Blast From the Past: Jaco Pastorius' Self-Titled Debut Album.
Back in September 2003, New Times reviewed the Jaco Pastorius tribute CD Word of Mouth Revisited. The disc was in homage to the greatest electric bass player the world has ever known, and the review went to print three days before the anniversary of Jaco's death in 1987. We all know the story by now: Jaco Pastorius struggled with bipolar disorder and substance abuse and never fully received the help that might have quelled those things. He was beaten by a Wilton Manors bouncer named Luc Havan and died of injuries suffered during the altercation.
Adding a little culture and class to the Blast From the Past series is Pastorius' first solo album. It was released in 1976, around the same time he shanghaied himself into Josef Zawinul's Weather Report outfit. But it is on this album that Pastorius shines beyond doubt as a musician, arranger, and composer. Discovered and produced by Bobby Colomby of Blood, Sweat, and Tears fame, Pastorius pretty much had free range on this recording since CBS gave Colomby free reign in finding and nurturing new talent. And using industry pull, Pastorius had an ad hoc army of jazz greats, from Herbie Hancock and Alex Darqui to proven session men like Don Alias and Othello Molineaux.
Maybe you can pick up a nice LP of this somewhere. If not, there is a good reissue with an alternate take of "(Used to Be a) Cha Cha" and the previously unreleased track "6/4 Jam," which is great. So that aside, the nine tracks that make up the original album are an amazing example of how to build a jazz record around the bass. The mood is set with "Donna Lee," an excellent rendition of the Miles Davis tune, which is followed by "Come On, Come Over," featuring Overtown's own Sam and Dave, who reunited briefly for this recording. The opening third is closed with "Continuum," carrying some of the most memorable bass lines ever. It's the middle of the album, though, that's truly Pastorius' playground, with compositions like "Kuru/Speak Like a Child" and "Opus Pocus." Jaco's nephew David plays the bass on a cover in the Word of Mouth Revisited tribute, and it zings.
Closing out this delicious slab of jazz is the triad of "Okonkole Y Trompa," "(Used to Be a) Cha Cha," and "Forgotten Love." They're all evocative pieces that, again, show Jaco's mastery in creating a musical environment in which his instrument could really float. At the same time, all instrument parts work in and of themselves while still agreeing with the bass. That's a feat, if you think of the natural inclination of the rhythm section to lay ground-based direction. This is an excellent debut album by any standards and a great testament to a musician whose life was cut tragically short.
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