John "Jaco" Francis Pastorius III (December 1st, 1951 — September 21st, 1987)
He is considered by many musicians to be the most influential, innovative, and technically proficient jazz bass player the world has ever heard. He recorded with many of the jazz greats during his professional career (1975-1987) and was a member of Weather Report and leader of his own band, Word of Mouth. Jaco used false harmonics and finger tapping along with an unprecedented melodic styling in a way that redefined the role of the bass guitar in modern music. He invented the fretless bass guitar one night by taking out a pair of pliers and some wood compound and removing the frets. Legend of his exploits is no doubt highly exagerrated, but enough stories (like the one where he was seen riding around the streets of Tokyo on a motorcycle, naked and screaming) exist that you have to believe that at least some of what you hear was true, if not most or all of it.
Jaco was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Fort Lauterdale. His first musical influence was his father, a jazz drummer. Under his father's tutelege, Jaco taught himself to play guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards. He started backing visiting music acts and quickly gained both a reputation and a local following. His quick rise to stardom began in 1975 when Bobby Colomby, drummer with Blood, Sweat And Tears, was impressed enough to arrange the recording of Pastorius' first album, and a year later Pat Metheny asked him to play bass on his own debut album for ECM Records.
Soon after that Jaco was picked up by Weather Report. Legend has it that he walked up after the show, said he was a big fan, and announced himself as "Jaco Pastorius, The Greatest Bass Player in the World."
Weather Report discography:
- Black Market, Columbia PC 24099 1976; with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Alphonso Johnson, Chester Thompson, Narada Michael Walden, Alejandro Acuña, and Don Alias.
- Heavy Weather, Columbia PC 24418 1977; with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Alex Acuña, and Manolo Badrena.
- Mr. Gone, Columbia JC 35358 1978; with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Peter Erskine, Steve Gadd, and Tony Williams.
- 8:30, Columbia PC2 35358 1979 live recording with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, and Peter Erskine.
- Night Passage, Columbia JC 36793 1980; with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Peter Erskine, and Robert Thomas Jr.
- Weather Report, Columbia PC 37616 1982; with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Peter Erskine, and Robert Thomas Jr.
- Havana Jam I, Columbia PC2 36053 1979 concert in Havana, Cuba, with Weather Report; also featuring the Trio Of Doom with John McLaughlin and Tony Williams.
- Havana Jam II, Columbia PC2 36180 More material from the 1979 concert in Havana.
Jaco also released a number of albums with Joni Mitchell:
- Hejira, Asylum 7E 1087 1976; with Larry Carlton and Bobbye Hall.
- Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Asylum BB-701 1977; with Don Alias, Manolo Badrena, Airto, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuña, and John Guerin.
- Mingus, Asylum 5E 505 1979; with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and Emil Richards.
- Shadows and Light, Asylum 704 1979 live recording with Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Michael Brecker, Don Alias, and the Persuasions.
and of course on his own or with Word of Mouth:
- Jaco Pastorius, Epic 33949 1976; with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Don Alias, David Sanborn,Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Peter Graves, Howard Johnson, Narada Michael Walden, Bobby Economou, Michael Gibbs, Hubert Laws, Sam & Dave, Lenny White, Alex Darqui, Othello Molineaux, Leroy Williams, and Ron Tooley.
- Word Of Mouth, Warner Bros. BSK 3535 1982; with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Peter Erskine, Jack DeJohnette, Don Alias, Bobby Thomas Jr., Othello Molineaux, Leroy Williams, Dave Bargeron, John Clark, Jim Pugh, Bill Reichenbach, David Taylor, Snooky Young, Howard Johnson, Tom Scott, James Walker, and George Young.
- Twins I & II, Warner Bros. 23876 (Japanese import) 1983 live recording from Word Of Mouth big band tour of Japan with Randy Brecker, Elmer Brown, Forrest Buchrel, Jon Faddis, Ron Tooley, Wayne Andre, Peter Graves, Bill Reichenbach, Dave Bargeron, Mario Cruz, Alex Foster, Bob Mintzer, Paul McCandless, Peter Gordon, Brad Warnaar, Toots Thielemans, Peter Erskine, Othello Molineaux, and Don Alias.
- Invitation, Warner Bros. 237876-1 1983; U.S. compilation of Twins I & II; same lineup. .
- The Birthday Concert, Warner Bros. 45290-2 1995; U.S. 1981 surprise birthday party Jaco threw for himself with Michael Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Don Alias, and Peter Eskine.
Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, "The World's Greatest Bass Player", published by Miller Freeman Books, June 1995 for the Discography. Please excuse any broken hard links.
In the latter stages in his career Jaco started using cocaine heavily and drank alcohol to excess. His unstable mental state became more and more apparent and his self-destructive urges hindered both his social and his professional life. His friends turned their backs after trying to get him back on his feet time after time, and record companies could no longer deal with him on a professional level. During this period there were reports of him pawning his bass and panhandling for money to buy beer and drugs. He had been known to go into bars and pick fights with the toughest, meanest looking guy he could find, and then stand at attention with his hands behind his back as he was pummelled.
Like many of his musical idols, Jaco shot to stardom at a young age as a result of musical genius. Unfortunately he also followed their path to excess and an untimely demise. On September 11, 1987, at the age of 35, Jaco was beaten into a coma by a bouncer at the Midnight Club in his home town of Fort Lauderdale. He went into a coma and died ten days later, on September 21, 1987.
Jaco's influences are very noticeable in his music: Charlie Parker ("Donna Lee"), Duke Ellington ("Sophisticated Lady"), John Coltrane ("Giant Steps"), Johann Sebastian Bach ("Chromatic Fantasy"), Jimi Hendrix ("Amerika," "Purple Haze," "Third Stone from the Sun"), James Brown ("The Chicken"), Bob Marley ("I Shot the Sheriff"), and the Beatles ("Blackbird," "Dear Prudence").