Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius: The 60th Anniversary Collection

John Kelman By

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Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius: The 60th Anniversary Collection Jaco Pastorius
The 60th Anniversary Collection
Warner Music Japan

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a quarter century since Jaco Pastorius died at the outrageously young age of 35. At a time when other electric bassists like Stanley Clarke were redefining the role of the instrument—no longer playing only a supporting role, but becoming a front-line partner—Pastorius still managed to shake an already fusion-quaked world with the one-two-three punch of his debut as a leader, Jaco (Epic), his first appearances with fusion supergroup Weather Report on Black Market (Columbia), and his stunningly lyrical work for singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell on Hejira (Elektra/Asylum), all in 1976. Three views of a secret, indeed.

Sixty years after his birth in Norristown, Pennsylvania—though his parents ultimately relocated to Florida shortly after his birth, a move that would color his music from a very early age—Warner Music Japan has put together the sumptuous The 60th Anniversary Collection, a six-CD box that, if collected together with his 1976 debut, represents the best music Pastorius made as a leader during his relatively brief time on the planet. He may have lept to fame and relative fortune for his seven-year stint with Weather Report—tracks like the knotty "Teen Town," from the group's bestselling Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977) remaining required 'shedding grist for aspiring electric bassists—and there's no doubt that group's string of Columbia albums, beginning with Black Market, where Pastorius appeared on just two transitional but nevertheless earth-shattering tracks, through to WR's self-titled 1982 swan song, remain vastly influential. But the 60th Anniversary's six albums, starting with 1981's completely unexpected Word of Mouth, not only confirmed Pastorius' inestimable innovations as a performer on fretless electric bass, but clarified his position in the jazz canon, as a composer of considerable weight if not prolificacy—and an arranger whose ear for large ensemble work was, in many ways, a big surprise for those only familiar with his first album and the Weather Report discography.

The 60th Anniversary Collection collects all the albums Warners has released—pre and posthumously—including Word of Mouth; The Birthday Concert, originally released in 1995; Invitation (1983), an American condensation of 1982 performances in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama; and Twins I and Twins 2, which collect all the songs performed during the bassist's 1982 Japanese tour, but never released outside of Japan (and only making it to CD in 1999). Other than the redundancy of Invitation—though, with the shuffled sequence of the nine tracks culled from Twins' twelve, but occupying just under one-half of its total running time, creating a significantly different experience—this is the almost definitive set that would have been completely so, had Warners been able to negotiate including Jaco Pastorius.

But the cherry of the box—other than the inclusion of a fanboy-enticing, toy-sized model of Pastorius' timeworn fretless bass, along with a miniature stand on which to to rest it—is the bonus sixth disc, The Jaco Solo Tracks: Live & Unreleased. Sixty-one minutes of mostly solo bass performances, culled from performances in Japan, England and the United States, recorded between 1978 and 1981, that reaffirm—as if it was necessary—Pastorius' inarguable position as the electric bassist during his glory days. All this, before the mental illness and substance abuse—already beginning to rear its sad but ugly head by the time of the bassist signed with Warners—deposed him, ultimately leading to his untimely death under mysterious circumstances that author Bill Milkowski goes a long way towards solving in his 2005 revision and significant expansion of Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius: Deluxe Edition (Backbeat Books, 2005).

Pastorius had already achieved relative rock star status by the time even the earliest of The Jaco Solo Track's eight tracks were recorded, in America and Japan in 1978, largely owning the stage, visually, during Weather Report performances—though not always for his actual playing, which began to vary considerably, from unfocused to brilliant—dancing around the stage amidst his largely sedentary partners and, during his solos, making some dramatic leaps from his amplifier stack. Certainly one of the first jazz bassists to take advantage of emerging digital technology, working with rudimentary looping—though, unlike the virtually unlimited lengths of time possible in the 21st century, the bassist worked with memory capacities in the range of a second or two—Pastorius' solos were, at their best, a stunning combination of virtuosic linguistics and lyrical invention. He was also clearly a child of the '60s, his solos regularly borrowing not just from Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsys, but from groups like Blind Faith and Cream. Nor was Pastorius afraid of self-reference, with brief glimmers of bass parts from his Weather Report compositions, like the rapid-fire 16th-notes of "River People," from 1978's Mister Gone (Columbia), and "Portrait of Tracy," from Jaco Pastorius, whose innate lyricism and technical wizardry made it a truly life-changing experience for so many bassists at the time...and ever since.

