John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III (/ˈdʒɑːkoʊ pæˈstɔːriəs/, December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987) was an American jazz bassist who was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He worked with Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader. His bass playing employed funk, lyrical solos, bass chords, and innovative harmonics. As of 2017, he is the only electric bassist of seven bassists inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame, and has been lauded as one of the best electric bassists of all time.
Pastorius in concert, 1986
|Birth name||John Francis Pastorius III|
|Born||December 1, 1951|
Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 21, 1987 (aged 35)|
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jazz fusion|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, producer|
|Labels||Epic, Warner Bros., Columbia, ECM, CBS, Elektra|
|Associated acts||Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Trio of Doom, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders, Albert Mangelsdorff, Al Di Meola|
John Francis Pastorius was born December 1, 1951, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of three boys born to Stephanie, his Finnish mother, and Jack Pastorius, a charismatic singer and jazz drummer who spent much of his time on the road. His family moved to Oakland Park in Fort Lauderdale when he was eight.
Pastorius' nickname, "Jaco", became adopted, and was partially influenced by his love for sports as well as the umpire Jocko Conlan. In 1974, he began spelling it "Jaco" after it was misspelled by his neighbor, pianist Alex Darqui. His brother called him "Mowgli" after the wild boy in The Jungle Book because he was energetic and spent much of his time shirtless on the beach, climbing trees, running through the woods, and swimming in the ocean. He attended St. Clement's Catholic School in Wilton Manors and was an altar boy at St. Clement's Church. His confirmation name was Anthony, thus expanding his name to John Francis Anthony Pastorius. He was intensely competitive and excelled at baseball, basketball, and football.
By 1968–1969, at the age of 17, Pastorius had begun to appreciate jazz and had saved enough money to buy an upright bass. Its deep, mellow tone appealed to him, though it strained his finances. He had difficulty maintaining the instrument, which he attributed to the humidity in Florida. When he woke one day to find it had cracked, he traded it for a 1962 Fender Jazz Bass.
In the early 1970s, Pastorius taught bass at the University of Miami, where he befriended jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, who was also on the faculty. With Paul Bley, Pastorius and Metheny recorded an album, later titled Jaco (Improvising Artists, 1974). Pastorius then played on Metheny's debut album, Bright Size Life (ECM, 1976). He recorded his debut solo album, Jaco Pastorius (Epic, 1976) with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Pat Metheny, Sam & Dave, David Sanborn, and Wayne Shorter.
Before recording his debut album, Pastorius attended a concert in Miami by the jazz fusion band Weather Report. After the concert, he approached keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who led the band. As was his habit, he introduced himself by saying, "I'm John Francis Pastorius III. I'm the greatest bass player in the world." Zawinul admired his brashness and asked for a demo tape. After listening to the tape, Zawinul realized that Pastorius had considerable skill. They corresponded, and Pastorius sent Zawinul a rough mix of his solo album.
After bassist Alphonso Johnson left Weather Report, Zawinul asked Pastorius to join the band. Pastorius made his band debut on the album Black Market (Columbia, 1976), in which he shared the bass chair with Johnson. Pastorius was fully established as sole band bass player for the recording of Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), which contained the Grammy-nominated hit "Birdland".
During his time with Weather Report, Pastorius began abusing alcohol and illegal drugs, which exacerbated existing mental problems and led to erratic behavior. He left Weather Report in 1982 due to clashes with tour commitments for his other projects, plus a growing dissatisfaction with Zawinul's synthesized and orchestrated approach to the band's music.
Warner Bros. signed Pastorius to a favorable contract in the late 1970s based on his groundbreaking skill and his star quality, which they hoped would lead to large sales. He used this contract to set up his Word of Mouth big band which consisted of Chuck Findley on trumpet, Howard Johnson on tuba, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, and Tom Scott on reeds, Toots Thielemans on harmonica, Peter Erskine and Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Don Alias on percussion. This was the group that recorded his second solo album, Word of Mouth (Warner Bros., 1981).
