A few weeks ago, when I was on tour in the south of England, Paul Reynolds gave me a cd to listen to on my drive back up the country. It was Word Of Mouth Revisited by the Jaco Pastorius Big Band. I absolutely loved it.
I went out and bought everything I could find with Jaco on it...his epynomous debut recording Jaco Pastorius, his second album Word of Mouth, all the Weather Report cds he is on, an anthology cd set (Punk Jazz) with music he has done with Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Joni Mitchell and a slew of others, and several live concert cds.
I am now a Jaco fanatic. Why didn't this happen a long time ago?
Ironically, I think it was about listening to the wrong word of mouth.
He had a reputation for being difficult.
He used to tell everyone that he was the greatest bass player in the world. Maybe that didn't come across well.
The thing is, he was.
And as far as I'm concerned, still is.
As Pat Metheny wrote in the revised liner notes to Jaco's debut album, he changed forever the way the bass is played by all bass players.
He had a short career and a terribly tragic end.
Maybe this has made people wary of checking out his amazing music.
If you have never listened to Jaco, it is time to start.
If you liked what he did with Weather Report, you need to hear him playing his own compositions and arrangements with his own bands.
I never knew until I listened to all the music he has played on that in addition to being a mesmerizingly-talented bass player with impeccable rhythm and phrasing, he was a brilliant composer (check out the lush, tango-inspired, hauntingly romantic and simply exquisite "Three Views Of A Secret" on Word Of Mouth), arranger, producer (he co-produced all the Weather Report cds he was on) and band leader.
I was repeatedly surprised listening to these cds at how tasteful, supportive, and appropriate-to-the-tune Jaco's playing consistently comes across. He posesses the rarest of qualities in a musician: he makes everything he plays on his own, yet he neither gets in the way of the music nor draws (inappropriate) attention to himself. His spectacular virtuosity never interrupts his utterly precise, fluid rhythm. Every tune he plays on is enhanced and energized by his presence, and every musician he plays with is beautifully supported.
I have not read his authorized biography yet (Jaco: The Incredible And Tragic Life Of Jaco Pastorius by Bill Milkowski). I am not in a hurry to.
The bottom line is, when it comes to music, I am not interested in whether someone pissed a lot of people off, had an oversized ego, drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems, or anything else.
Jaco's music says everything I need to know about him. It is inventive, soulful, funky, emotionally complex, and just plain thrilling. He was supremely generous in sharing a brilliant, totally new way of hearing music and rhythm. It is a gift to anyone lucky enough to come aross it.
Listening to his music makes me feel like I know him. I have the greatest respect for him.