THE DOZENS: JACO PASTORIUS by Jared Pauley

 Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) was one of the most electrifying performers in the history of jazz music. Although his personal and mental problems ultimately helped contribute to his demise and early death, his contributions to the development of fusion and jazz are undeniable. Pastorius’s pocket bass lines, advanced technique, and superior song writing capabilities are represented in this dozens article. I did my best to try and find twelve tracks that I thought would highlight the diversities and strengths of Pastorius as a musician. I know that more could be added to this list and possibly taken away, but one thing remains certain. Pastorius’s influence on the electric bass will be felt forever by future generations of jazz fans and musicians.


Jaco Pastorius: Soul Intro/The Chicken

Track

Soul Intro/The Chicken

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Invitation/The Birthday Concert (Warner Brothers 45290-2)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Othello Molineaux (steel drum), Peter Erskine (drums), Don Alias (percussion), Bob Mintzer (tenor sax, soprano sax),

Brian O’Flaherty, Ken Faulk, Brett Murphy, Melton Mustafa (trumpet) Russ Freeland, Mike Katz (trombone) Dave Bargeron (tuba) Peter Gordon (french horn), Peter Graves (bass trombone) Dan Bonsanti, Gary Lindsay, Neal Bonsanti (saxes, woodwinds) Randy Emerick (baritone sax)

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Composed by Pee Wee Ellis

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Recorded: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, December 1st, 1981

Jaco_pastorius-invitation

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

If Jaco Pastorius is ever remembered for one composition, it's probably going to be "The Chicken." This song was originally written by James Brown sideman Pee Wee Ellis, but Jaco officially made it his anthem. This is one of those songs a kid learns as an aspiring musician, not only because it's fun to play but because it is a perfect facilitator for learning funk music.

This tune opens up with the soul introduction, which borrows heavily from the Saturday Night Live sound. Pastorius hired a stellar ensemble for this show, which was recorded live at Mr. Pips in Ft. Lauderdale. Jaco thumps away on this song, playing some of the most influential funk bass lines in the history of bass lines. I know so many people that have learned this bass line note for note that I can't even begin to make a list (I'm also one of those people). It's sad that this live recording came on the heel of Jaco's mental deterioration but it proves that Pastorius was one of the best that ever did it. This is a perfect song, hence the perfect score.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Herbie Hancock: 4 a.m.

Track

4 a.m.

Artist

Herbie Hancock (synthesizers, Fender Rhodes)

CD

Mr Hands (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (synthesizers, Fender Rhodes), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Harvey Mason (drums).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: 1980

Herbie_hancock-mr_hands

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

The 1980s proved to be a very interesting time for Jaco Pastorius. Although it proved to be the last decade of his short life, he still managed to record and made memorable appearances on other musicians' albums. Herbie Hancock's "4 a.m." is a gem featured on his 1980s album Mr. Hands. Hancock and Pastorius lock in like they've been playing for years, well I guess they had technically, but it would have been nice to hear more of this group. The song opens up with a little vamp, introduction section before Hancock introduces the melody on the synthesizer. This song has some nice harmonic variations as well. Pastorius and Harvey Mason also lock in well with each other. There's a nice B section on the song where Jaco plays his chorus-driven bass lightly and with a lot of feeling before Hancock takes it to the laundry mat with his solo. Mr. Hands, goes certain places musically that have me scratching my head but "4 a.m." is the exception. A+.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: River People

Track

RIver People

Group

Weather Report

CD

Mr. Gone (Columbia 468208-2)

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals, percussion), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass, vocals, drums, timpani).

Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: Hollywood, CA, May 1978

Albumcoverweatherreport-mrgone

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

This is the Weather Report album that was famously dismissed by Down Beat magazine and given a one star rating. I really find it hard to believe that the critics simply couldn't get past their own egos and really listen to the music on this album (even if it was a little bit more danceable). Written by Jaco, this song has one of the more funky bass lines on the whole album and he also plays drums and timpani on the song. Pastorius was originally a drummer but switched to the bass because of a sporting accident. He sounds complete as a drummer and the track doesn't miss a beat between his bass playing and drumming. My favorite thing about this track is the hand claps. I think they are very indicative of the influence of disco and electronic music on fusion.

No Weather Report song would be complete without the dynamic duo of Zawinul and Shorter. Shorter screeches on the horn while Zawinul plays the melody and some nice pad textures. Zawinul in essence rounds out the song with his synthesizer work here. All in all, another solid track form one of jazz music's strongest groups.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Pat Metheny: Omaha Celebration

Track

Omaha Celebration

Artist

Pat Metheny (guitar)

CD

Bright Size Life (ECM)

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Musicians:

Pat Metheny (guitar), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Bob Moses (drums).

