Jaco & Opus Pocus

“Opus Pocus” by Jaco Pastorius. This is a demo tape recording made in 1974 which is included on the posthumous album The Early Years Recordings (2006).

Don’t quote me on this, but I think the personnel is: Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Othello Molineaux (steel drums), Leroy Williams (steel drums), Lenny White (drums), Don Alias (percussion).

Consecration Day 6 & Fusion Interlude & Weather Report & River People


Weather Report live, “River People,” Offenbach, Germany 1978. Jaco Pastorius (bass and composition), Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Peter Erskine (drums). I’m fond of the studio version on Mr. Gone (1978), but I actually like this live version better because they get a monster groove going, and nice recording quality.

Now to the main business at hand, the text for Total Consecration is here, with video here:

Jaco Revisited & Punk Jazz

From Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Word of Mouth Revisited, a Jaco Pastorius tribute album (2003) that has been featured earlier. There are no bad cuts on this album, at all.

Richard Bona channels Jaco on bass, with Mike Scaglione soloing on tenor sax, and Mark Griffith on Drums. Music by Jaco Pastorius, with orchestration and arrangement by Larry Warrilow and Peter Graves. Woodwinds: Billy Ross, Ed Calle, Gary Keller, Mike Brignola. Brass: Jeff Kievett, Jason Gardner, Ken Faulk Dana Teboe, John Kricker. Peter Graves directs.

Jaco Legacy & Barbary Coast

From the fantastic tribute album Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Word of Mouth Revisited (2003).

I’ve acquired two Jaco tribute albums recently, and posted from the other one here. Both albums reveal the love of other musicians for Jaco and the extent to which he reshaped the bass and music itself. The tribute album represented in this post, Word of Mouth Revisited, revisits in particular a late stage of Jaco’s music in the early 80s, when he was writing, arranging, touring and recording with his big band Word of Mouth.

But this was also the period when Jaco was beginning his deep slide into the bi-polar disorder that would end in his death not too much later at the age of 35, in 1987. (Jaco more or less provoked a fight with a bouncer and got badly beaten up, the injuries resulting in a coma, then shortly thereafter death.)

I have a few of Jaco’s recordings with the original Word of Mouth band, the best known being Invitation (1983). What is notable about this tribute album is that it is actually better than Invitation, in my opinion. This is because Jaco, losing control of his mind, was also losing control of the music, at least in terms of leading a large ensemble. Though the original band definitely had the drive and energy of Jaco behind it, it also lacked tightness and tended to get muddy and even cacophonous. The re-united band in Word of Mouth Revisited is able to realize (and also reveal), what must have been Jaco’s vision for the arrangements and the band sound, more than Jaco himself could have done in the 80s. The playing is tighter, the tone clusters clearer and brighter, the changes crisper.

The album also has superb, informative liner notes, explaining all the cuts. And on the album the cuts are interspersed with recordings of Jaco’s comments, made during recording sessions or rehearsals with the original bands. This album is definitely a labor of love.

From the liner notes:

Jaco Pastorius’ ascendence in the 1970s was a singular phenomenon in the evolution of jazz, with an impact that continues to reverberate among his disciples more than a decade after his untimely passing.

Beginning with his solo debut, Jaco Pastorius, and through his work with Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, and subsequently his own Word of Mouth bands, Jaco single-handedly shattered the boundaries of the electric bass and redefined its potential across all idioms of music.

“Jaco Pastorius was, without question, the Charlie Parker of the electric bass,” says Christian McBride. “If you play the saxophone, you have to come through Charlie Parker at some point. If you play the electric bass, you have to go through Jaco. Nobody has ever innovated on the instrument like he did.”

But the question remains, who could possibly play bass on an album like this? Who could step into Jaco’s shoes? The answer is about ten masters of the bass from jazz and fusion (including McBride himself). All are deeply influenced by Jaco, and each plays a signature Jaco cut on the album, paying loving and reverential tribute to the man whose playing so informed their own. For this cut, “Barbary Coast,” the bassist is Gerald Veasley.

All of the bassists on this album display an uncanny ability to channel Jaco, but it doesn’t feel like imitation or mimicry. Their playing here shows that Jaco didn’t just have a “style” or a particular kind of virtuosity, but a musical language, which these bassists have thoroughly learned and internalized to the point that they can play it back. (By the way, they are not sycophants. In their other work, these bassists have their own styles.)

Jaco’s bassline changes more than just the bassline. Rather than holding the music down, the bass drives it forward and at the same times weaves in and out and around it. This has the effect of giving the other instruments a different texture. So, Jaco’s total vision comes out here, a new kind of arrangement, a new kind of band sound.

On woodwinds, Billy Ross, Ed Calle, Gary Keller, Mike Brignola. On brass, Jeff Kievett, Jason Gardner, Ken Faulk Dana Teboe, John Kricker. Michael Levine on keyboards, Randy Bergen on Guitar, and Mark Griffith on Drums. Peter Graves directs.

Enjoy! This can be acquired here, and is a worthy musical investment that will reward many re-listenings. Two thumbs up.

A Remark You Made & Jaco Tribute Cover

From the tribute album to Jaco Pastorius, Who Loves You? (2000).

Bill Evans–no not THAT Bill Evans–(tenor sax), Mike Stern (guitar), Gil Goldstein (keyboards, accordion), Mark Egan (bass), Steve Gadd (drums), Don Alias (percussion), Kevin DiSimone (additional keyboards). This fantastic and little known tribute album was made mostly by musicians who played with Jaco. There’s another, even better tribute album out there called Word of Mouth Revisited (2003) which is a tribute to Jaco’s big band music, and features about 10 giants of the bass who were deeply influenced by Jaco, each one doing homage to the man that reshaped the bass and reshaped music. I’m going to posting from that album sometime soon. Both of these splendid albums were sitting in the discount bin at a used CD place.

Jaco Pastorius & C.C. Riders & Rice Pudding

A very young Jaco was nurturing some amazing chops while touring with Wayne Cochran and C.C. Riders (1972). Song by Charlie Brent.

I got this about half a year ago. It’s a fantastic album with a lot of varied stuff, and I highly recommend it, even with the suboptimal recording quality (almost none of it was professional). A lot still comes out with the sound, including some great live energy.

Weather Report & Speechless

From Weather Report (1982), the other self-titled album.

I just got this album at a used place. It doesn’t rate super high compared to most other Weather Report work, perhaps for good reason, but I had been looking for it and I’m liking it fine as car music. Joe Zawinul (keyboards), Jaco Pastorius (bass), Wayne Shorter (sax), Peter Erskine (drums), Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion). Plus points for the album on the whole: Peter Erskine’s drums, the layered moods and grooves, Jaco. Minus: Joe Zawinul’s synthesizer dominates on this album; it does not always age so well, especially on solos, and sometimes sounds thin and nasal.

Weather Report & River People & Jaco

From Mr. Gone (1978).

Jaco Pastorius (drums, voice, timpani, bass), Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone), Joe Zawinul (keyboards, synthesizers). Just three Weather Report members. Jaco wrote the piece, a multi-layered studio creation. I didn’t realize Jaco was playing so much other stuff besides bass on this.

Mr. Gone is famous for getting badly panned by Downbeat (the quintessential jazz magazine) as a processed music sellout, and recieving a now notorious one star rating (out of five). I must have picked up on some of that info up peripherally in my quest to reacquaint myself with Weather Report, starting about a year ago, when I was buying most of their albums one by one, after sampling their tracks on Youtube. I resisted buying or even giving Mr. Gone a fair try, suspecting that I wouldn’t like it.

Then I heard Jaco talking about “River People” in the BBC documentary about him (embedded in my very second post on this blog). I just fished up the quote now at Weather Report’s annotated discography.

‘River People’ I wrote in the Everglades, where I was bass-fishing four years ago. It’s an older tune, about a day with the river people, like they get their feet right in the mud there; so the bass part: I sang the bass part (sings and claps time) ‘mm-maa, mm-maa, hmm; mm-maa, mm-maa mm-aa umm’, like a lot of people down in the mud at the river, yeah? And then these chords, the way they come in, it sounds like the sunrise – bang! – like this incredible light, and then the whole day passes, and at the end you start roaring, you start having a little fun, like you kind of party out at the end into this New Orleans feeling, y’know? I was in the Everglades fishing, but I was feeling a lot like I was in Louisiana when I wrote the song! It was weird.

Jaco’s description intrigued me, so I finally checked it out. I liked it and it kept growing on me. Eventually I got the whole album (a couple of months ago). There are one or two tracks on Mr. Gone that are arguably better, but this is still a fascinating wall of sound with a lot of pull. There’s an abrupt pivot in the middle but it still keeps the beat going, while changing the texture completely. This is one of Jaco’s best creations. Needless to say, the album has more than vindicated itself and invalidated the weird one star rating, though perhaps the reviewers can be forgiven somewhat for not knowing what to make of this in 1978.

Addendum: The Youtuber that put River People up is Thezone4422, and has quite an interesting selection on his/her channel. We like similar stuff, but the electronic mood music is pretty new to me and intriguing.