In 1982, Pastorius toured with Word of Mouth as a 21-piece big band. While in Japan, to the alarm of his band members, he shaved his head, painted his face black, and threw his bass guitar into Hiroshima Bay. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 1982 after the tour. Pastorius had shown signs of bipolar disorder before his diagnosis, but these signs were dismissed as eccentricities, character flaws, and by Pastorius himself as a normal part of his freewheeling personality.
Despite attention in the press, Word of Mouth sold poorly. Warner Bros. was unimpressed by the demo tapes from Holiday for Pans. Pastorius released a third album, Invitation (1983), a live recording from the Word of Mouth tour of Japan. As alcohol and drug problems dominated his life, he had trouble finding work, finding people who would tolerate his shenanigans, and he wound up homeless. In 1985, while filming an instructional video, Pastorius told the interviewer, Jerry Jemmott, that although he had been praised often for his ability, he wished that someone would give him a job.
Pastorius developed a self-destructive habit of provoking bar fights and allowing himself to be beaten up. After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana concert on September 11, 1987 and being ejected from the premises, he made his way to the Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, Florida. After reportedly kicking in a glass door, having been refused entrance to the club, he was in a violent confrontation with Luc Havan, the club's manager who was a martial arts expert. Pastorius was hospitalized for multiple facial fractures and injuries to his right eye and left arm, and fell into a coma. There were encouraging signs that he would come out of the coma and recover, but they soon faded. A brain hemorrhage a few days later led to brain death. He was taken off life support and died on September 21, 1987 at the age of 35 at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Luc Havan faced a charge of second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to twenty-two months in prison and five years' probation. After serving four months in prison, he was paroled for good behavior.
Until about 1970, most jazz musicians played the acoustic, upright bass, also known as the double bass. Bassists remained in the background with the drummer, forming the rhythm section, while the saxophonist, trumpeter, or vocalist handled the melody and led the band. Pastorius had other ideas for the bass player. He played an electric bass from which he had removed the frets. He played fast and loud, sang, and did flips. He spread powder on the stage so he could dance like James Brown. He joked around and talked to the crowd. A self-described Florida beach bum, he often went barefoot and shirtless. He was tall, lean, and strong, and for someone who played sports the nickname "Jocko" fit. His thumbs were double jointed and his fingers were long and thin.
After being taught about artificial harmonics, he added them to his technique and repertoire. Natural harmonics, also known as open string harmonics, are played by lightly touching the string at a fret without pressing it to the fretboard, resulting in a note that rings somewhat like a bell. Artificial harmonics, also called false harmonics, involve lightly touching a string with one finger, then using another finger to play the note, simultaneously playing and stopping the note. An often cited example is the introduction to "Birdland".
He was noted for virtuosic bass lines which combined Afro-Cuban rhythms, inspired by the likes of Cachao Lopez, with R&B to create 16th-note funk lines syncopated with ghost notes. He played these with a floating thumb technique on the right hand, anchoring on the bridge pickup while playing on the E and A strings and muting the E string with his thumb while playing on higher strings. Examples include "Come On, Come Over" from the album Jaco Pastorius and "The Chicken" from The Birthday Concert.
Pastorius played a 1962 Fender Jazz Bass that he called the Bass of Doom. When he was 21, Jaco acquired the bass with its frets removed, or removed them himself (his recollections varied over the years), and sealed the fretboard with epoxy resin.
One anecdote, as recounted by Allyn Robinson in an interview with Robert Sturrken on his "Nightlife and Music with the Maestro" program on WYLK Lake 94, claimed Jaco removed the frets only four hours before a gig with Wayne Cochran.
In 1986 the bass was repaired by luthiers Kevin Kaufman and Jim Hamilton, after it had been broken into many pieces. After the repair Pastorius recorded a session with Mike Stern, then the bass was stolen from a park bench in Manhattan in 1986. It was found in a guitar shop in 2006, but the shop owner refused to give it up. The Pastorius family enlisted lawyers to help but nearly went bankrupt in 2010. Robert Trujillo, bass guitarist for Metallica, considered Jaco Pastorius to be one of his heroes, and he felt that the family ought to have the bass. Trujillo helped pay to have it returned to them.