Recorded: December 1975

Albumcoverpatmethenybrightsizelife

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

This was always one of my favorite songs from this album. I remember the first time I heard it and I couldn't help but wonder with astonishment how Metheny played the way he did at the age of 22. The music to this song is very fitting to the title of the song. The interaction between the group on this album solidifies why this is one of the purest trio jazz albums recorded during the post 1960s. Pastorius is very subdued on this song but he also sounds mature beyond his age, playing simple but effective bass movements that clearly establish and maintain the pocket.

In a little over 4 minutes, Metheny, Pastorius, and Moses, play enough great music that I want to pack my bags and see what Nebraska is all about. I highly recommend this track for anyone that wants to dig deeper than the title track on this album.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Jaco Pastorius: Come On, Come Over

Track

Come On, Come Over

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Jaco Pastorius (Epic EK64977)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Don Alias (percussion), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Randy Brecker (trumpet), David Sanborn (alto sax),

Peter Graves (bass trombone), Ron Tooley (trumpet), Howard Johnson (baritone sax), Narada Michael Walden (drums), Sam and Dave (vocals)

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Composed by Jaco Pastorius and Bob Herzog

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Recorded: New York, October 1975

Albumcoverjacopastorius

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

This is the only song off of Jaco Pastorius to feature vocals and like all of the other guest spots on the album, the bassist hired more legendary musicians to fill the spots. R&B duo Sam and Dave sing the vocal on this tune. Although this is not the most dense of songs, it marks one of the first times that Pastorius used an extended brass and reed section, which he would later employ with the Word of Mouth band. His horn section is also chalked full of some of the best players to ever have played jazz music.

Pastorius had a strong affinity for funk music and that influence is highly audible on this song. Herbie Hancock really brings the entire groove together with this wah-wah clavinet chord pattern. I really like the arrangements for the horn section and I think that Sam and Dave would have benefited nicely from an entire album with this band. Another classic song from a classic album!

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Jaco Pastorius: Crisis

Track

Crisis

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Word of Mouth (Warner Brothers 3535-2)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Hubert Laws (flute), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Peter Erskine (drums), Don Alias (percussion),

Bobby Thomas Jr. (percussion)

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Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: Florida, Los Angeles & New York, August, 1980

Jaco--word_of_mouth

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

On this opening cut from his 1980 album Word of Mouth, Pastorius and company explode with a gigantic burst of musical energy. This is one of the fastest, most consistent bass lines I've ever heard in my life. When Jaco starts, he doesn't stop at all. I don't know how a human being conjures up the dexterity to play what Jaco played but it's almost like his hands have found a way to circular breathe. Herbie Hancock adds some really good harmonic textures, striking the piano with both rage and power. The tenor playing of Brecker and Shorter unfourtunately drown out the flute of Hubert Laws but the flute is probably the least interesting part of this song anyways.

I always say this, but I really wish this particular line-up would have recorded more. The group is so expressive and has no problem playing any style of jazz, whether fusion, straight ahead, or free. Another great song from one of the greatest human beings to have ever touched the electric bass guitar. Salud! Salud!

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Joni Mitchell: The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines

Track

The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines

Artist

Joni Mitchell (vocals, guitar)

CD

Mingus (Asylum )

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Musicians:

Joni Mitchell (vocals, guitar), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Herbie Hancock (electric piano), Peter Erskine (drums), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Don Alias (congas).

Composed by Charles Mingus

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Recorded: Hollywood, CA, New York, NY, 1978-1979

Joni_mitchell-mingus

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

I never really understood how good Mitchell was at singing jazz numbers, but she really shines on this song. Her vocal phrasing sounds like she's been seeing jazz exclusively, for years. Jaco Pastorius steals the show for me though on this blues song written by Charles Mingus. Mingus originally wanted to work with Mitchell after hearing her album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter and I think that it speaks volumes that a legend like Mingus chose to work with Mitchell. Wayne Shorter's soprano playing on this track is some of his finest. This song is steadily driven by Jaco and Erskine who lay down a great rhythm track for Mitchell.

This song represents another fine collaboration between Jaco and Joni and further testifies to his prowess as a bassist and her power as a vocalist. I give this song a super ten thumbs up!

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Pat Metheny: Missouri Uncompromised

Track

Missouri Uncompromised

Artist

Pat Metheny (guitar)

CD

Bright Size Life (ECM)

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Musicians:

Pat Metheny (guitar), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Bob Moses (drums).

Composed by Pat Metheny

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Recorded: December 1975

Albumcoverpatmethenybrightsizelife

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

On this high swinging number from Pat Metheny's landmark debut, Bright Size Life, he finds himself in immaculate company with Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums. Pastorius anchors this song with a drive and determination that very few bass players during this time could have done. Metheny displays his strong melodic virtuosity on this song, running up and down the neck of the guitar at break neck speed. Bob Moses also holds it down, playing a contagious swing pattern and adds some nice accents underneath the solo action. Another great track from a stellar, unforgettable album. Pastorius and company are in their prime on this one!

