Jaco Pastorius

I consider myself lucky to have been alive, listening to music, and beginning my journey as a bassist when John Francis Anthony Pastorius III burst upon the scene in 1976. (And I met him in his good times, and during his tragic decline.)

Jaco’s influence is, in a word, incalculable. He inspired musicians spanning a wide array of genres. Drawing on his deep reference for Cuban music (especially percussionists), jazz, rhythm & blues, Frank Sinatra, big-band, funk, rock, pop, soul, and every permutation thereof, Jaco brought an exciting, fresh voice to the instrument akin to his artistic peers Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker, to reference two.

To my ears, Jaco's body of work is like that of Alfred Hitchcock, Hunter S. Thompson, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, Orson Wells, Mark Twain, Martin Scorsese…timeless, everlasting, and always relevant.

On the technical side, Jaco’s virtuoso application of harmonics, chords, advanced harmonies, and lyrical improvisations all coaxed from a battered fretless Fender Jazz – known as the “Bass of Doom,” shook the foundation of popular music. On stage, he was a master showman.

Jaco’s work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, and Ian Hunter, among others remains watershed, and still inspires scores of players to this day.   

 

Kudos to film makers Paul Marchand, Stephen Kijak and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo for telling Jaco’s story with the grace, dignity, and respect he so richly deserves (Jaco  - Passion Pictures / 2014).    

Note: When old-school musicians who were not open to change and innovation mocked the electric bass, which was still common practice in the 1970s; we bassists replied with one word “Jaco!” And we never lost a debate!