Pastorius used the "Variamp" EQ (equalization) controls on his two Acoustic 360 amplifiers (made by the Acoustic Control Corporation of Van Nuys, California) to boost the midrange frequencies, thus accentuating the natural growling tone of his fretless passive Fender Jazz Bass and roundwound string combination. He also controlled his tone color with a rackmount MXR digital delay unit that fed a second Acoustic amp rig.
During the final three years of his life he used Hartke cabinets because of the character of aluminum speaker cones (as opposed to paper speaker cones). These provided a bright, clear sound. He typically used the delay in a chorus-like mode, providing a shimmering stereo doubling effect. He often used the fuzz control built into the Acoustic 360. For the bass solo "Slang/Third Stone From the Sun" on Weather Report's live album 8:30 (1979), Pastorius used the MXR digital delay to layer and loop a chordal figure and then soloed over it; the same technique, with a looped bass riff, can be heard during his solo on the Joni Mitchell concert video Shadows and Light.
Pastorius appeared as a guest on many albums by other artists, including Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, on All American Alien Boy in 1976. He can be heard on Airto Moreira's album I'm Fine, How Are You? (1977). His signature sound is prominent on Flora Purim's Everyday Everynight (1978), on which he played the bass melody for a Michel Colombier composition entitled "The Hope", and performed bass and vocals on one of his own compositions, entitled "Las Olas". Other recordings included Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Al Di Meola’s Land of the Midnight Sun, both released in 1976. Near the end of his career, he worked often with guitarist Mike Stern, guitarist Biréli Lagrène, and drummer Brian Melvin.
Pastorius received two Grammy Award nominations in 1977 for his self-titled debut album: one for Best Jazz Performance by a Group and one for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist ("Donna Lee"). In 1978, he received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist for his work on Weather Report's album Heavy Weather.
Bass Player magazine gave him second place on a list of the one hundred greatest bass players of all time, behind James Jamerson. After his death in 1987, he was voted, by readers of Down Beat magazine, to its Hall of Fame, joining bassists Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden, and Milt Hinton.
Many musicians have composed songs in his honour, such as Pat Metheny's "Jaco" on the album Pat Metheny Group (1978) and "Mr. Pastorius" by Marcus Miller on Miles Davis's album Amandla. Others who have dedicated compositions to him include Randy Brecker, Eliane Elias, Chuck Loeb, John McLaughlin, Bob Moses, Ana Popović, Dave Samuels, and the Yellowjackets.
On December 2, 2007, the day after his birthday, a concert called "20th Anniversary Tribute to Jaco Pastorius" was held at Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with performances by the Jaco Pastorius Big Band and appearances by Randy Brecker, Dave Bargeron, Peter Erskine, Jimmy Haslip, Bob Mintzer, Gerald Veasley, Pastorius's sons John and Julius Pastorius, Pastorius's daughter Mary Pastorius, Ira Sullivan, Bobby Thomas Jr., and Dana Paul. Almost twenty years after his death, Fender released the Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass, a fretless instrument in its Artist Series.
William C. Banfield, director of Africana Studies, Music and Society at Berklee College, described Pastorius as one of the few original American virtuosos who defined a musical movement, in addition to Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus and Wes Montgomery.
Bright Size Life is Pat Metheny's debut album, released in 1976 on ECM, when Metheny was 21. The album features Jaco Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums.
In 2005, the first track was included on the Progressions: 100 Years Of Jazz Guitar compilation on Columbia Records; in 2011, the first track was included on the Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology compilation.Don Alias
Charles "Don" Alias (December 25, 1939 in New York City – March 28, 2006 in New York City) was an American jazz percussionist.
