John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III (/ /, December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987) was an American jazz bass guitarist 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. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only seven bassists so honored (and the only bass guitarist).
Pastorius in concert, 1986
|Birth name||John Francis Anthony Pastorius III|
December 1, 1951|
Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 21, 1987
Wilton Manors, Florida
|Genres||Jazz, jazz fusion, big band, folk-jazz, funk|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, producer|
|Labels||Epic, Warner Bros., Columbia, ECM, CBS, Elektra|
|Associated acts||Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Word of Mouth, Trio of Doom, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders|
Growing up in Fort LauderdaleEdit
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.
From his parents he was given the nickname "Jocko", a variation of John and Jack. When he was a boy, he was ridiculed for the name because there was a cartoon monkey named "Jocko." 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 was he 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.
Pastorius played drums until he injured his wrist playing football at age 13. The damage to his wrist was severe enough to warrant corrective surgery and inhibited his ability to play drums.
Becoming the world's greatest bass playerEdit
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.
Exploring fusion with Weather ReportEdit
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). A year after joining Weather Report, he recorded his own debut solo album, Jaco Pastorius (Epic, 1976) with help from Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Pat Metheny, Sam & Dave, David Sanborn, and Wayne Shorter.
Before recording his debut album, he 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 skilll. They corresponded, and Pastorius sent Zawinul an early rough mix of his solo album. After bassist Alphonso Johnson left Weather Report, Zawinul asked Pastorius to join the band. Pastorius appeared on the album Black Market (Columbia, 1976), then Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), which contained the Grammy-nominated hit "Birdland".
Pastorius left Weather Report in late 1981 as he began pursuing his interest in starting a big band. He recorded his second solo album, Word of Mouth (Warner Bros., 1981), with experienced sidemen: Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Tom Scott, Don Alias, Chuck Findley, and Howard Johnson. Warner Bros. had signed Pastorius on a favorable contract in the late 1970s due to his groundbreaking playing and his star quality, but Word of Mouth didn't sell well, and Pastorius was released from his contract.
Pastorius toured in 1982. His visit to Japan was the highlight, and it was at this time that bizarre tales of Pastorius's deteriorating behavior surfaced. He shaved his head, painted his face black, and threw his bass guitar into Hiroshima Bay.
When he was with Weather Report, he abused alcohol and illegal drugs, which exacerbated his mental problems and led to erratic and anti-social behavior. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 1982 following his Word of Mouth tour of Japan, during which his behavior had concerned his band members. Pastorius had shown signs of bipolar disorder before his diagnosis, but they were considered eccentricities or character flaws. Hypomania, a psychiatric diagnosis for a milder form of mania characterized by periodic hyperactivity and elevated mood, has been associated with enhanced creativity.
After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana concert on September 11, 1987 and being ejected from the premises, Pastorius 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 engaged in a violent confrontation with the club's bouncer, Luc Havan, who had a black belt in karate. 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 massive brain hemorrhage a few days later led to brain death. Pastorius died on September 21, 1987, aged 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.
Sample from "Portrait of Tracy" with extensive use of harmonics.
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Pastorius was noted for his virtuosic bass lines which combined Afro-Cuban rhythms, inspired by the likes of Cachao López, 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.
He was also known for popularizing the fretless electric bass, with which he was able to achieve an almost horn-like tone while playing in the upper register. Examples include the melodies on "Birdland" from the Weather Report album Heavy Weather and "Three Views of a Secret" from the Weather Report album Night Passage, as well as his line on the Joni Mitchell song "Refuge of the Roads" from her album Hejira.
One of Pastorius's innovations was in the use of harmonics, which isolate the overtones of a note by muting the string at a harmonic node, resulting in a much higher note than would otherwise be sounded. He used this technique extensively to construct melodies, such as in his composition Portrait of Tracy from his eponymous album, and the melody from the popular Weather Report tune "Birdland," which is often mistaken for guitar.
Bass of DoomEdit
Jaco Pastorius played a 1962 Fender Jazz Bass that he called the Bass of Doom. He acquired it already fretless or he removed the frets with a butter knife (his recollections varied over the years) and sealed the fretboard with epoxy resin.
It was stolen from a park bench in Manhattan in 1986, then found in a guitar shop in 2006, but the owner didn't want 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.
Amplification and effectsEdit
Jaco 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" 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 seen during his solo on the Joni Mitchell concert video Shadows and Light.
Pastorius appeared as a guest on many albums by other artists, as for example in 1976 with Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, on All American Alien Boy. 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 album and a solo album by Al Di Meola, both released in 1976. Near the end of his career, he worked with guitarist Mike Stern, guitarist Bireli Lagrene, and drummer Brian Melvin. In 1985, he recorded an instructional video, Modern Electric Bass, hosted by bassist Jerry Jemmott.
Awards and honorsEdit
Jaco 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 1988, he was voted by readers to the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, joining bassists Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden, and Milt Hinton.
Many musicians have composed songs in honor of him, 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 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, called Pastorius one of the few original American virtuosos who defined a musical movement, alongside 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.
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