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 electric 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, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jazz fusion, big band, folk-jazz, funk|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, producer|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, drums, percussion, steel drums, keyboards, guitar, mandocello, autoharp, vocals|
|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 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.
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 - specifically, being able to consistently hit the snare drum hard enough to satisfy his own standards. He would, however, continue to play the drum kit on and off (making notable future kit contributions to Weather Report albums).
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). Talent-spotted by Bobby Colomby, he was given the opportunity to record 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, 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 an early 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 stint with the band, Pastorius also established himself as co-producer and multi-instrumentalist, playing the drums as well as the bass on a number of studio tracks, contributing percussion parts both on- and off-stage, and adding further instruments to the mix (such as mandocello and steel drums). He was also a significant band composer, writing concert favourite "Teen Town" plus "Havona", "River People", "Punk Jazz", "Barbary Coast" and "Three Views of a Secret", as well as contributing to "Dara Factor Two". In addition to Black Market and Heavy Weather, Pastorius played on the Weather Report albums Mr. Gone, Night Passage and the self-titled 1982 album, as well as on the live double 8:30 from 1979. He can also be heard on the posthumous live sets Live and Unreleased, The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981 and on sundry compilations. He can be seen in action with Weather Report on the live DVDs Live at Montreux Jazz Festival 1976 and Young and Fine Live!.
Pastorius left Weather Report in 1982 due to clashes with tour commitments for his other projects, plus a growing dissatisfaction with Zawinul's increasing synthesized and orchestrated approach to the band's music.
In late 1981, while still with Weather Report, Pastorius began pursuing other musical interests. One of these was a Caribbean-influenced project called Holiday for Pans, centred around the steel drum playing of Othello Molineaux (who'd played on Pastorius' debut album). This was never finished, although an unauthorised and posthumously-augmented bootleg of the sessions was released after Pastorius' death.
In the same year, Pastorius recorded his second solo album, Word of Mouth (Warner Bros., 1981), with experienced sidemen: Weather Report cohorts Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine and Don Alias, plus Michael Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Jack DeJohnette, Tom Scott, 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, which they'd hoped would lead to him becoming a bankable commercial asset. Pastorius now used this contract to set up his own Word of Mouth big band, which would ultimately lead to his exit from Weather Report. Alias, Erskine and Thielemans were recruited for the band (later described as "an unfulfilled dream, a worthy concept that did not last long enough to live up to its potential"), as were Othello Molineaux, trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Bobby Mintzer, while other members included Jon Faddis, Dave Bargeron, Paul McCandless and Alex Foster.
During his time with Weather Report, Pastorius had begun abusing alcohol and illegal drugs, which exacerbated existing mental problems and led to erratic and anti-social behavior. In 1982, he toured the Word of Mouth project as an ambitious 21-piece lineup, with the highlight being a set of gigs in Japan. It was at this time that bizarre tales of Pastorius's deteriorating behavior surfaced: 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 following the tour. 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.
Despite initial press attention, Word of Mouth didn't sell well and the initial demos for Holiday for Pans were received poorly by Warner Bros., leading to Pastorius being released from his contract. He would release a third album as bandleader during his lifetime - 1983's Invitation, a live recording from the 1982 Word of Mouth dates in Japan - but his illness, substance abuse problems and rapidly-growing reputation for destructive behaviour quickly ruined his budding solo career. During the mid-'80s he would also struggle with homelessness, while carrying out fitful spells of teaching and making occasional guest appearances on albums by Randy Bernsen, Deadline, Brian Melvin, Jimmy Cliff and Mike Stern. In 1985, he'd rallied enough to record a well-regarded instructional video, Modern Electric Bass, hosted by bassist Jerry Jemmott. In 1986, Pastorius toured with up-and-coming teenaged guitarist Biréli Lagrène, a project which also resulted in the Stuttgart Aria album.
Towards the end of his life, Pastorius apparently developed a further 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, 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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Until about 1970, most jazz musicians played the acoustic, upright bass known as a double bass. Bassists remained in the background with the drummer, forming the rhythm section, while the saxophones, trumpeter, or vocalist handled the melody and led the band. Pastorius played electric bass, i.e. bass guitar, though he removed the frets and thus some of its metallic sound. His thumbs were double-jointed and his fingers were long and thin. On stage he was charismatic and athletic, with an aggressive style that put him in the spotlight. He played fast and loud, danced, sang, and did flips. 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 name "Jocko" fit.
After being taught about artificial harmonics, he began adding them to his technique. 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".
Pastorius was noted for his 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.
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.
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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