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John Francis Pastorius III was born on December 1, 1951 in Norristown, PA and grew up in and around Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. Jaco attended catholic school growing up and was an altar boy at the adjoining church. He attended Northeast High school in Oakland Park, Fl and proved to be a talented athlete as well as musician. While in high school, Jaco played football, basketball and baseball in addition several instruments. Originally a drummer, following in his father’s footsteps, Jaco switched to bass in his early teens after an accident hurting his wrist while playing football. Pastorius bought an upright bass in the late 60s but between the humidity in Florida making it difficult to maintain and his current focus being R&B music, electric bass became his instrument. His musical influences were across the board, including James Brown, The Beatles, Miles Davis, Stravinsky, Hendrix, Charlie Parker, Paul Chambers, Cannonball Adderley, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley and many others.
In 1970 Jaco began playing bass professionally with a local group called ‘Los Olas Brass’ that covered mostly soul music including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding and others. He also recorded in the early ‘70s with jazz musician Ira Sullivan. In 1974 Jaco met life long friend Pat Metheny and recorded an album with Paul Bley as the leader and Bruce Ditmas on drums. They recorded another album during this time entitled ‘Bright Size Life’ with Bob Moses on drums. In 1975 Jaco met the drummer from Blood, Sweat and Tears, Bobby Colomby, who was asked by CBS Records to find new talent for their jazz division. What ensued was Jaco’s first solo album, ‘Jaco Pastorius’ with a back up band including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Don Alias, Michael Brecker and others. This record immediately placed Pastorius as one of the bass greats.
Around the same time Jaco’s solo album came out he went to see Weather Report play in Miami. Following a concert, Jaco told Joe Zawinul that he expected more from the performance and that he was the greatest bass player alive. Zawinul was rubbed slightly the wrong way by his conversation with Pastorius’ but did take a demo from Jaco. After Alphonso Johnson left the Weather Report to go solo, Jaco became their bass player. Jaco played with Weather Report until 1982 along with Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter. Pastorius also appeared with many other artists throughout his career including Joni Mitchell, Al Di Meola, Toots Thielemans, Mike Stern and Bireli Lagrene. In 1982 Jaco also released a big band record called ‘Word of Mouth’ which showed his abilities as a writer and arranger in addition to being known for his bass playing.
Pastorius has been honored by many musicians including Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, John McLaughlin and Bela Fleck. Jaco’s self titled debut album was nominated for two Grammy Awards and is one of only four bass players to be inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Musician: Where’s rock and jazz influenced music headed in your view?
Pastorius: “It’s going to Ft. Lauderdale. That’s where I’m going on Monday. What can I tell you? I can play rock-and-roll and I can play jazz. I don’t know too many people who can do both. And that’s the future.”
“A chimpanzee could learn to do what I do physically. But it goes way beyond that. When you play, you play life. ”
“Women, children, and rhythm section first” – Jaco Pastorius
“Jaco’s passion for music enables him to move into a more profound manifestation of his ‘true’ self, the essence of his True entity which is absolute and eternal!” – Wayne Shorter
“It amazes me when someone comes along and so visibly and powerfully effects the world and everything that happens in it after his arrival. We all effect the world in some way but not many have done it in the way that Jaco has. The world of music is changed forever because of this great man. I don’t believe that there is a bass player playing today that has not been influenced by Jaco, Whether he/she knows it or not.
To be a genius U must be “out of your mind” and there is a fine line one must walk between “being in” and “being out” of your mind. There is also the thin line between having and losing control. Jaco was known to lose control from time to time. We find these traits in most of our heroes. Einstein, Beethoven, Mingus, Monk, etc. I believe this to be a blessing in disguise because being able to walk on both sides and combine the energies from the two is what makes these people stand out. This is a necessary ingredient to being the genius that Jaco is.
Because Jaco lived life to the fullest, stretched the limits, erased boundaries, dove into unknown territories, succeeded, failed, always came out smiling and much more, he has given us a precious gift. The gift of his life. This is powerful. We can now use his life choices to determine our life choices. This expands way beyond music. I know that if Jaco had not lived life “exactly” as he did, I would not be the person and musician that I am today and will be tomorrow. Again, I say, This is powerful!
I was never blessed with the pleasure of meeting or seeing Jaco play live but because of his wonderful friends, family and music. I feel that I know him well.
John Francis Pastorius III, U are a part of all of us. I recognize, appreciate and thank U for all of your precious gifts. Bless Us All and Please…..Save me a seat!
peace,” – Victor Lemonte Wooten