Mowgli Music
February 8, 2006 3:18 PM   Subscribe

It was that inevitable stomach-churning phone call in the middle of the night. The one we all had been dreading for years. The caller was choked with emotion. His words fell like bricks:

" You heard about Jaco?"

Jaco Pastorius bass virtuoso rediscovered. Photos and sounds and perspectives.
posted by Smedleyman (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jaco was legendary for coating his fingers with fried chicken grease before going on stage, in order to lubricate his playing.
However, some of Jaco's friends have disputed this legend, saying it is just a myth.
The truth is, there were times he left chicken grease on his fingers.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:25 PM on February 8, 2006

Yeah, cat could play, no two ways about that, but he's no Stanley Clarke (for starters).
posted by Relay at 3:30 PM on February 8, 2006


Was he lost at some point? He's is still dead, right?
posted by doctor_negative at 3:43 PM on February 8, 2006

" profiles an artist from the past. Some you may have heard of, some not, but we hope you'll take time to check out their music...especially if it's something different than you usually listen to. This month, we rediscover influential bassist Jaco Pastorius."

But yeah, I think the karate chops to the head did him and left him did in.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:49 PM on February 8, 2006


EXCELLENT post...crap I was just reading these pages the other day after listening to Joni Mitchell's Hejira album for the umpteenth time.

The guy was a revolutionary bassist. They should have pictures of him instead of Che on T Shirts.

Mitchell's Hejira...Shadows and Light...anything with Weather Report

Again...frickin genius

thanks for the post.
posted by timsteil at 3:53 PM on February 8, 2006

I'm gonna put some Weather Report into the stereo when I get home. Thanks for the post.

And someone really ought to make a Jaco t-shirt that looks like a Che t-shirt. I'd buy one in a second.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2006

Relay: Yeah, cat could play, no two ways about that, but he's no Stanley Clarke (for starters).

And Stanley Clarke was no Jaco Pastorius. They're both genius, man, and the world has room for the both of them.
posted by Eekacat at 4:01 PM on February 8, 2006

I saw Jaco on the 8.30 tour from the second row. All I knew of him previously was the self-titled album, so I was expecting someone kind of serious and sober-sided to appear (based almost entirely on the cover shot, I guess). This was emphatically not the case.

Read Bill Milkowski's book for all the gory details of his descent into full-blown mental illness.

Also, stay away from the bootleg crap that infests the internets and elsewhere if you want a decent representation of Jaco's talent — a lot of this stuff is, to put it charitably, unworthy.

RIP, King.
posted by Wolof at 4:21 PM on February 8, 2006

Check out Live in Italy with Jaco, guitarist Bireli Lagrene and drummer Tomas Böröcz. It's a great example of what young, cocky musicians can do.
posted by lsd4all at 4:24 PM on February 8, 2006

Neat post--it's hard to point to a single album as definitive for him, but you can tell who it is from a single phrase.
posted by bardic at 4:32 PM on February 8, 2006

A lot of the Weather Report stuff I find annoying, but his "Live in New York" Series with Hiram Bullock on Guitar (Can't remember who else in the group) is unbelievable, especially "Punk Jazz."
posted by papakwanz at 4:42 PM on February 8, 2006

Wolof: Read Bill Milkowski's book

That YSI link is to african music. ?
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:44 PM on February 8, 2006

Fuck, I am a moron. Try here.
posted by Wolof at 4:57 PM on February 8, 2006

Gad, seeing him live in '78 in his Hendrix phase was a major let down. More concerned about soloing with an Echoplex and doing somersaults over Zawinul than playing anything remotely coherent.
posted by hal9k at 5:30 PM on February 8, 2006

Jaco at his best was better than Stanley Clark ever was because Jaco was so out without losing touch. Once he started to lose touch...

Two very small stories. Turns out I have heard that lost album Holiday for Pans! In the mid-80s, a boastful engineer played me this recording, telling me this was Jaco's latest stuff -- but it was all steel drums and no bass! I thought until today that he was pulling my leg. Amazing what you find out eventually.

I never saw him play -- I'm not a huge jazz guy -- but he showed up at a concert on the pier in NYC with Al Di Miola warming up for Chick Corea -- perhaps it's the one they mentioned? And he was wasted and showing card tricks (badly -- I felt like interrupting to do some good ones) to some kids.

But then I don't remember seeing him get thrown off the stage -- but I could easily have missed it, my attention wondered. It wasn't a great show as I recall, some of Chick Corea's keyboards didn't work at key points, and frankly, I don't love that sound. Jaco didn't mean anything much to me at the time so I didn't really pay much attention until I heard he had died.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:02 PM on February 8, 2006 attention wandered...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:03 PM on February 8, 2006

He stopped breathing but his heart continued to pump (miraculously) for another three hours. Jaco's father Jack, a journeyman jazz drummer and singer all his life, cradled Jaco in his arms and crooned "Watch What Happens" as the final beats ticked off:

Let someone start believing in you
Let him hold out his hand
Let him touch you and
Watch what happens

This was incredibly moving.
posted by the_bone at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2006

Since I live in Oakland Park (where Jaco grew up) and spend a lot of time in Wilton Manors, I did a bit of research.

Midnight Bottle Club , where he got killed, is now Corner Pocket Billiards in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. The high school he went to is right up the street from me.
posted by mike3k at 6:42 PM on February 8, 2006

I was at a party with him and didn't pass a joint to him because I didn't want to seem like a groupie. "Don't Bogart That Joint, My Friend....Pass it Over To Me."

Finally did.

Incidentally, before Weather Report's concert, the guys in the band (aleady an hour late) needed me and my friend were soliciting hash or grass in the audience in the lobby before they went on....everybody but Wayne Shorter smoked...the piano know who I mean, but I have to sign off in 60 seconds...especially needed the THC before he went onstage.

It was an interesting night, in 1974, in Indiana.

Great bassist, much admired by my students.
posted by kozad at 8:11 PM on February 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, "rediscovered"? I realize that, as a jazz musician, my perspective here is skewed; but Jaco has pretty consistently remained the subject of reissues and tribute albums at a regular pace. He is cycled through annual feature stories in the bass magazines, and a few of his albums are always stocked for the teenaged bassists who are always "discovering" him.

"Rediscovered" suggests that Jaco was lost at some point, and he so totally wasn't.
posted by cribcage at 8:12 PM on February 8, 2006

Joe Zaviwal. (misspelled
posted by kozad at 8:15 PM on February 8, 2006


I'm sorry I never got to see Jaco live.
posted by Songdog at 8:49 PM on February 8, 2006

posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:28 PM on February 8, 2006

Jaco at his best was better than Stanley Clark ever was because Jaco was so out without losing touch [until he did, unfortunately].

And Stanley Clarke was no Jaco Pastorius... the world has room for the both of them.

Two excellent points — I agree with both. I saw both men; I preferred Jaco. (Then again, Stanley hasn’t gone off the rails, so we can still go enjoy him.)

Jaco's father Jack, a journeyman jazz drummer and singer...

The same night I took one of the four photos of Jaco used in this book, I took this picture of Jaco acknowledging his father.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:30 PM on February 8, 2006

Black Market is one of my top ten favourite albums. The way the bass winds up through the first side is amazing.

Comparing Stanley Clarke and Jaco is pretty facile, like guitar nerds comparing Yygwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani or whoever.

apropos of not much, here's some jazz interviews
posted by johnny novak at 12:46 AM on February 9, 2006

Yeah, cat could play, no two ways about that, but he's no Stanley Clarke (for starters).

Dude, listen to Teen Town from Weather Report's Mysterious Traveller LP - written by Pastorius - and report back.
posted by three blind mice at 12:48 AM on February 9, 2006

lelilo you lucky bastard, thats a great picture.
there have been many amazing bass players through the years but a handful of them remain as icons for generations to come. without naming any others, jaco set a standard for electric bass that no one had before him. he is noted as being the first well-known electric fretless bassist. his techniques and style changed the way the bass way played and sounded. jaco will always be one of the best probably because he was completely nuts. I wish I was crazy like him. once and a while I come across musicians who play an instrument like they were born with it in their hands. I could be so lucky. jaco is one of those amazing people that makes our short time on Earth enjoyable. rip.
posted by lsd4all at 12:58 AM on February 9, 2006

Thanks Smedleyman, this is a nice change of pace. Always been a big fan of Jaco's.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2006

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