Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jaco Pastorius
The 60th Anniversary Collection
Warner Music Japan

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a quarter century since Jaco Pastorius died at the outrageously young age of 35. At a time when other electric bassists like Stanley Clarke were redefining the role of the instrument—no longer playing only a supporting role, but becoming a front-line partner—Pastorius still managed to shake an already fusion-quaked world with the one-two-three punch of his debut as a leader, Jaco (Epic), his first appearances with fusion supergroup Weather Report on Black Market (Columbia), and his stunningly lyrical work for singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell on Hejira (Elektra/Asylum), all in 1976. Three views of a secret, indeed.

Sixty years after his birth in Norristown, Pennsylvania—though his parents ultimately relocated to Florida shortly after his birth, a move that would color his music from a very early age—Warner Music Japan has put together the sumptuous The 60th Anniversary Collection, a six-CD box that, if collected together with his 1976 debut, represents the best music Pastorius made as a leader during his relatively brief time on the planet. He may have lept to fame and relative fortune for his seven-year stint with Weather Report—tracks like the knotty "Teen Town," from the group's bestselling Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977) remaining required 'shedding grist for aspiring electric bassists—and there's no doubt that group's string of Columbia albums, beginning with Black Market, where Pastorius appeared on just two transitional but nevertheless earth-shattering tracks, through to WR's self-titled 1982 swan song, remain vastly influential. But the 60th Anniversary's six albums, starting with 1981's completely unexpected Word of Mouth, not only confirmed Pastorius' inestimable innovations as a performer on fretless electric bass, but clarified his position in the jazz canon, as a composer of considerable weight if not prolificacy—and an arranger whose ear for large ensemble work was, in many ways, a big surprise for those only familiar with his first album and the Weather Report discography.


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