First, I’m sorry this is late.
Second, this is weird for me.
Now, if you’ve listened to this week’s episode of The Less Desirables (of course you have), you know the movie of the week, presented by a/perture cinema, was Jaco a documentary about Jaco Pastorius. The film was supposed to be last week but because it was a truncated show, I decided to hold onto it a week. Turned out, our guest was Matthew Troy, a music guy – he is, after all, the director/conductor of the Piedmont Wind Symphony. Okay, so that worked out, not too weird.
Today, whilst looking through whose birthday is today (I do that sometimes) it turns out today is Jaco’s birthday. He would have been 65. So, I waited until this week to do the film, had Matt on and today is his birthday. Okay, maybe not weird but very coincidental; oddly so. So, I don’t want to give too much away as to take away the reading potential of Saturday’s blog post, but I will touch a bit on Jaco for those who are not familiar.
Jaco Pastorius is commonly called the greatest electric bass player of all time. In fact, he had the audacity to tell record executives and big-time musicians the same thing: “I am the greatest electric bass player in the world” or something was what he would tell people, especially to Joe Zawinul, the band leader of Weather Report. Joe, of course, to him to f-off and Jaco persisted. Upon hearing Jaco’s work, he decided to give him a shot and that shot was a very smart move. Jaco went on to work with Joni Mitchell, too, who let him do his thing. To say that he’s the best of all time? I don’t know, but I can’t name anyone who’s better. I can name “are goods” but not betters. I’m not the end-all/be-all of bass player superlatives, either. As I’ll say in the blog, there’s apples to apples; there’s apple to oranges; and there’s Jaco to other bass players. I don’t know who to put in comparison of it. Oh, and I should mention that he bought a bass, ripped the frets out with pliers and filled the fret board with epoxy, thus creating a fretless bass, one that he made famous. Here’s a tune from him, “Portrait of Tracy” written for his first wife.
Jaco wasn’t a drug/drink kind of guy, at least in his earlier days. He went through some stuff, including a divorce, other failed relationships and bipolar disorder. The medication that he was put on to fight that was lithium and then carbamazepine, after a stint in a mental hospital. There’s hints of alcohol abuse, later. He fell into disarray and ended up living on the streets. Eventually, he went to see a Santana concert (he was friends with Carlos) and jumped on the stage. They had him removed not only from the stage but from the venue. He made his way to an all-night club and was refused entry. He threw a fit and got physical with the bouncer, who in return got physical to the point that he beat Jaco to within inches of his life. He went into a coma, almost immediately, and never came out of it. A massive brain hemorrhage took his life on September 21, 1987. The bouncer was charged with second degree murder but pleaded out to manslaughter. In the end, he only served about 4 months, getting out for good behavior. A tragic end to a tragic man; a tragic man with a world’s worth of talent. Here’s a video of “Donna Lee” which he won some awards for.
Happy would-be 65th birthday, Mr. Pastorius. You were gone too soon. You were a major influence on Flea, Victor Bailey, Victor Bailey, Robert Trujillo and even Geddy Lee. You were mighty.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I’m not a star. I’ll never be a Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley or a Ray Charles. I’m just an imitator, man. I’m doing a very bad imitation on the bass of Jerry Jemmott, Bernard Odum, Jimmy Fielder, Jimmy Blanton, Igor Stravinsky, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, James Brown, Charlie Parker… the cats, man. I’m just backing up the cats.” – Jaco Pastorius