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"A lot of people are expecting it from me, so it's hard sometimes," Pastorius admits. "People are going to be looking at me to be able to do the same stuff."
Felix's style has some elements in common with Jaco's: His amazingly long fingers seem to fly over the fretboard, playing chords, adding melodic glissandos instead of merely pouring a foundation. "You've got one billion other guys out there copying Jaco, and some quite badly," Thomas notes. "So for his own son to go out and play some of his licks and nail it, I think is a beautiful thing." But in addition to using new technology like the Boomerang, Felix has updated his father's technique as well, bringing physicality to the fore, indulging in string-slapping to fully unfurl the funk.
"I told Felix, "Your dad left his story behind, now it's time for you to tell yours,'" adds Thomas. ""Quite frankly, I'm not playing '80s music anymore. I'm going for something a lot more modern. That's why I can't play with a 40-year-old cat. I need you, Felix, to do your thing.'"
The debut gig also introduced guitarist Ben Broomfield, an acid-washed Hendrix disciple who immediately added some plot thickener to the set, throwing sparks that contrasted dramatically with Felix's fat, elliptical notes. Spurred by Thomas' complex hard-bop and the FleameetsJohn McLaughlin proficiency of Pastorius, Broomfield took a three-minute composition called "Future Dance" and literally tore it apart, eviscerating the tune with sheets of knife-edged guitar chords.
Drumming is inherently punishing, but Thomas tries to work over his kit and congas like he's Evander Holyfield pummeling his next victim, often striking the heads with the palm or edge of his bare hand. "A lot of the rhythms I use come from tabla roots," he explains. "I also have a boxing and karate background, and I mix in a lot of kung fu when I'm playing hand drums."
Now, the Full Moon Project has a perfect symbiotic relationship at its core. Thomas probably could have been content to match curtains with love seats and name-drop Weather Report alumni for many more years, but his affiliation with the younger Pastorius has invigorated him. It's clear that Felix's youth, innovation, and love of technology and hip-hop rhythms have pushed Thomas in a direction he never would have found otherwise. Very little of what transpired that night is likely to stoke the fires of the trad-jazz snobs, who don't readily embrace the unorthodox, especially if that modernization comes in the form of new gizmos and "concessions" to the dance floor. But it's precisely this nose-thumbing at conventions that gives the band its strength.
"Our market will be college kids," Thomas insists. "We want to make our music radio-friendly, so the people can get a badass jam in four minutes, not twelve, like bands used to do. I want the world to know we're not a jazz band by any means."
Felix knows he must emerge from the shadow of his dad's imposing legacy if he's to be seen as a musician in his own right, and he's painfully aware that his position as "son of a star" comes with even heavier Samsonite than most.
"I was very young when I hung out with my dad," Felix says slowly, searching for memories. "I remember a couple gigs; I remember eating some of my mom's famous garlic noodles, hanging out in the back yard. I wasn't looking at him as a great musician ... I didn't know what that was at that point. I was just looking at him as a dad." Although he claims that "Weather Report made some of the best music ever," Felix points out that it's important to realize that he wasn't taught by his father, nor does he play his instruments.
"A lot of people are really interested in that," he says softly. "But I was only five when he died. I look at this as an opportunity to do something on my own. But it's really helpful for him to have opened the path for me."