Some of the solos are more focused than others, with Pastorius seemingly hung up on the opening to Hendrix's "Purple Haze" for the vast majority of a nearly nine-minute solo from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in 1981. The inclusion of Pastorius introducing his band, apparently at the same show (though exact dates are not provided, at least not in English, the majority of the liner notes in the accompanying 72-page book being only in Japanese), and a 37-second band tune up are curious, other than as a setup for Pastorius' closing original, "Domingo." Rather than being an a capella solo like the rest of the disc, it's a mind-bending five minutes of Pastorius soloing over the tune, the Word of Mouth Big Band relegated to a very, very low level in the right channel—for context only, it seems. Still, if the final eight minutes of The Jaco Solo Tracks: Live & Unreleased seem, at best, superfluous—there are plenty of opportunities, elsewhere in the box, to hear Pastorius soloing, and with a more appropriate instrumental mix—and an inclusionary error at worst, they do little to render the entire CD anything less than a chance to marvel, once again, at a bassist who was changing the rules on a moment-by-moment basis.

Looking back at Word of Mouth, it's hard to imagine its impact at a time when Pastorius had made but one solo record a full six years prior, and whose compositional growth could consequently only be measured by the opportunities he'd get, on each Weather Report album, to contribute one or two new pieces. Unlike the groove-laden and largely small group debut, Word of Mouth's opener, the aptly-titled "Crisis," begins in time-driven chaos only to turn more incendiary still over the course of its relentless five minutes. Saxophonist Michael Brecker and pianist Herbie Hancock seeming to lead the show, soloing with increasing abandon over a turbulent underpinning from drummer Jack DeJohnette and Pastorius, whose unparalleled stamina—keeping up an unrelenting 16th-notes anchor for the duration—would have tired most bassists' right hand after the first 30 seconds.

More than instrumental prowess, however, "Crisis" makes clear that Word of Mouth is a vastly different album than its predecessor. Sure, Jaco Pastorius had some exceptional writing—in particular songs like the atmospheric "Continuum," the steel-drum driven funk of "Opus Pocus" and the percussion-heavy "Okonkole' Y Trompa—and Word of Mouth had plenty of impressive chops for the bass contingent. But with a core group that also included steel drum player Othello Molineaux—who would become a regular member of Pastorius' various-sized bands for the next couple years—a 23-piece horn/woodwind section, six-piece string section and eleven singers, Word of Mouth was the assured and inevitable delivery of Jaco Pastorius' clear and present promise. "3 Views of a Secret" had already been heard on Weather Report's Night Passage (Columbia, 1980), but in the place of keyboardist Joe Zawinul's synthesized orchestrations and Wayne Shorter's lyrical saxophone, came a more expansive instrumental arrangement with acoustic instrumentation, and Belgian harmonicist Toots Thielemans assuming the lead position. The bright brass fanfare of the opening to "Liberty City" leads to an ephemeral groove—driven by Pastorius' serpentine chords and, ultimately, a catchy melody that's supported by a brass arrangement representative of Pastorius' increasingly sophisticated vernacular.

Still, there's plenty of room for fretless virtuosity on "Chromatic Fantasy," an open-ended and open-minded interpretation that would have likely made composer J.S. Bach proud five centuries earlier, as Pastorius' lithe solo leads into a truly out-of-the-box middle section, filled with sounds of the Orient—koto, hand percussion, Tom Scott's Lyricon (a wind-driven synth) and more. Clearly, Pastorius was on the same technological page as his Weather Report mate Joe Zawinul, not to mention being fully simpatico—but ultimately, more balanced—in his enthusiasm for the exploration of ethnic instrumentation.

