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Jaco Bill Milkowski Backbeat Books ISBN: 087930426X
Thoroughly researched and fairly balanced Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius: 'the World's Greatest Bass Player' stands as a worthy examination of bassist/composer Jaco Pastorius' heartrending life. Author Bill Milkowski personally knew and sympathized with (but did not worship) Jaco, and he benefited from the cooperation of many of Jaco's associates. Milkowski traces Jaco's life and career from talented, likeable young lion through career genocide to a violent death at 35.
Jaco emerges as largely self-taught, his fine tuning accomplished while jamming with local (South Florida) rock/fusion musicians. His ties to the acoustic jazz tradition both as an inheritor of knowledge and as a participant are downplayed. Charlie Brent, strawboss of the C.C. Riders (a touring country-rock band), is portrayed as Jaco's writing mentor.
Jaco's personal problems stem from several factors: inability/unwillingness to maintain ordinary, respectful relationships with others; show biz persona instilled by his father; egocentric compulsion to perpetuate his own mystique/eccentricity; his ability to reason temporarily and permanently impaired by drugs; self-destructive obsession; mental illness. Milkowski suggests drugs as primary although he presents enough evidence for reader interpretation.
Personal life and career take precedence although recording sessions including musical assessment are discussed as they occur, and a couple of brief technical analyses are presented. There is also a thorough discography and an extensive epilogue in which 36 musicians summarize Jaco's career and contributions to music.
Jaco is organized, readable, and well written. The book enjoys acceptance by the various Jaco Pastorius web sites, a notable endorsement.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.