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Jaco Pastorius' Legacy Lives On With Release of <i>Punk Jazz</i > - 2003-07-17

Jaco Pastorius was considered one of the world's greatest bass guitarists. He performed with the influential jazz fusion group Weather Report, and had his own big band Word Of Mouth. He was a prolific composer and arranger, but was probably best known for his electrifying stage presence. Sadly, at the age of 35, Jaco was beaten to death during a brawl outside a nightclub. The groundbreaking jazzman's music is chronicled on a new CD titled Punk Jazz - The Jaco Pastorius Anthology.

Jaco was so self-assured that he once claimed to be "the world's greatest bass player." From his humble R&B beginnings in South Florida to international jazz stardom, very few doubted him.

One of Jaco's closest friends was guitarist Pat Metheny who featured the bassist on his 1976 debut album, Bright Size Life. Metheny summed up Jaco's career best in the liner notes to the recent re-issue of Jaco's first solo release.

He wrote, "Jaco Pastorius may well have been the last musician of the 20th century to have made a major impact on the musical world at large. Everywhere you go, sometimes it seems like a dozen times a day, in the most unlikely places, you hear Jaco's sound. From the latest TV commercial to bass players of all stripes copping [imitating] his licks [style] on recordings of all styles, from news broadcasts to rock and roll bands, from hip-hop samples to personal tribute records, you hear the echoes of that unmistakable sound everywhere."

Jaco's taste in music ran the gamut from Jimi Hendrix to Elvis Presley. One of his many heroes was saxophonist Charlie Parker, who Jaco saw play in 1945. Plus, there were the never-ending sounds of soul, funk and Latin music at his every turn as he was growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

After Metheny, Jaco joined Weather Report, appearing on such albums as Night Passage and Heavy Weather.

From Punk Jazz - The Jaco Pastorius Anthology, Weather Report with Birdland, featuring Jaco on electric bass.

The CD offers rare recordings of Jaco's impeccable technique in a variety of settings. In addition to his work with Weather Report and Pat Metheny, there are tracks with Joni Mitchell, Flora Purim, Mike Stern and The Brian Melvin Trio, as well as early appearances with Willie "Little Beaver" Hale and Wayne Cochran's C.C. Riders. His solo career is also captured, from various live shows, the acclaimed Word of Mouth album, and this 1968 home recording of The Chicken.

It's hard to imagine that Jaco's life would ever take a turn for the worse. After Weather Report, he toured and recorded with his own band, Word of Mouth. But as his career began to wane, so did his mental and physical health. He overindulged in drugs and alcohol, and was seen panhandling on the streets of New York. In the early morning hours of September 21, 1987, Jaco was beaten to death by a security guard who believed he was breaking into the Midnight Bottle Club in Fort Lauderdale.

Jaco's legacy will live on for years to come. As biographer Bill Milkowsk writes, "Not only did he bridge the gaps between R&B, rock and jazz, but he also filtered Caribbean music through his unique musical aesthetic."