It’s curious that we don’t more directly associate electric jazz bass playing with Latin rhythms, given that the greatest practitioner on the instrument featured them so centrally in his sound. This newly unearthed document is a key sonic case in point. Here we have Jaco Pastorius with his Word of Mouth Big Band, live at NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall in the summer of 1982 for George Wein’s Kool Jazz Festival, regaling listeners with 130 minutes of music in which his ever-virtuosic bass work is neatly folded into a larger group dynamic. (The set is available as a three-LP box, two-CD package and digital download, including a 100-page book with contributions by Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, biographer Bill Milkowski and others.)
That this was an NPR recording means the sound is impeccable, no small detail in appreciating the full tonal display of Pastorius’ lines. On the opening “Invitation”—which functions as a musical epistle/beckoning to a damn good time—his notes are tightly clustered, like buzzy, motivic spirals that serve as fillips for the piece. Bob Mintzer’s tenor saxophone provides a lot of the solo-based forward motion, but it’s the Latin inflection—courtesy of Othello Molineaux’s steel drums—that makes this feel like work born of tropical climes and the jazz of New Orleans in all its wonderfully bonhomous hoodoo.