The greatest bass player in the world!
Jaco is the self-proclaimed best bass player in the world, and few would disagree!
Jaco got his first job as a music teacher when he was still in his early 20s. This happened to be the same University that Pat Matheny taught at and the two would form a bond and bands that played locally under each other’s name as solo artists.
1976 was an enormous year for Jaco, starting out with Bright Size Life, Pat Matheny’s debut album, by many (myself included) considered Pat’s best work.
Initially, Jaco wasn’t supposed to play on it, Pat had experienced jazz musicians lined up but after Pat’s mentor heard his friends play, he encouraged him to stick to his pals.
The same year, he would record his self-titled debut solo album, produced by Blood Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, it has since become legendary. Particularly his version of Charlie Parker‘s tune Donna Lee which continues to scare hard-working/practicing bass players to this day.
Still, in 1976, he would also record Hejira with Joni Mitchell, one of my favourite albums of all time.
You’d think this was enough to cram into one year? No chance, in 1976, Jaco also released his first appearance on a Weather Report album.
Jaco got this gig by simply walking up to the drummer and founder of the band Joe Zawinul and introducing himself as “John Francis Pastorius III, I’m the greatest bass player in the world.”
Jaco would ride the wave of what he essentially had set up in one year (1976) until 1982 when he left Weather Report as his own 21-piece band Word Of Mouth had started to tour more heavily.
It is from this era we find his live version and cover of Pee Wee Ellis’s tune The Chicken, a tune he had recorded a few years earlier under the name Tommy Strand & The Upper Hand Featuring Jaco Pastorius.
Toward the end of the world tour with Word Of Mouth, Jaco’s mental health started to decline.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder but not able to get help, he ended up homeless and in 1987, picked a fight with a bouncer outside a nightclub that beat him so badly he died from injuries sustained.
Jaco said something in his one and only instructional video to the interviewer that stuck with me. He said that he used to play soul covers for six hours every night, and that’s how he got good. Not from practising.
In the history of teaching music, nothing has ever rung more true. My advice to you is: If you can land a gig that intense – Take it!
Jaco Pastorius tunes | Related pages
You can learn how to play The Chicken by Jaco Pastorius and Pee Wee Ellis using chords, chord analysis, and the original recordings.
| Bb7 (Em7b5 Dm7b5) | Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7 |