Jaco Pastorius: Donna Lee


Donna Lee


Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)


Jaco Pastorius (Epic EK 33949)

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Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Don Alias (congas).

Composed by Charlie Parker


Recorded: New York, 1976


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

The eponymously titled Jaco Pastorius was Jaco's first release as a leader. To this day many aficionados still consider it the greatest bass album ever recorded. At the very least, it is the most influential bass album as far as jazz-rock musicians go. It very quickly spawned legions of bass players who tried to live up to its standards. That yielded about 100,000 imitators and, thankfully, about 10 brilliant bassists over the years.

Legends come from someplace, and a big part of Jaco Pastorius's legend was born with this cut. His take on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," a tune that Miles Davis claimed he authored and very well may have, is always listed in those "Top Ten" lists that fans seem to be so fond of making for their favorite artists these days. But fandom aside, the author of the definitive book about Jaco, jazz critic Bill Milkowski, says this particular performance is the one that introduced the modern electric bass era.

Regardless of original composer, Jaco makes this piece his own. (You'll forgive me a cliché every 300 reviews or so, won't you?) Don Alias keeps a steady conga beat as Jaco blazes through the changes of this bebop number. Those changes, based on the song "Back Home Again in Indiana," give Jaco the perfect opening to display both melodic and rhythmic chops simultaneously. He dives in with all 10 fingers, producing a rolling momentum that only your off-switch can stop.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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