From there, Pastorius segues into a truly mind-altering version of The Beatles' "Blackbird" that, given its popularity as a tune to "jazzify," is singular and memorable in its expansive arrangement, traveling from Thielemans' melodic inventions to yet another segue—this time, to the album's title track, a furious duo with DeJohnette that, driven by Pastorius' outrageously distorted bass, nearly collapses on itself before resolving into the album-closer, "John and Mary," named for Pastorius' two children. If Pastorius' inclusion of steel drums, as a defining texture for his groups during this time, suggested a strong predilection for the sounds of Caribbean, the South Florida Strait and the Great Bahama Bank, then this episodic, 12-minute closer is the capper on an album that—filled with so many great leaps for Pastorius the player, composer, arranger and bandleader—is all the more tragic, as his second and final studio recording. This ignores the unfinished and unimpressive Holiday for Pans—mostly demo recordings for which the bassist was unable to find a label and that, other than one track showing up on Rhino's legitimate 2003 Punk Jazz anthology, can only be heard on illegitimate bootlegs—along with the plethora of lo-fi live recordings from the last couple years of his life that only succeed in tarnishing the reputation built by his groundbreaking legitimate releases.

Pastorius' increasingly problematic behavior—onstage and off—led to his being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after the Japanese tour from which Invitation and the two Twins sets were culled. And if he was, indeed, becoming mercurial and undependable, there's certainly no evidence of it on these live discs, which feature little in the way of new writing. "Reza," combined here with a fiery version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," is more a blow tune than a full-fledged piece of writing, as is the free-improv "Twins," whose basic form reveals itself gradually over its six minutes—though that doesn't take anything away from fine performance that, as all three discs are, are built around the Word of Mouth Sextet—Pastorius, Molineaux, Weather Report rhythm section mate/drummer Peter Erskine, trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist/bass clarinetist Bob Mintzer and Thielemans (listed as "special guest"—and a slightly reduced for the road, but still impressively large 14-piece Word of Mouth Big Band.

The live material on Invitation and Twins may be light on new Pastorius originals, but the performances of by-then much-loved tunes from his two studio records—amongst them, a largely solo reading of "Continuum," where the band only enters in the final minute; a vibrant take on "Liberty City"; a beautifully rendered "3 Views," and a palate-cleansing ""Okonkole' Y Trompa," sandwiched between Pastorius' solo version of the US National Anthem, "Amerika," and the nearly 15-minute "Reza/Giant Steps/Reza (reprise)"— give no indication that anything was wrong, though those who saw the shows did witness some clearly outrageous behavior, with Pastorius shaving his head at one point, painting his face black at another...even throwing his bass into Hiroshima Bay.

But if Pastorius' legacy has to include the effects of his tragic decline, The 60th Anniversary Collection largely eschews any such problems. Pastorius' soul roots come out on "Soul Intro/The Chicken," with the bassist grooving as viscerally as ever—and if his disorder was pushing his mind into overdrive, it didn't affect the music. Pastorius may have lept—figuratively and literally—into virtuosic displays of instrumental gymnastics during some of his a capella solo segments, but his ensemble playing remains absolutely impeccable and in the pocket. His non-a capella solos never lost sight of the music, his compelling duo with Thielemans on Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" all the proof that's needed, and his arrangement for his Word of Mouth Big Band, during its final minutes, clear evidence that his arranging chops remained intact.

Material Pastorius' sourced to flesh out the program ranges from blues standards like Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae" to a fiery outro version of Gil Evans and Miles Davis' "Eleven," on Twins II. Curiously, Pastorius doesn't dig back into his Weather Report compositions, though he does deliver a version of Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People," from Black Market (though the original featured his WR predecessor, {{Alphonso Johnson})), that's one of the set's high points, Molineaux's pans and the bright horn section affirming the strength and lasting significance of the Weather Report repertoire. Those who feel Weather Report sounds dated, four decades after the fact, are not giving the material the fair shake it deserves to stand independently, away from Zawinul's synth-heavy arrangements.

