Bassist Jaco Pastorius could be considered the American music Van Gogh, a romantic figure so much bigger than the broken body that died from a severe beaten received outside of Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, Florida, September 11, 1987. That image simply does not jibe even remotely with the music presented on Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live in NYC The Complete 1982 Jazz Alive! Recording
. Then again, it never was supposed to.
Only a brief five years earlier, things could not have been more different. Pastorius and his Word of Mouth
big band appeared at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as part of George Wein's Kool Jazz Festival, June 27, 1982 (the same festival that was to be the last major appearance
by Art Pepper, who appeared at the festival on May 30 died as the result of a stroke on June 15th).
At the time of these performances, Pastorius was six years past his debut recording Jaco Pastorius
(Epic/Legacy, 1976), that established him as both a gifted bassist and composer and was just finishing his successful six-year association with Weather Report
. His big band recording, Word of Mouth
(Warner Bros., 1981) was released the year before, while the live Invitation
(Warner Bros., 1983) was a year away. If Pastorius had a zenith, it was this. If his 1976 solo debut established Pastorius as an electric bassist without peer, then these latter two recordings established him as an equally exceptional big band arranger and a good bit of this concert derives from these recordings. Truth, Liberty & Soul
resulted from an arrangement with Pastorius' estate, Warner Music Group, and NPR Music. The original broadcast of a part of these performances was provided on NPR's Jazz Alive!
radio program. This Resonance recording is the second such recording associated with Jazz Alive!
, the first being Sarah Vaughan Live at Rosy's
(Resonance Records, 2016). Pastorius' recording also includes forty minutes of music not aired on the original NPR program.
What Truth, Liberty & Soul
reveals is a musical genius at the height of his powers, leading a big band of his equally talented peers through fourteen selections as fresh as their recording dates from the period. The program begins with a preview of the title piece from his upcoming Invitation
, followed by "Soul Intro/The Chicken," from the same recording. Pastorius reaches back to his debut for his famous interpretation of Miles Davis
' "Donna Lee," given a hard ride here and featuring Othello Molineaux
on steel drums and an unlikely tuba exposition by David Bargeron. Pastorius had nothing if not a sense of humor, and Bargeron makes his tuba sound almost like a souped-up trombone. This is where a listener realizes that it just cannot get any better than this. Toots Thielemans
is also on hand for the show, most notably on his own famous "Bluesette," transformed here into a lilting Caribbean meditation. And this is just the first disc.
The second disc opens with an almost abstractly impressionistic "I Shot the Sheriff." The Bob Marley-penned piece is dominated by Molineaux's steel drums, with some tasty obbligato from Theilmans. Peter Erskine
's drumming is both precise and muscular, and develops logically as the piece unfolds. Erskine and Pastorius work it out on the extended "Bass and Drum Improvisation," with Pastorius pulling out all the stops and showing all that he is made of. Technically, his performance is phenomenal, containing a vamp on Jimi Hendrix
's "Purple Haze" followed by harmonic mayhem and, finally, "America the Beautiful." The scope of this recording and that of Pastorius' vision is impressive. George Grella's summation of Miles Davis in his excellent book, Bitches Brew
(Bloomsbury 33&1/3, 2015), could easily have been applied to Pastorius: "He had an ideal personality for the task: a brilliant mind, confidence that was made arrogant by self-doubt, a critical ear and mind not only for the work or others but his own, a disdain for the opinion of others, while still being concerned enough to know what they thought..."
Sadly, what Pastorius lacked was stability. Woulda, shoulda, coulda; had he been managed in a time other than the uniformed, post-Reagan mental health era, more of this music could have been made. That considered, I should be grateful we had him for the time we did...and for this music.
CD1: Invitation; Soul Intro/The Chicken; Donna Lee; Three Views of a
Secret; Liberty City; Sophisticated Lady; Bluesette. CD2: I Shot the
Sheriff; Okonkole Y Trompa; Reza/Giant Steps; Mr. Fonebone; Bass
and Drum Improvisation; Twins; Fannie Mae.
Jaco Pastorius: basso, voce; Bob Mintzer: sax tenore e soprano, clarinetto basso;
Randy Brecker: tromba; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Don Alias: percussioni;
Peter Erskine: batteria; Bob Stein: sax alto; Lou Marini, Frank Wess: sax tenore;
Howard Johnson, Randy Emerick: sax baritono; Alan Rubin, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis,
Ron Tooley, Kenny Faulk: trombe; David Taylor, Jim Pugh, Wayne Andre: trombone;
John Clark, Peter Gordon: corno francese; David Bargeron: tuba; Toots Thielemans: