Jaco Pastorius Day

December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987

The great bassist is remembered

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Electric bassist John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III. was born on December 1, 1951 in Morristown, Pennsylvania.

The son of singer-drummer Jack Pastorius, Jaco started on drums but gave it up after he hurt his wrist playing football when he was 13.

At 17, he started learning acoustic bass but soon switched to bass guitar which he played with local groups including Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders.

A brilliant musician, Jaco attended and then taught bass at the University of Miami in his early twenties, making his recording debut with Paul Bley (as did Pat Metheny on the same album).

Pastorius, who at that point in time called himself “the world’s greatest bass player,” was not far from being accurate as he showed on Metheny’s first album Bright Size Life and on his first album as a leader, the often-stunning Jaco Pastorius from 1976.

He was not only a virtuoso on electric bass but largely liberated the instrument with his instantly recognizable style, playing with the fluidity of a guitarist and the outrageousness of an extroverted saxophonist.

Pastorius achieved his greatest fame as a key member of Weather Report during 1976-82 where he became a very influential force in the music world.

Unfortunately Pastorius had mental problems that were not helped by his alcohol and drug use and his behavior became erratic.

Pastorius organized, recorded and toured with his own 21-piece big band, his Word Of Mouth orchestra, but by late 1982 his behavior resulted in the band breaking up.

Jaco Pastorius’ last five years were often nightmarish due to his self-destructive behavior, and he died on September 11, 1987 when he was just 35.

Here is a set by the great bassist Jaco Pastorius, live from the 1982 Montreal Jazz Festival, performing “Chicken,” “Donna Lee,” a long bass solo, “Mr. Phone Bone” and “Fannie Mae” with a group that also includes trumpeter Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer on tenor and bass clarinet, drummer Peter Erskine, percussionist Don Alias and Othello Molineaux on steel drums.

-Scott Yanow


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