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John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III (/ˈɑːk pæˈstɔːriəs/; December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987) was an American jazz bassist who was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He worked with Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell, and recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader.[1] His bass playing employed funk, lyrical solos, bass chords, and innovative harmonics. As of 2017, he is the only electric bassist of seven bassists inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame,[2] and has been lauded as one of the best electric bassists of all time.[3][4]

Pastorius suffered from drug addiction and mental health problems throughout his professional life, and despite his widespread acclaim, over the latter part of his life he had problems holding down jobs due to his unreliability. In frequent financial trouble, he was often homeless throughout the mid 1980s. He died in 1987, as a result of injuries sustained in a fight outside of a South Florida music club.

After his death, his work continued to influence musicians. He was elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 1988. He was the subject of the 2014 documentary film Jaco.

Jaco plays the Bass of Doom at a show with Weather Report in 1977.

Pastorius played a number of Fender Jazz Basses over the years, but the most famous was a 1962 Jazz Bass that he called the Bass of Doom. When he was 21, Pastorius acquired the bass, which was modified by removing the frets. It is unclear when the frets were removed, as his recollections varied over the years. One story is that he used a common butter knife to remove the frets, and sealed the fretboard with epoxy resin.[23][24]

One anecdote, as recounted by Allyn Robinson in an interview with Robert Sturrken on his Nightlife and Music with the Maestro program on WYLK Lake 94, claimed Pastorius removed the frets only four hours before a gig with artificial harmonics, he added them to his technique and repertoire. (Natural harmonics, also known as open string harmonics, are played by lightly touching the string at a fret without pressing it to the fretboard, resulting in a note that rings somewhat like a bell. Artificial harmonics, also called false harmonics, involve lightly touching a string with one finger, then using another finger to play the note,[5] simultaneously playing and stopping the note.[22]) An often cited example is the introduction to "Birdland".

He was noted for virtuosic bass lines which combined Afro-Cuban rhythms, inspired by the likes of Cachao Lopez, with R&B to create 16th-note funk lines syncopated with ghost notes. He played these with a "movable anchor" thumb technique on the right hand, anchoring on the bridge pickup while playing on the E and A strings and muting the E string with his thumb while playing on higher strings. Examples include "Come On, Come Over" from the album Jaco Pastorius and "The Chicken" from The Birthday Concert.

Pastorius played a number of Fender Jazz Basses over the years, but the most famous was a 1962 Jazz Bass that he called the Bass of Doom. When he was 21, Pastorius acquired the bass, which was modified by removing the frets. It is unclear when the frets were removed, as his recollections varied over the years. One story is that he used a common butter knife to remove the frets, and sealed the fretboard with epoxy resin.[23][24]

One anecdote, as recounted by Allyn Robinson in an interview with Robert Sturrken on his Nightlife and Music with the Maestro program on WYLK Lake 94, claimed Pastorius removed the frets only four hours before a gig with Wayne Cochran.

In 1986 the bass was repaired by luthiers Kevin Kaufman and Jim Hamilton, after it had been broken into many pieces.[25] After the repair Pastorius recorded a session with Mike Stern, then the bass was stolen from a park bench in Manhattan in 1986. It was found in a guitar shop in 2006, but the shop owner refused to give it up. The Pastorius family enlisted lawyers to help but nearly went bankrupt in 2010. Robert Trujillo, bassist for Metallica, considered Jaco Pastorius to be one of his heroes, and he felt that the family ought to have the bass. Trujillo helped pay to have it returned to them.[26][27]

Fender began offering a fretless version of their standard Jazz Bass in the mid 1980s, and in 1999 began offering the "Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass" in their Artist series, and Custom Shop series. Thes

One anecdote, as recounted by Allyn Robinson in an interview with Robert Sturrken on his Nightlife and Music with the Maestro program on WYLK Lake 94, claimed Pastorius removed the frets only four hours before a gig with Wayne Cochran.

