Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Word of Mouth Revisited (2003)
It may be surprising to learn that legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius had deep roots in the big band tradition. His father Jack was a big band singer and drummer in the late '40s and early '50s, and in Jaco's early twenties he played for five years with the Peter Graves Orchestra, a progressive big band located in Ft. Lauderdale. Graves' orchestra gave Pastorius valuable experience writing and arranging – and provided a supportive environment for his blossoming genius.
Then in 1975 Pastorius left the band and released his self-titled debut album, which propelled him into the spotlight. His subsequent work with Weather Report, Pat Metheny, and Joni Mitchell continued his phenomenal rise. He still gigged with Graves whenever he was in Florida, and when he left Weather Report in 1982 he formed his big band Word of Mouth, hiring Graves and other members of his orchestra.
Twenty years later, Graves has returned the favor by forming the Jaco Pastorius Big Band and releasing Word of Mouth Revisited. Although this is clearly a personal project for Graves, his aims are broad: he wants to continue Pastorius' legacy (the bassist died in 1987) by presenting his songs and arrangements in a fresh setting, as well as showcase some of jazz's best electric bassists. Actually it's a heartfelt project for everyone involved; many of the musicians played with Pastorius, all of the bassists are indebted to him, and there's even fine bass work by Pastorius' nephew David. And to help involve the listener, the CD has soundbites of Pastorius conducting, giving a taste of the personality behind the talent.
All this plus fine musicianship yields an excellent collection that celebrates and explores Pastorius' prodigious gifts. There are early songs such as "Punk Jazz," "Cha Cha," "Opus Pocus," and "Domingo," as well as Weather Report favorites "Havona," "Teen Town," and "Barbary Coast." Pastorius even plays on the CD; Herbie Hancock's "Wiggle Waggle" features a Pastorius bass line lifted from a late '70s gig, supplemented by enthusiastic studio work. The bassists appearing on the recording are the cream of the crop: Victor Bailey, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Gerald Veasley and Victor Wooten. Also notable are the enthusiastic and disciplined brass and woodwind sections.
Throughout the disc, the musicians give life to Pastorius' melodic grooves and uplifting rhythms, as compelling today as when they first appeared. The new technology and new voices bring Pastorius' work into the 21st century, where the seeds planted decades ago will surely continue to sprout.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Jaco Speaks 2. Havona 3. Teen Town 4. Jaco Speaks 5. Punk Jazz 6. Jaco Speaks 7. Barbary Coast 8. Killing Me Softly 9. Jaco Speaks 10. (Used to Be A) Cha Cha 11. Wiggle Waggle 12. Jaco Speaks 13. Continuum 14. Jaco Speaks 15. Elegant People 16. Opus Pocus 17. Peter & Jaco Speak 18. Domingo 19. Forgotten Love 20. Jaco Speaks 21. Punk Jazz Revisited
Personnel: Victor Bailey - bass; Jaco Pastorius - bass; Randy Bernsen - guitar, koto; Peter Graves - conductor; Jimmy Haslip - bass; Gerald Veasley - bass; Joe Zawinul - keyboards; Michael Brignola - flute, bass clarinet, baritone sax, woodwinds; Ed Calle - clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, woodwinds; Kenneth Faulk - trumpet, flugelhorn, brass; Michael Levine - synthesizer, piano, keyboards; Christian McBride - bass; Marcus Miller - bass; Billy Ross - flute, piccolo, alto sax, soprano sax, woodwinds; Dana Teboe - trombone, brass; Victor Wooten - bass; John Kricker - bass trombone, brass; Mike Scaglione - flute, tenor sax; Jason Carder - trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Carswell - bass; Mark Griffith - drums; Gary Keller - clarinet, flute, alto sax, tenor sax; Gary Mayone - marimba; Michael "Patches" Stewart - trumpet; Jeff Kievit - trumpet, flugelhorn; Bobby Thomas, Jr. - hand drums; Richard Bona - bass; Roger Byman - soprano sax; Dave Pastorius - bass.