When The Birthday Concert was released in 1995, it was like manna from heaven for Pastorius fans who'd not heard anything beyond the two US releases—Jaco Pastorius and Word of Mouth. While The 60th Anniversary Collection renders it less relevant if only, perhaps, because plenty of this material has already been heard on Twins and Invitation, The Birthday Concert—a self-directed celebration of the bassist's 30th birthday in 1981 and featuring a similarly configured big band—still has two tracks that distinguish it. A brilliant version of "Punk Jazz," in its acoustic nature, is more inherently timeless than the disco-fied version on Mr. Gone (Columbia, 1978), while "Domingo"—a Pastorius composition precociously written in his teens, but seeing commercial light of day here for the first time—moves from half time to an incendiary Latin-esque double-time, and is a harbinger of what might have been. But it was not to be; a third studio record, with the same creative spark as Pastorius' first two, was simply not in the cards, making what's here all the more precious.

The CDs are all in comfortably sized mini-LP sleeves—comfortably sized, because they're larger and better-constructed than the equivalent sleeves in the 71-disc Miles Davis Complete Columbia Album Collection (Columbia, 2010), and the CDs themselves are also housed in small plastic sleeves to protect them from being scratched on their way in and out of the cardboard covers. While the 72-page booklet is a bit of a problem for the Japanese-challenged, it does include full track/personnel info in English, as well as some great photos.

Japan has always been known for handling reissues and box sets with the utmost care and respect, whether it's the remastering, the packaging or the overall design, but with The 60th Anniversary Collection, Warner Bros Japan has outdone itself, delivering a lovingly rendered box set that is, sadly, the final word on Pastorius' 1980s discography—a reminder why this young bass phenom remains an influential voice nearly 25 years after his passing. As Eldon Tyrell says to Roy Batty, in Ridley Scott's 1982 film, Blade Runner, "the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy." Scott could just have easily been describing Jaco Pastorius' all-too-brief life—and the disproportionately creative fire of this unforgettable musical giant.

Tracks and Personnel

Word of Mouth

Tracks: Crisis; 3 Views of a Secret; Liberty City; Chromatic Fantasy; Blackbird; Word of Mouth; John and Mary.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: electric bass, synthesizer, drums, koto, vocal, producer, horn and string arrangements; Toots Thielemans: harmonica; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Peter Erskine: drums; Herbie Hancock: acoustic piano; Richard Hilton: keyboards; Tim Devine: keyboards; Tom Scott: lyricon; Bruno Castellucci: percussion; Don Alias: percussion; Robert Thomas, Jr.: percussion; Leroy Williams: steel drums; Othello Moleineau: steel drums; Paul Horn-Muller: steel drums; Bob Findley: trumpet; Chuck Findley: trumpet; David Weiss: trumpet; Snooky Young: trumpet; Warren Luening: flugelhorn; Charles Loper: trombone; James E. Pugh: trombone; Lew McCreary: trombone; David Bargeron: trombone, tuba; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; David Taylor: bass trombone; Brad Warnaar: French horn; John Clark: French horn; Peter Gordon: French horn; Tommy Johnson: tuba; Roger Bobo: tuba, bass horn; James M. Walker: piccolo, flute; Hubert Laws: soprano and alto flute; George Young: saxophone; Wayne Shorter: soprano saxophone; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Howard Johnson: baritone saxophone; David Breinenthal: bassoon; Jules Chaikin: string conductor; Gerald Vinci: violin, concert master; Stuart Canin: violin; William Hymanson: violin; Denyse Buffum: viola; Arni Egilsson: double-bass; Bruce Bransby: double-bass; Alfie Silas: vocals; Edie Lehmann: vocals; Jim GIlstrap: vocals; John Pastorius: vocals; Mary Pastorius: vocals; John Lehman: vocals; Marti McCall: vocals; Myrna Matthews: vocals; Petsye Powell: vocals; Zedric Turnbough: vocals; Michael Gibbs: conductor, string arrangement.