In 1986 the bass was repaired by luthiers Kevin Kaufman and Jim Hamilton, after it had been broken into many pieces.[25] After the repair Pastorius recorded a session with Mike Stern, then the bass was stolen from a park bench in Manhattan in 1986. It was found in a guitar shop in 2006, but the shop owner refused to give it up. The Pastorius family enlisted lawyers to help but nearly went bankrupt in 2010. Robert Trujillo, bassist for Metallica, considered Jaco Pastorius to be one of his heroes, and he felt that the family ought to have the bass. Trujillo helped pay to have it returned to them.[26][27]

Fender began offering a fretless version of their standard Jazz Bass in the mid 1980s, and in 1999 began offering the "Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass" in their Artist series, and Custom Shop series. These instruments were modelled on the Bass of Doom, with the Custom Shop version featuring a fretboard sealed with epoxy resin.[28] In the 2000s Fender's budget brand Squier offered the "Squier Vintage Modified Fretless Jazz Bass" which was also reminiscent of Jaco's instrument.[29]

Pastorius used the "Variamp" EQ (equalization) controls on his two Acoustic 360 amplifiers[30] (made by the Acoustic Control Corporation of Van Nuys, California) to boost the midrange frequencies, thus accentuating the natural growling tone of his fretless passive Fender Jazz Bass and roundwound string combination. He also controlled his tone color with a rackmount MXR digital delay unit that fed a second Acoustic amp rig.

During the final three years of his life he used Hartke cabinets because of the character of aluminum speaker cones (as opposed to paper speaker cones). These provided a bright, clear sound. He typically used the delay in a chorus-like mode, providing a shimmering stereo doubling effect. He often

During the final three years of his life he used Hartke cabinets because of the character of aluminum speaker cones (as opposed to paper speaker cones). These provided a bright, clear sound. He typically used the delay in a chorus-like mode, providing a shimmering stereo doubling effect. He often used the fuzz control built into the Acoustic 360. For the bass solo "Slang/Third Stone From the Sun" on Weather Report's live album 8:30 (1979), Pastorius used the MXR digital delay to layer and loop a chordal figure and then soloed over it; the same technique, with a looped bass riff, can be heard during his solo on the Joni Mitchell concert video Shadows and Light.

Pastorius appeared as a guest on many albums by other artists, including Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, on All American Alien Boy in 1976. He can be heard on Airto Moreira's album I'm Fine, How Are You? (1977). His signature sound is prominent on Flora Purim's Everyday Everynight (1978), on which he played the bass melody for a Michel Colombier composition entitled "The Hope", and performed bass and vocals on one of his own compositions, entitled "Las Olas". Other recordings included Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Al Di Meola’s Land of the Midnight Sun, both released in 1976. Near the end of his career, he worked often with guitarist Mike Stern, guitarist Biréli Lagrène, and drummer Brian Melvin.

Awards and honors

Pastorius received two Grammy Award nominations in 1977 for his self-titled debut album: one for Best Jazz Performance by a Group and one for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist ("Donna Lee").[31] In 1978, he received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist for his work on Weather Report's album Heavy Weather.[32]

Bass Player magazine gave him second place on a list of the one hundred greatest bass players of all time, behind James Jamerson.Bass Player magazine gave him second place on a list of the one hundred greatest bass players of all time, behind James Jamerson.[33] After his death in 1987, he was voted, by readers of Down Beat magazine, to its Hall of Fame, joining bassists Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden, and Milt Hinton.[34]

Marcus Miller said "Jaco's composing was as unique as his playing."[35]

Many musicians have composed songs in his honour, such as Pat Metheny's "Jaco" on the album Pat Metheny Group (1978)[36] and "Mr. Pastorius" by Marcus Miller on Miles Davis's album Amandla. Others who have dedicated compositions to him include Randy Brecker, Eliane Elias, Chuck Loeb, John McLaughlin, Bob Moses, Ana Popović, Dave Samuels, and the Yellowjackets.[5]

On December 2, 2007, the day after his birthday, a concert called "20th Anniversary Tribute to Jaco Pastorius" was held at Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with performances by the Jaco Pastorius Big Band and appearances by Randy Brecker, Dave Bargeron, Peter Erskine, Jimmy Haslip, Bob Mintzer, Gerald Veasley, Pastorius's sons John and Julius Pastorius, Pastorius's daughter Mary Pastorius, Ira Sullivan, Bobby Thomas Jr., and Dana Paul. Almost twenty years after his death, Fender released the Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass, a fretless instrument in its Artist Series.

He has been called "arguably the most important and ground-breaking electric bassist in history" and "perhaps the most influential electric bassist today".[37][38]

William C. Banfield, director of Africana Studies, Music and Society at Berklee College, described Pastorius as one of the few original American virtuosos who defined a musical movement, in addition to Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus and Wes Montgomery.[39]