Bassist/Composer Jaco Pastorious, despite bring bi-polar, eschewed treatment for acceptance of his sickness. Thus, he’d careen wildly from manic bouts of joyousness to depressing lows of horribleness. When he was somewhere in the middle, though, he was the greatest electric bass player in history. And he knew it. In fact, that’s what he would tell people. When he joined Weather Report, he became an international rock star. When he went into the studio or on stage with people like Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Ian Hunter or Wayne Cochran & The CC Riders, he added something irrepressible to the mix.
The movie “Jaco” (MVD) has clips of his magic moments onstage that are uplifting yet heartbreaking. Of all the music docs of recent vintage, “Jaco” cannot be missed. Produced by Robert Trujillo of Metallica, who, along with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Geddy Lee of Rush and Sting, are all children of Jaco. And they’re all in this movie. So is Joni Mitchell, who, in a rare documentary appearance, even recounts the bad times, when Jaco became impossible to work with. It’s riveting. Joni pulls no punches. Neither does Wayne Shorter. Still, probably the best interviewee is Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine. His stories will make any Jaco fan cry. Then there are the musicians who will tell you what the clips show you: Jaco was a musical genius. Carlos Santana is one of those musicians.
The package contains a second disc of outtakes, anecdotes, stories amid its 25 never-before-seen interviews. There’s scenes from the Pastorius archives that no one has ever seen but his family and friends. The music is, of course, incredible. His ignominious ending is handled with grace and class. There’s a soundtrack CD sold separately on Legacy Recordings which contains not only classic solo Jaco and Weather Report tracks, but new music by Mass Mental with Trujillo and Flea, Rodrigo y Gabriela and TechN9ne.
Jaco’s solo masterpiece, “Word Of Mouth,” was finished while he was still in Weather Report. The chemistry of this quartet was such that the two elders–Joe Zawinal [1932-2007] and Shorter–led the two young’uns: Jaco and Erskine. When Jaco brought his solo effort to Joe, Joe scoffed at it, never realizing how it would hurt the sensitive bassist. The hurt would be one reason that Jaco became impossible to work with. Post-Weather Report, he still had his Word of Mouth band, but he was spiraling downward, living on the streets of New York City. Alcohol and drugs didn’t help his mental state.
On December 11, 1987, homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he attempted to jump onstage and jam with Carlos Santana. He was physically thrown out of the club. He then proceeded to The Midnight Bottle Club in Wiltern Manors where he reportedly kicked in a glass door and engaged bouncer Luc Havan in an altercation, after which he was rushed to a nearby hospital with multiple face fractures and injuries to his right eye and left arm. While at the hospital, he fell into a coma and never woke up. Eleven days later he was dead at 35. His killer received four months in prison.
Legacy Recordings has also issued “The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981” by Weather Report on four CDs. It’s an all-new look at this incredible band’s stage set and it is here where you can hear Jaco pluck his way to greatness. It is also here where one realizes how close drummer Erskine and Jaco must have been to make this kind of music together. They are one. So while Shorter blows his way to the highest heights through his sax, and Zawinal, who, for all his bluster, practically invented fusion after Miles laid the voodoo down, sounds like has 20 fingers, Jaco is Jaco.