Alias was best known for playing congas and other hand drums. He was, however, a capable drum kit performer: for example, Alias played drums on the song "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" from trumpeter Miles Davis's album Bitches Brew (1969) when neither Lenny White nor Jack DeJohnette was able to play the marching band-inspired rhythm requested by Davis.Alias performed on hundreds of recordings and was perhaps best known for his associations with Miles Davis and saxophonist David Sanborn, though he also performed or recorded with the group Weather Report, singer Joni Mitchell, pianist Herbie Hancock, the Brecker Brothers, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Nina Simone and many others. Alias was born in New York City and arrived in Boston in the early 1960s intending to study medicine but, after playing congas in a number of local bands, made an abrupt career switch.For the Road
"For the Road" is a song by American hip hop recording artist Tyga. It was released on April 4, 2013, as the second official single from his third studio album Hotel California. The song, produced by Grand Hustle record producers Cordale "Lil' C" Quinn and Mars of 1500 or Nothin', features a guest appearance from American singer Chris Brown. The song samples "Rain" by SWV.Invitation (Jaco Pastorius album)
Invitation was the third album by Jaco Pastorius, released in 1983 while the bassist was a member of Weather Report. This is a live album recorded at various venues during a tour of Japan, featuring his "Word of Mouth" big band. While his debut album showcased his eclectic and impressive skills on the electric bass, both Invitation and his previous album, Word of Mouth focused more on his ability to arrange for a larger band.This album features mostly numbers written by other artists. The exceptions are "Continuum", from his debut album, and "Liberty City", from Word of Mouth, as well as "Reza", an original number bookending his version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps".
The band's all-star cast included Randy Brecker, Bobby Mintzer, Toots Thielemans, Peter Erskine, Othello Molineaux and Don Alias.Jaco (album)
Jaco is the unofficial later title of a 1974 LP album on Paul Bley's Improvising Artists Label. It is notable for being the first professional recording showcasing the talents of Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. The two had become friends in Miami the year before. Their collaboration continued on Metheny's debut Bright Size Life with Bob Moses, recorded in December 1975. The album was released during the following year by ECM, also home to Bley since his Open, to Love from 1972.Jaco Pastorius (album)
Jaco Pastorius is the solo debut album by Jaco Pastorius, released in 1976. The album was produced by Bobby Colomby, drummer and founder of Blood, Sweat & Tears.The disc begins with a cover version of "Donna Lee".Jaco Pastorius discography
This is the discography of Jaco Pastorius, excluding bootlegs and compilations.List of jazz fusion musicians
The following are notable jazz fusion performers or bands.
For performers of smooth jazz, a more radio-friendly, pop-infused variant of fusion, see List of smooth jazz performers.Mr. Hands (album)
Mr. Hands is the thirtieth album by Herbie Hancock. It features Jaco Pastorius on the track "4 A.M.," plus an all-synthesizer track, "Textures," performed entirely by Hancock. "Shiftless Shuffle" (originally recorded for the Japan-only album Directstep) features all five members of The Headhunters quintet that first appeared on the 1973 album Head Hunters, including the quintet's original drummer Harvey Mason. This album was the first on which Hancock used a computer, this time an Apple II. He would continue his relationship with Apple Computer for many years.
An overlooked album when it was released, this would be the last outing of "straight" electric jazz from Hancock for some time. Later albums focused more on his R&B influences.Othello Molineaux
Othello Molineaux is a jazz steelpan player who spent much of his early career backing bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius. Additionally, Molineaux has worked with other musicians such as Monty Alexander, Chicago, and David Johansen.Portrait of Tracy
"Portrait of Tracy" is a composition by bassist Jaco Pastorius. It was named after his wife, Tracy Sexton.It appears on his landmark 1976 self-titled debut album, and has been covered by bassists such as Joe Ferry, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, John Myung, and Brian Bromberg. It is considered by many a bass guitar standard.
The song is played almost exclusively with natural harmonics, giving it a dreamy, unfamiliar tone for the bass, which is common in Pastorius's style.
"Portrait of Tracy" has been sampled in several songs, including SWV's "Rain", Rick Ross's "Bel Air (Black Dollar)", Cannibal Ox's "Pigeon", Amon Tobin's "Daytrip", Master P "Ghetto Love", Chingy and Tyrese's "Pullin' Me Back", Wagon Christ's "Mr. Mukatsuku", and Steve Spacek's "Hey There". Most recently sampled in Childish Gambino’s Redbone.Pullin' Me Back
"Pullin' Me Back" is a song by American rapper Chingy. It's the first single off his third album Hoodstar (2006). The song features R&B singer Tyrese singing the chorus with production by Jermaine Dupri. The track employs a synthesized sample of SWV's 1998 hit single " Rain" (which itself sampled Jaco Pastorius's "Portrait of Tracy") The video was retired on 106 & Park after being on the countdown for 65 days. The song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his fourth and final top ten single. It peaked at number 1 on the R&B chart, where it was his first number-one single.
