an unaccompanied solo.

His work on Pat Metheny's first cd "Bright Size Life" is a must have, too.

He tore some shit up on Al Dimeola's Suite: Golden Dawn, too.

And Reza/Giant Steps/Reza from the first Word of Mouth album is the pure shit!

Jaco was a beast. Check out his solo and big band work in addition to his Weather Report work. You'll find a genius.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Dave, Deodato was baad! Prelude is the shit! Also Sprach Zarathustra, Spirit of Summer, Carly & Carole,etc. from that album is so great.

Undercover Black Man said...

DeAngelo, you were into some deep shit at 15!

neptune said...

When he died I whipped out one of the Weather Report albums. Today I'll play some Herbie Hancock (Sunlight). Thanks for the memories.

memomachine said...


Yeah I got into Jaco very very late. But it's a ride well worth taking.

Time for some Donna Lee.

Anonymous said...

That opening to Heavy Weather on Weather Reports opener. (not sure of name, have tape no song titles)
I remember hearing that when I was like five in 1979-81 before my Dad split and moved back to Boston. Hearing that excited me so much yesterday I heard it im dream of being at an airport and it was playing. I was awaiting to go overseas in the dream and started telling everyone around happily its Jaco !!! Thats Jaco playing that bass line! I can identify to self destructive behavior, after reading a book recently about him I can relate to how he was a little. I mean I know the state of mind of mania and having a rare intelligence but all people do is say your weird and your behavior odd.