Sunday, June 22, 2014
John Francis Anthony Pastorius III (1951 – 1987), better known as Jaco Pastorius, was an influential American jazz musician, composer and electric bass player. He is best known for his work with Weather Report from 1976 to 1981, as well as work with artists including Joni Mitchell and his own solo projects.
His playing was known for its highly technical, latin-influenced 16th-note funk, lyrical soloing on fretless bass and innovative use of harmonics. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only seven bassists so honoured (and the only electric bass guitarist).
Pastorius started out following in the footsteps of his father Jack, playing the drums, until he injured his wrist playing football at age 13. The damage to his wrist was severe enough to warrant corrective surgery and ultimately inhibited his ability to play drums. At the time, he had been playing with a local band, Las Olas Brass. When the band's bass player, David Neubauer, decided to quit the band, Pastorius bought an electric bass guitar from a local pawn shop for $15.00 USD and began to learn to play with drummer Rich Franks, becoming the bassist for the band.
In 1975, Pastorius was introduced to Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, who had been asked by Columbia Records to find "new talent" for their jazz division. Pastorius' first album, produced by Colomby, was Jaco Pastorius (1976), a breakthrough album for the electric bass. Many consider this the finest bass album ever recorded.
Pastorius was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 1982 following the Word of Mouth tour of Japan, in which his erratic behaviour became an increasing source of concern for his band members.
Pastorius was hospitalized for multiple facial fractures and injuries to his right eye and left arm after an altercation with a nightclub bouncer and fell into a coma. Initial encouraging signs that he would come out of the coma and recover faded as a massive brain haemorrhage a few days later led to brain death. Pastorius died on September 21, 1987.