Twins I

Tracks: Invitation; Soul Intro/The Chicken; Continuum; Liberty City; Three Views of a Secret; Sophisticated Lady.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: electric bass; Don Alias: percussion; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Peter Erskine: drums, tympani; Bobby Mintzer: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Toots Thielemans: harmonica; Jon Faddis: lead trumpet; Elmer Brown: trumpet; Forrest Buchtal: trumpet; Ron Tooley: trumpet; Wayne Andre: lead trombone; David Bargeron: trombone, tuba; Peter Graves: bass trombone, co-conductor; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; Mario Cruz: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Randy Emerick: baritone saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Alex Foster: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, piccolo; Paul McCandless: tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn; Peter Gordon: French horn; Brad Warnaar: French horn.

Twins II

Tracks: Amerika; Okonkole' Y Tropa; Reza/Giant Steps/Reza (reprise); Elegant People; Twins; Pac-Man Blues (Fannie Mae); Eleven.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: electric bass; Don Alias: percussion; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Peter Erskine: drums, tympani; Bobby Mintzer: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Toots Thielemans: harmonica; Jon Faddis: lead trumpet; Elmer Brown: trumpet; Forrest Buchtal: trumpet; Ron Tooley: trumpet; Wayne Andre: lead trombone; David Bargeron: trombone, tuba; Peter Graves: bass trombone, co-conductor; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; Mario Cruz: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Randy Emerick: baritone saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Alex Foster: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, piccolo; Paul McCandless: tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn; Peter Gordon: French horn; Brad Warnaar: French horn.


Tracks: Invitation; Amerika; Soul Intro/The Chicken; Continuum; Liberty City; Sophisticated Lady; Rez/Giant Steps/Reza (reprise); Fannie Mae/Eleven.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: electric bass; Don Alias: percussion; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Peter Erskine: drums, tympani; Bobby Mintzer: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Jean "Toots" Thielemans: harmonica; Jon Faddis: lead trumpet; Elmer Brown: trumpet; Forrest Buchtal: trumpet; Ron Tooley: trumpet; Wayne Andre: lead trombone; David Bargeron: trombone, tuba; Peter Graves: bass trombone, co-conductor; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; Mario Cruz: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Randy Emerick: baritone saxophone, clarinet, alto flute; Alex Foster: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, piccolo; Paul McCandless: tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn; Peter Gordon: French horn; Brad Warnaar: French horn.

The Birthday Concert

Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken; Contiunuum; Invitation; Three Views of a Secret; Liberty City; Punk Jazz; Happy Birthday; Reza; Domingo; Band Intros; Amerika.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: bass; Don Alias: congas; Dave Bargeron: trombone, tuba; Don Bonsati: saxophone, woodwind; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Randy Emerick: baritone saxophone; Peter Erskine: drums; Kenneth Faulk: trumpet; Russ Freeland: trombone; Peter Gordon: French horn; Peter Graves: bass trombone; Mike Katz: trombone; Gary Lindsay: saxophone, woodwind; Bob Mintzer: bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Brett Murphy: trumpet; Brian O'Flaherty: trumpet; Jerry Peel: French horn; Oscar Salas: percussion.

The Jaco Solo Tracks: Live & Unreleased

Tracks: Tokyo, 1978; Reading, PA; Tokyo, 1980; London, 1980; Solo Ft. Lauderdale, FL 1981; Band Intro, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1981; Tune Up, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1981; Domingo—Bass only, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1981.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius: electric bass.

Photo Credits
Page 1: Courtesy of Roy Ayers Project
Page 2: Courtesy of Celebrity Rock Star Guitars
Page 4: Courtesy of Last FM

Title: Jaco Pastorius: The 60th Anniversary Collection | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Warner Music Japan


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