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Jaco Pastorius: (Used to be a) Cha-Cha

Track

(Used to be a) Cha-Cha

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Jaco Pastorius (Epic EK64977)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Herbie Hancock (piano), Hubert Laws (flute), Lenny White (drums), Don Alias (percussion).

Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: New York, October 1975

Albumcoverjacopastorius

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

I think it might be safe to say that Jaco Pastorius turned jazz music on its collective head with the release of his debut solo album. Enlisting the help of jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Lenny White, and Don Alias, they take "(Used to be a) Cha-Cha" all the way to the bank and then some. The song starts off as Pastorius plays a blistering bass line over Lenny White's perfectly executed jazz-Latin beat. The entire band gels on this song and Hancock lays down nasty piano comps behind Jaco's solo. This solo pushes the boundaries and the possibilities of the electric bass and I can only imagine how many legions of fans and devotees have memorized it note for note.

Not to be outdone, Hubert Laws and Hancock both lay down their own solos which drive the song home before Laws restates the melody. This is a genius song and in my opinion the strongest cut from an album chalked full of monstrous music.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Joni Mitchell: Free Man In Paris

Track

Free Man In Paris

Artist

Joni Mitchell (guitar, vocals)

CD

Shadows and LIght (Asylum)

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Musicians:

Joni Mitchell (guitar, vocals), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Pat Metheny (guitar), Lyle Mays (piano, keyboards), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Don Alias (drums).

Composed by Joni Mitchell

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Recorded: Santa Barbara, CA, September 1979

Joni_mitchell-_shadows_and_light

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

I remember the first time that my friend turned me on to Joni Mitchell and the further I explored I realized that she had a knack for picking excellent band members. This live release encapsulates that ability. Recorded during her 1979 tour for the Mingus album, Jaco Pastorius was once again mixing it up with Mitchell driving her songs with his signature bass thumps. Jaco's bass line on this song gives the tune a new lease on life. Written about a trip she took with David Geffen to Paris in the early 1970s, this song originally appeared on the songstress's 1974 album Court and Spark , but this version receives the royal funk-jazz treatment and is nothing short of phenomenal.

Although he's not featured as prominently in the solo capacity on this tune, Pastorius shows us why he was one of the greatest musicians to ever touch the electric bass. His pocket is absolutely solid on this song. It's a shame that he didn't live longer but the world will forever live through the wonderful music he gave us. Score one for team Pastorius!

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Jaco Pastorius: Opus Pocus

Track

Opus Pocus

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Jaco Pastorius (Epic EK64977)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Herbie Hancock (electric piano), Lenny White (drums), Don Alias (percussion), Leroy Williams (steel drum), Othello Molineaux (steel drum).

Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: New York, October 1975

Albumcoverjacopastorius

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Jaco Pastorius composed a hypnotic groove for this song, complete with steel drums, an instrument which he also played some. Othello Molineaux, who performed with Pastorius on numerous occasions, starts this song off with some help from Leroy Williams who also plays steel drum. Wayne Shorter enters next with a soprano sax line that sounds just as funky and deranged as the bass line. But the best part of the song ensues as Pastorius busts into a head nodding bass line and Shorter follows suit with one of my favorite solos he's ever recorded. He effortlessly cascades up and down the register of the instrument with perfect intonation and control.

The song ends with a nice little section where the steel drums play a syncopated figure underneath Shorter's improvisations, which are further enhanced by Jaco's bass thumps and harmonic shape movements up and down the neck of the bass. This is one of the funkiest songs my ears have ever heard and I would beg anyone to disagree with me.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Weather Report: Harlequin

Track

Harlequin

Group

Weather Report

CD

Heavy Weather (Columbia (CK65108))

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Musicians:

Joe Zawinul (piano, electric piano, synthesizers, melodica), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax, soprano sax), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Alex Acuna (drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion).

Composed by Wayne Shorter

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Recorded: Hollywood, CA, 1976-early 1977

Albumcoverweatherreport-heavyweather

Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

This album marked the second appearance on a Weather Report release for Jaco Pastorius, his first being Black Market. This is the first release where the bass chair was entirely in his possession though. Call it irony or coincidence but Pastorius's first appearance as the main bassist was also Weather Report's most successful album, featuring the hit song "Birdland," which would go on to become a hit for other groups like Manhattan Transfer.

"Harlequin" on the other hand is a nice little number written by Wayne Shorter, featuring the undeniable pocket groove of Pastorius who plays very subtle but effective notes, aiding this song with its mellow feel. Joe Zawinul plays his usual effect-driven Fender Rhodes but he also works in some nice blues lines on the piano. On this tune, Weather Report prove to the rest of the playing field why they were the greatest fusion band ever formed. I know that might be up for debate but Weather Report had all of the right elements and their releases up until the 1980s were always consistent, especially Heavy Weather .

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


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