Jaco Pastorius Big Band
Courtesy of Heads Up International

Jaco Pastorius Big Band

Jaco Pastorius's contributions to the world of jazz and the fretless electric bass will resonate for years to come. It is undeniable that he was the last great innovator of his instrument. He was the first player to elevate the bass into the spotlight, and he managed to play it in a manner that seamlessly married the rhythm section to the melody in the forefront.

Arriving in stores before the anniversary of his untimely and brutal beating death in Fort Lauderdale on September 21, 1987, is Word of Mouth Revisited, a fitting tribute that includes a venerable who's who of electric bass stars. Long time Pastorius associate Peter Graves conducts an all-star cast of musicians (Billy Ross, Mike Brignola, Jason Carder, Dana Teboe, Michael Levine, Craig Gosnell, et al.), with contemporary bass greats Victor Bailey, Richard Bona, Jeff Carswell, Jimmy Haslip, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Gerald Veasley, and nephew David Pastorius sitting in on key performances. The thirteen tracks on the disc are interwoven with somber patter from Jaco himself that is taken from his live performances with Weather Report and the Word of Mouth Big Band. Though the bass is a featured instrument, it is casually synchronized so as not to overshadow the other instruments it supports, thanks to the experienced bassists on hand here.

Another player in this ad-hoc army is Larry Warrilow, who lends assistance on the arrangements of some of the tunes as well as three covers. Herbie Hancock's "Wiggle Waggle" is filtered through an R&B backdrop, and Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People" is given a harder-edged delivery, the way the late bassist would have played it (since it was one of his faves). Even the inclusion of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" is kept in an ethereal, jazzy realm that doesn't sacrifice the integrity of the poppy tune's original tempo. A real treat on the disc -- actually, two treats -- is the interpolation of a Pastorius bass track from a live recording in Sanibel into "Wiggle Waggle" as Graves conducts the band around it to create the aforementioned R&B effect. The second comes when David plays the bass with his uncle's panache on "Opus Pocus."

This album is a fitting homage, one of the most respectful tributes I've heard. These were the people who knew him best, and Jaco seems to be hovering in the background, murmuring his approval.


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