In his relatively short life, John Francis "Jaco Pastorius III not only revolutionized the role of the electric bass, he contributed a small but resonant body of composed work that remains influential to this day. Pastorius is best known for his work with Weather Report and his own Word of Mouth band. The tragedy of mental illness and related substance abuse that would lead to his death at the age of 36 does nothing to diminish the importance of his brief but significant contribution. His compositions continue to be covered by artists like trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Christian McBride, and guitarist Scott Henderson.
While Gospel for JFP III is not the first album to pay respect to Pastorius' legacy, it is the first to present such a broad range of interpretation. Unlike last year's Word of Mouth Revisited, which focused more on his virtuosic style with a steady stream of bassists including Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, and Jimmy Haslip, this recording concentrates more on the writing, finding new and unusual ways of interpretation.
The eleven tracks are mostly Pastorius compositions, although the title track is an original dedication, and the funky vocal track "I Can Dig It Baby is notable only as being from his first known recording date, guitarist "Little Beaver Hale's Party Down (President, 1974). A few particular standouts employ innovative ways of looking at well-known material. The fourteen-piece vocal group Contrafarsa opens the album with a unique choral arrangement of "Three Views of a Secret that ultimately evolves into a duet between electric guitarist Hiram Bullock and acoustic guitarist Birele Lagrene, with the choir rejoining the duo for its triumphant and joyous conclusion. Pianist Michael Gerber retains the airy ambience of "Continuum, but with Romero Lubambo's acoustic guitar, Gil Goldstein's synth washes, percussionist Armando Marçal's light shadings, and Mike Stern's delicately restrained electric swells, the piece takes on an even more ethereal quality.
Steel pan player Othello Molineaux delivers a fairly literal reading of "Havona that is elevated by strong soloing from saxophonist Bob Mintzer and, of course, Molineaux's pans. Drummer Kenwood Dennard's version of "Teen Town opts for a slower, greasier funk, as opposed to the high-octane virtuosity most interpreters aim for. But perhaps the most imaginative interpretation is Gil Goldstein's solo take on "Punk Jazz, where he builds layer upon layer of sound, often processed heavily, to create a unique accordion tour-de-force.
Probably the most surprising aspect of Gospel for JFP III is its general avoidance of virtuosic bass playing. By focusing instead on the myriad of possibilities for interpretation, the album succeeds in demonstrating the true breadth of Pastorius' compositional legacy. Some tracks work better than others, but this mixed bag is nevertheless an essential work whose open-mindedness is perhaps the best tribute possible to an artist who, nearly twenty years after his death, remains a vital and visible influence.
Track Listing: Three Views of a Secret; Las Olas; Havona; Continuum; I Can Dig It Baby; Dania; Punk Jazz; Teen Town; Microcosm; Good Morning Anya; Gospel for J.F.P. III
Personnel: Hiram Bullock (electric guitar on Three Views of a Secret, Teen Town); Bireli Lagrene (acoustic guitar on Three Views of a Secret); Contrafarsa (vocals on Three Views of a Secret); Michael Gerber (acoustic piano on Las Olas, Continuum, Dania); Tonhino Horta (guitar, voice on Las Olas); Kenny Davis (acoustic bass on Las Olas, Dania); Danny Gottlieb (drums on Las Olas); Armando Marçal (percussion on Las Olas, Continuum); Othello Molineaux (steel pans on Havona); Bob Mintzer (tenor saxophone on Havona); Abel Pabon (keyboards on Havona); Pete Sebastien (electric bass on Havona); Jonathan Joseph (drums on Havona); Robert Thomas Jr. (percussion on Havona); Gil Goldstein (keyboards, accordion on Continuum, Punk Jazz, Good Morning Anya); Mike Stern (electric guitar on Continuum); Romero Lubambo (acoustic guitar on Continuum); Ines Bergara (lead vocal on I Can Dig It Baby); Hugo Fattoruso (piano, keyboards, voice on I Can Dig It Baby, Gospel for J.F.P. III); Felix Pastorius (electric bass on I Can Dig It Baby); Percussion on I Can Dig It Baby: (Fernando Lobo Nuńez, Gustavo Oviedo; Walter Nego Haedo, Jorge Foque Gomez, Washington Pintos, Noe Nuńez, Mariano Barroso, Pablo Pirańa Silva); Chorus on I Can Dig It Baby: Norma Galfetti, Gabriela Gomez, Silvana Lombardini, Mariana Garcia Vigil, Carlos Quintana, Gustavo Monemurro, Urbano Moraes, Cesar Martinez; Billy Hart (drums on Dania); Kenwood Dennard (drums on Teen Town); Marcus Miller (electric bass on Teen Town); Delmar Brown (keyboards on Teen Town); Charles Blenzig (keyboards on Teen Town); Rich Franks (drums on Microcosm); Alex Darqui (acoustic piano on Microcosm); John Patitucci (acoustic bass on Microcosm); Jorge Pardo (saxophone on Good Morning Anya); Carles Benavent (electric bass on Good Morning Anya); Alex Acuńa (drums, percussion on Good Morning Anya); Frances Fatturoso (electric bass on Gospel for J.F.P. III); Jorge Osvaldo Fatturoso (drums on Gospel for J.F.P. III)