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Jaco Pastorius: Portrait of Jaco: The Early Years

Portrait of Jaco: The Early Years 1968-1978 (Holiday Park) is a valuable and fascinating documentary of the master bassist’s early years. It begins with the earliest known recording of Jaco Pastorius playing drums, the instrument on which he began his career, and includes fascinating fly-on-the-wall tracks like his first experimental home recording playing bass as a 17-year-old. Throughout the first CD there’s some priceless early Jaco (known in his early days as Jocko), with interview snippets from the man himself, his teachers, Ira Sullivan and others who bore witness to his blossoming talent. The second disc has Jaco performing with his longtime associate Peter Graves and his band at the Florida night club Bachelor’s III, the demo Jaco played for Joe Zawinul before joining Weather Report and interviews with Joni Mitchell, Zawinul and Pat Metheny-the latter especially invaluable.

The result is essential listening (and reading; the liner notes are also good) and shows that the bassist did not just arrive from out of the blue in 1976 with his sensational debut album on Columbia. It was a result of hard-earned experience and years of relentless effort in his quest to be the “world’s greatest bass player.” This album, more than any other shows how he succeeded in his quest. Among the many highlights is a live version of “Bright Size Life” that alone is worth the price of admission, and Herbie Hancock’s insightful and sincere overview of Jaco’s life. (Available only through

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