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Jaco Pastorius: Word ‘Em Up

Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius (photo: Shigeru Uchiyama)
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius (photo: Shigeru Uchiyama)

The volatile virtuoso Jaco Pastorius burst upon the music world in 1976, stunning us with the ingenuity and chops of his debut, Jaco Pastorius (Epic), the Pat Metheny Trio album Bright Size Life (ECM) and his work with Weather Report. In the early ’80s, Pastorius went on to do groundbreaking work in the big-band genre—fulfilling his earlier, pre-Weather Report passion—with his Word of Mouth band.

But a dark final chapter haunts Pastorius’ story: He fell into a tailspin of substance abuse and mental illness. The possibility of rehabilitation was cut short when a nightclub bouncer in Fort Lauderdale beat him into a coma. When the 35-year-old died on September 21, 1987, Pastorius joined the ranks of icons like Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker, legends who revolutionized their instruments and music before being felled by demons.

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