The music video features America's Next Top Model cycle 3 runner-up Yaya DaCosta.Rain (SWV song)
"Rain" is a 1998 single released by the group SWV. The musical backing track is based on Jaco Pastorius's "Portrait of Tracy." First heard in 1997 on the group's third album Release Some Tension, the song was released as a single the next year. It peaked at number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and number 7 on the US Hot R&B Singles chart. Singer Tyrese appeared in the song's music video. He would later sing the hook on rapper Chingy's hit song "Pullin' Me Back", which samples the SWV song. Smooth jazz musician and guitarist Norman Brown covered the song on his 1999 album, Celebration. Toronto based producer duo Team Majestic Music, also sampled "Rain" for their song "Let It Fall." New York City house producer Baltra sampled it late 2016/early 2017.The Birthday Concert
The Birthday Concert is a live album by Jaco Pastorius released posthumously in 1995. It was recorded in Florida in 1981 to celebrate Pastorius' 30th birthday. Guests included his friends, such as Michael Brecker and the Peter Graves Orchestra.Trio of Doom
The Trio of Doom was a short-lived jazz fusion power trio consisting of John McLaughlin on guitar, Jaco Pastorius on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. They were brought together by Columbia Records in 1979 to play the Havana Jam festival in Cuba alongside Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and others.
Their only live performance was on March 3, 1979, and it is recorded on Ernesto Juan Castellanos's documentary Havana Jam '79.On March 8, 1979, the group reconvened in New York City to record the songs they had played live, but a dispute broke out between Pastorius and Williams. An album was released on June 26, 2007, on Legacy Recordings, containing five tracks from Havana Jam and five recorded in the studio.Weather Report
Weather Report was an American jazz fusion band of the 1970s and early 1980s. The band was initially co-led by the Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul, the American saxophonist Wayne Shorter and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitouš. Other prominent members at various points in the band's lifespan included bassists Alphonso Johnson, Jaco Pastorius and Victor Bailey; and drummers/percussionists Peter Erskine, Alex Acuña, Airto Moreira, and Chester Thompson. Throughout most of its existence, the band was a quintet of keyboards, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion.
The band began as an avant-garde jazz group; when Vitouš left Weather Report after a few years (due to creative and financial disagreements), Zawinul increasingly took control and steered the band towards a more funk and R&B-oriented jazz sound incorporating elements of world music and the latest developments in synthesizer technology. Despite these developments, during the mid-1970s Weather Report remained one of the defining acts within the jazz form, winning the DownBeat best album award five times in a row.
Alongside Miles Davis's electric bands, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Headhunters, Weather Report is considered to be one of the pre-eminent early jazz fusion bands.Word of Mouth (Jaco Pastorius album)
Word of Mouth is the second album by Jaco Pastorius, released in 1981 while he was a member of Weather Report, and also the name of a big band that Pastorius assembled and with whom he toured from 1981 to 1983. While his debut album showcased his eclectic and impressive skills on electric bass, Word of Mouth focused more on his ability to compose and arrange for a larger band. The album still shows off Pastorius's skill, most notably in the solo opening to "Chromatic Fantasy" by J.S. Bach and the title track. "Crisis" also features a fast, bass pattern looping, which runs under the frantic soloing. Most of the rest of the album's bass is subdued and blends into the band's arrangement. The song "John and Mary" is dedicated to his children from his first marriage to Tracy; he had two other children, twin sons Julius and Felix with his second wife, Ingrid.
The band included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Don Alias and Toots Thielemans, who is featured on harmonica on many of the songs.
The first 50,000 copies of the album lacked credits for all participating musicians. As the result of a lawsuit against Warner Bros., CBS forbade the names of a few of the (less well-known) musicians to be mentioned on the sleeve. Pastorius defiantly replied that "if they can't be listed, then nobody will be listed". On later copies of the album, the names were listed.