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-Who is Jaco Pastorius?-
Jaco Pastorius is awesome. He is, to the bass guitar, what Hendrix and Page are to the electric guitar, Beethoven to the piano or John Coltrane to sax. He was born in December of 1951 in Norristown, Pennsylvania and was given the name John Francis Pastorius III. He got the nickname Jaco from his love of sports and basketball umpire Jocko Conlan then later changed the spelling to the French spelling Jaco after receiving a note from pianist Alex Darqui. His father was a drummer so Jaco decided to follow in his footsteps, however at the age of 15 he badly injured his wrist and so took up the double bass in his school band. After saving enough money to buy a bass he discovered it couldn't stand up to the humidity and discovered his bass in pieces on the floor. Replacing his bass would be too costly so he prised the frets from his Fender guitar and filled in the spaces with putty. And so the legendary fretless bass style of Jaco Pastorius was born.
Thorugh the late seventies and early eighties Jaco collaborated with many musicians on many different albums - notably Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Al Di Meola's solo stuff. He released the album I'm reviewing - Jaco Pastorius - in 1976 and from then on released a further 9 solo albums, 6 albums with Weather Report and collaborated on around 18 albums.
In the mid eighties it was starting to become obvious that Jaco was suffering from bi-polar disorder alongside a hefty drug and alcohol abuse problem. This meant that his music began to suffer as his behaviour became more and more erratic which pushed him to become an outcast in the music business. After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana gig on September 11th 1987 he was ejected and made his way to the Midnight Bottle Club. He was refused entry to the club and ended in a nasty confrontation with the bouncer who left Jaco disfigured and brain dead. His family removed him from his life support machine 10 days later on September 21st 1987. The bouncer who killed Jaco was sentenced with second degree murder however only served four months of his sentence.
Onto the review of the album...
Introducing Jaco Pastorius is how it sounds. The album provides digitally remastered recordings of Jaco's work. The introducing ... series includes music from (at the moment) ten other Jazz musicians including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Billy Conham and Joe Sample.
The album opens on "Three Views of a Secret" and features Jaco playing the Bass, piano and synthesiser with Toots Thielemans on Harmonica and Jack DeJohnette on Drums. The song is a slow infusion of all things Jazz and has Jaco just playing an everyday bass line - nothing too ridiculous. This song leads nicely into "John and Mary" which is a lengthy (11 min) and features the same musicians as the first track
Track 3, "Blackbird", is a cover of the Beatles track and is brilliant. This is one of those tracks that all bass players will learn at some stage or another. It shows how guitar licks can be transformed into equally as melodious bass lines and how the bass guitar can in fact be a lead instrument. This is definitely one of my favourite covers of all time. It isn't trying to copy the Beatles version, or better it. It's entirely different when you consider the instruments used and the fact that there are no lyrics but the song itself is undoubtedly Blackbird. The end of the track flows continuously into "Word of mouth" which is a display of bass playing genius/madness with two percussionists, Peter Erskine and Don Alias. This track explains why people either love or hate jazz. It sounds unstructured, everyman for himself noise with firecrackers and odd sounding instruments which puts a lot of people off. On the other hand it shows how musicians can come together and create something that is unstructured and a bit mad but actually be creating something brilliant. Then, be able to go off stage, drive to another venue and be able to create it all over again.
Track five is the last of the songs to be taken from the Word of Mouth album (the first five are all from this album) and includes the legendary Herbie Hancock on Piano. This is the sort of song you can fully imagine coming from the corner of a nice cocktail bar with the lights low and everyone swinging in appreciation. Jaco is using his trademark fretless bass and it sounds wonderful!
"Soul Intro/The Chicken" is the first of the tracks to come from the "Invitation" album and is as it sounds. A big strong soul introduction with saxes, drums, bass, clarinet and then at the crescendo of the introduction Jaco jumps into a super-funky bass line and the soul takes typical Jazz format where the musicians take turns to show off their flair. This one has been recorded live. Brilliant.
Track seven, "Punk Jazz", opens on Saxophone and is taken from the album "The Birthday Concert" and is all about the sax. Michael Breker and Bob Mintzer work brilliantly together shuffling effortlessly between tenor sax, soprano sax and bass clarinet.
"Continuum" is one of those tracks that you can instantly identify as being a Jaco Pastorius track. Simply through the style of bass playing. Soft chords, harmonics and impossible stretches with the occasional burst of silly finger speed.
Track nine is called "Invitation" and is the title track from said album. This is another live track and is back to the style of what sounds like five musicians all playing solos at once! Again, a reason why people tend to love or hate Jazz. This track is ridiculously fast, I haven't even considered trying to play it...
"Amerika" is the shortest song on this album at a humble 1 minute and 9 Seconds and is a rather patriotic sounding bass solo. Jaco takes some of the chords from Blackbird and sticks them in here too.
The final song of the album is "Fannie Mae" and is all out blues! This is the only track of the album to include vocals and, as with most blues music, is singing about someone called Fannie Mae. I'm a huge fan of blues but I always find it funny how they either sing about Tuesday, Mama, a girl or getting drunk!
1. - Three Views of a Secret
2. - John and Mary
3. - Blackbird
4. - Word of Mouth
5. - Liberty City
6. - Soul Intro/The Chicken
7. - Punk Jazz
8. - Continuum
9. - Invitation
10. - Amerika
11. - Fannie Mae
I picked my copy up from Fopp for £5. Bargain.
It's hard to pick a favourite song from this album. Considering I'm a huge Jaco fan it's hard for me to find any faults with his music. Admittedly it's not for everyone and isn't as easy to get into as a lot of stuff but if you play bass, enjoy jazz or just enjoy listening to one of the finest musicians to ever walk the planet then you'll love this album.
This is a great introduction to Jaco as it compiles a lot of his stuff that is more accessible for different kinds of ears. Some of his other albums are bass heavy (which is great in my humble opinion).
Overall it's 5/5 but I am biased. Check out Blackbird at least!
Thanks for reading,
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Three Views Of A Secret
2 John And Mary
4 Word Of Mouth
5 Liberty City
6 Soul Intro/The Chicken
7 Punk Jazz
11 Fannie Mae