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Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul (Resonance Records) Out now




5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



Jaco Pastorius needs little introduction. This album is a newly discovered recording of Jaco’s New York Word Of Mouth Big Band, from a jazz festival in 1982. The entire concert, transferred from the original 24-track tapes. Here we get 130 minutes which were recorded for the NPR Jazz Alive radio programme, but 40 minutes of what we hear here was never broadcast and has nott been bootlegged either.

Recorded at Avery Fsher Hall in New York on 27th June 1982, as part of George Wein’s Kool Jazz Festival. Produced for this release by Zev Feldman. A two-disc set, seven cuts on each CD, including two of Pastorius’ best known compositions “Three Views of a Secret” and “Liberty City”. It features harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans as special guest soloist.

The set includes a superb 100 page booklet full of rare photos and essays by, amongst others, Jaco Pastorius authority Bill Milkowski and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, together with interviews with Jaco’s son John, drummer Peter Erskine, trumpeter Randy Brecker and more.

This newly unearthed recording  is a real gem, important in as much as it shows all of Jaco’s styles and approaches; his versatility, creativity, his inter-play with other members of this big band. His ability to go all out in a ferocious attack and then pull right back to blend in;  from electric storm to sublime tranquillity.

Jaco Pastorius burst onto the scene in 1976 with his audacious self-titled album on Columbia Records, featuring a lineup of top jazz musicians. With his extraordinary fret-less electric bass playing as the centrepiece, Jaco Pastorius created an immediate sensation with the public and the media. No one in jazz had ever played electric bass that way before.

In his  work with jazz fusion stars Weather Report and beyond, the man often described as the “greatest bass player in the world” became the torchbearer for a new way of playing both technically and conceptually. But behind it all was an ever-present R&B and Latin-influenced groove, and a screaming rock-’n’-roll attitude that he refined and incorporated into sophisticated jazz harmonic structures.

He died way too soon in September 1987 at the age of 35. He had been suffering from serious mental health issues for a few years, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Jaco had previously abused drugs and alcohol during his time with Weather Report. He ended up living on the streets in 1986 after being evicted from his apartment, until his third ex-wife intervened and got him help.

10 days  before his death, he sneaked onto the stage at a Santana concert and was ejected from the venue. He then went to a club and kicked in the glass door, then getting into a physical altercation with the bouncer. Jaco ended up in hospital with facial, eye and arm injuries where he fell into a coma. He died after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage.

The bouncer was charged with second degree murder, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Because he had no prior convictions, and recognising time served while waiting for the verdict, the court sentenced him to 22 months in prison and five years’ probation. After four months in prison, he was paroled for good behaviour. Such a tragic waste of a life and loss of a gargantuan musical talent. Apart from his skills on bass guitar, Jaco was an accomplished and sophisticated composer and arranger, those talents on display on this album.

It has taken six years after discovery of the concert tapes, to the release of the record, with all of the negotiations with the many parties who held rights to the music and the recording – including NPR, Warner Music Group and the Jaco Pastorius estate. The original recording engineer, multi Grammy award winner Paul Blakemore, was on board to revisit and remix from the original 24-track tape reels — more than three decades after capturing it live at Avery Fisher Hall. The sound quality cannot be faulted.

Towards the end of 1980, Jaco began recording his second album as a leader, “Word of Mouth”, which was more oriented toward his own compositions than his debut album had been. The “Word of Mouth” album features several musicians who also appear on this album: Peter Erskine, Toots Thielemans, Don Alias, Othello Molineaux, Howard Johnson and John Clark. This concert represents Jaco with the New York version of his new Word of Mouth big band. The occasion was special for him because Word of Mouth often performed as a sextet with just the core members: Jaco, Peter Erskine on drums, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, Othello Molineaux on steel pans and Don Alias on percussion.

On this occasion, Jaco and the core members were joined by a bevy of top-flight New York musicians who were also Jaco’s close friends: saxophonists Bob Stein, Lou Marini, Frank Wess, Howard Johnson and Randy Emerick; trumpet players Alan Rubin, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, Ron Tooley and Kenny Faulk; trombonists David Taylor, Jim Pugh and Wayne Andre; French hornists John Clark and Peter Gordon; tubist David Bargeron; plus the special guest soloist, harmonica icon Toots Thielemans.

The respected bassist Victor Wooten sums up this album: “This is a rare find; like finding a never-before-seen Picasso or Van Gogh painting.” Yes, this is very much a showcase of the art and brilliance of the legend that was, Jaco Pastorius.


By Simon Redley



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