Jaco Pastorius Big Band
Born John Francis Pastorius, Jaco and his family moved about thirty miles down the road from me to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. His father was both a drummer and singer with a big band and swing era background. Before long, Jaco was playing with the house band at a local nightclub. He backed various talents such as the Temptations, Patti Page and Mel Torme. There he was able to write, arrange and develop the bass guitar into a lead instrument. His electric bass was fretless and he was famous for his widely acknowledged aggressive mastery of it. While doing some background research about Jaco, in Len Lyons well known reference book The 101 Best Jazz Albums, I ran across this particularly succinct statement "Pastorius is simply the most exciting electric bass soloist in the field".
His rise to fame was as rapid as could ever be imagined and was particularly boosted when he joined with Pat Metheny for a while. The peak of his performing career was almost certainly when be spent nearly five years with the famed Weather Report group. His virtuosity was widely known and acclaimed long before he left Weather Report. His final major achievement was a return to big band with a definite progressive swing predilection when he formed his own group, the original Word of Mouth.
Sadly another side of Jaco's life became apparent. He became self-destructive as a result of an almost lethal mix of alcohol and drugs added to his mental illness. A fascinating insight into his life was, daddy, just daddy to me, (not capitalized) written by his daughter Mary Pastorius. When I mentioned to my son John that I was reviewing this tribute to Jaco Pastorius recording, he mentioned that he had a brief and very minor run in with Jaco years ago at our local musical nightspot.
This recorded tribute to the late great Jaco features a fine and very talented big band newly renamed the Jaco Pastorius Big Band. Featured, but not overly prominently, are some of finest and most popular electric bass players. Included are Gerald Veasley, whose fine new Heads Up SACD Velvet , I've not yet had time to officially review, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Richard Bona, Victor Bailey, Jimmy Haslip and Jeff Carswell.
The music is an eclectic mix of just about every jazz style. Predominately a mix of jazz with big band swing, there is definitely quite a bit of fusion in many of the tracks. Even a fair amount of smooth cool stuff is thrown in to beautiful effect. The musicians, individually and collectively, are about as good as they come. Included are four saxes, three trumpets and flugel horns, trombone and bass trombone, piano and keyboard, guitar and drums. With Michael Bishop's help in recording and mixing, this Heads Up album is typical of them at their impressive best. It was recorded live at the Galley in Miami, Florida about three months ago; superbly clean, clear and punchy are apt adjectives. The mainstay of this varied collection is a propulsive or progressive driving swing, jazz and fusion combination. Continuum, written by Jaco, is a fine example of the recording's general flavor and is usually regarded as Jaco's signature tune.