Jaco PThe legend of Jaco Pastorius, the late, self-proclaimed “world’s greatest bass player,” shines as brightly over time as that of other musical immortals like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix and Charles Mingus. “Like Charlie Parker, he was the shot heard ’round the world,” says his Florida mentor Ira Sullivan. “Bird was that step beyond, and I think Jaco was the same way.”
Today, more than 14 years after his tragic death on Sept. 21, 1987, at the hands of a bouncer outside a Florida nightclub, we still marvel at what Jaco accomplished in his relatively short span as a creative force on the planet. Not only did he revolutionize the role of his chosen instrument, the fretless electric bass guitar, but he helped change the course of music itself through his innovations. And the proof is right there on the recordings—his stunning 1976 solo debut, Jaco Pastorius, and ambitious follow-up projects, Word of Mouth and Invitation; his brilliant collaborations with Joni Mitchell (notably 1976’s masterpiece, Hejira); and a string of six groundbreaking albums with Weather Report (from 1976’s Black Market to the landmark Heavy Weather and Grammy-winning 8:30 to his swan song with the group, 1982’s self-titled Weather Report). One need only turn on the radio or check out current trends in jazz, rock, pop, reggae, calypso, meringue, salsa, Afro-pop, Cuban, Brazilian or drum ‘n’ bass to hear that the impact Jaco made resonates to this day.