SMG Profile: Jaco Pastorius – One of the All Time Greatest Bassists!

Jaco Pastorius (December 1 1951 – September 21, 1987) One of the All Time Greatest Bassists!

John Francis Anthony Pastorius III also known as Jaco Pastorius was born on December 1, 1951 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. As a kid he messed around on drums, saxophone, and guitar. When Jaco was thirteen he was really into sports and while playing football Jaco suffered a serious wrist accident that required surgery and he could no longer continue playing drums, so he took up bass guitar.

 

“This is why I play bass, because I got really beat up in one of those red-neck football rumbles when I was thirteen. My hand was almost severed from my left arm. I was playing the drums in a local band at the time. It was a good band and I was a good drummer, but I wasn’t strong enough to lay down a heavy backbeat. There was a really good drummer in town who took my place. A week later the bass player quit the band. So, the other guys called me up and said, ‘Jaco, you think you can play bass?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I never played bass in my life. I had exactly four hundred dollars from paper route earnings, and I went out and bought a brand new Fender jazz bass. I was working the next day, and I’ve never been out of work since.”

While growing up in Florida, Jaco was exposed to a unique mix of various styles of music from Cuban bands to James Brown, Sinatra and the Beatles. An eclectic musical style had evolved and his geography had played an important part in the musical development. While country, blues and rock music where dominant in most places at the time, Jaco was more interested in jazz, soul and R&B music.

“Florida is great because there are no musical prejudices. My family moved there when I was seven.”

Jaco Pastorius & Herbie Hancock

Jaco eventually teamed up with his friend jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. They added Bob Moses and released a trio album called Bright Size Life. Joco’s first album was the eponymous Jaco Pastorius was a breakthrough album for the electric bass. To this day many consider this to be the finest bass album ever recorded. The album features a host of legends in the jazz community including Herbie Hancock, Lenny White, Don Alias, David Sanborn and Michael Brecker.

Over the course of his career, Jaco played on dozens of records for other artists. His musical influences included James Jamerson, James Brown, The Beatles, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Paul Hindemith, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, The Band, Santana, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley, Rocco Prestia, Tommy Cogbill, Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Otis Redding, James T. Doggington, Cannonball Adderley and Jerry Jemmott.

“I’ve been influenced by bass players, but not much. Some of the players I used to dig when I was coming up were Bernard Odum, who played with James Brown, Jerry Jemmott, Ron Carter, and Gary Peacock. My greatest inspiration has been singers – they have the ability to get personal. When I play the bass, most people can usually tell it’s me, because of the kind of personal thing I try to get in my tone.”

 

Fender Jaco Pastorius Fretless Artist Series Jazz Bass Guitar

Jaco was a phenomenal musician, artist and bassist. He played a 1962 Fretless Fender Jazz known as the “Bass Of Doom.” He could shred on the bass with flying harmonics and a punchy treble tone that was his trademark sound. Though there are great bassists in every genre of music, its hard to imagine another player to equal Jaco’s ability to play with so much originality, the highest level of skill and do it all so effortlessly.

In the 1980s Jaco Pastorius began to experience mental health problems, including manic depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He also began using drugs and was drinking heavily. During these times, he was in and out of mental hospitals, medicated on anti-depressants and even lived on the streets, homeless for weeks at a time.

After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana concert, September 11, 1987 and being removed from the premises, Jaco went to the Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, Florida. Jaco was reportedly drunk and provoked the club bouncer, Luc Havan in a fight which left Jaco in critical condition with massive head injuries. Pastorius was hospitalized for multiple facial fractures and injuries to his right eye and left arm. He fell into a coma and was put on life support and died on September 21, 1987 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Obviously this was a very tragic event that had ended Jaco’s life, but it did not end his powerful influence on other musicians. Time and time again, Jaco’s name comes up as the greatest bassist of all time. Jaco Pastorius was a music legend who’s life ended abruptly, but as they say, his legacy remains.

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  • Mark

    “One of the the All Time Greatest Bassists”???? No THE all time greatest!!!!

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