Jaco Pastorius

Picture of Jaco Pastorius playing bass

John Francis Anthony Pastorius III, or Jaco, was an American jazz bassist.  His harmonics, 16th notes and melodic lines were instantly recognizable and a welcome innovation to the 1970’s jazz scene. He transformed the bass from a supporting role to a lead, by recreating the timbre and phrasing of other instruments. Jaco is one of the most respected and influential bassists in the world today.

Life

Jaco was born in 1951 in Pennsylvania, to Stephanie and Jack Pastorius and was the eldest of three brothers. They moved to Fort Lauderdale when he was eight years old. Drums were his first love, but his playing was hindered by a wrist injury. He drifted towards bass and started out with a Fender jazz electric. Jaco played upright bass when he was 17, but soon became frustrated with its maintenance and traded it for another electric bass.

Jaco was in multiple bands throughout his adolescence. He played in soul, dance and R&B bands, so when he joined jazz bands, he drew influences from those genres.

Jaco recorded his self-titled debut solo album in 1976. It showed that he had a talent for composition and arranging. In the same year he was asked to join “Weather Report”, a well-known jazz fusion band. Throughout this era he performed session work for multiple artists, most notably for Joni Mitchell on Hejira.

He left Weather Report in 1981 and toured his second album Word of mouth. In the following years he became troubled by drink and drugs and was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. In 1983 he released a live album Invitation. He continued guesting on albums and touring with other artists.

Death

Tragically in 1987, at 35, he died after an altercation with a nightclub manager. Mr Pastorius was written in his honor by Marcus Miller on Miles Davis Amandla album.  Another tribute to him, Jaco Pastorius Park in 2008 in Oakland Park. He is at or near the top of the best bassists list. Jaco has influenced Rob Trujillo, Stuart Hamm and much more with his legacy having a lasting influence on the bass world.

Gear

 

  • 1966 Fender Jazz
  • 1960 Fretted Fender Jazz
  • 1962 Fender Jazz
  • Acoustic 360/361
  • Harte Prototype 810
  • MXR Digital Delay

Jaco favored Fender jazz basses and had several. His first bass was a sunburst 1966 jazz. Another bass he cherished is a 1960 Fender jazz. His most notorious bass is a 1962 Fender Jazz, “The Bass of Doom”. He took the frets out and filled in the gaps with putty and epoxy. In 1986 it was stolen from a bench in Manhattan Park. It took 20 years to find and recover and is now being held by Metallica’s Rob Trujillo.
He used Acoustic 360/361 amps on stage and sometimes went direct to board on albums. He used the fuzz on his Acoustic amp with a slight delay. In his later years he used Harte Prototype 810. He put a MXR Digital Delay through one amp leaving the other dry.

Notable Tracks

Donna Lee
Jaco Pastorius, 1976
Continuum
Jaco Pastorius, 1976
Portrait of Tracey,
Jaco Pastorius, 1976
Hejira
Joni Mitchell, 1976

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