There are few who would not acknowledge the greatness of Jaco Pastorius, who could make the bass guitar do things that takes many other players lifetimes to achieve. His slick-fingered movements up and down the board of his fretless bass changed the music that he performed for, elevating it to heights rarely reached, even now. Having spent time with Weather Report (his most famous position) and as a hired hand for the likes of Joni Mitchell – with whom he toured with Pat Metheny – and Herbie Hancock, Pastorius set the bar quite high for individual bass players to reach for.
The Essential Jaco Pastorius joins a myriad of Jaco collections and retrospectives, many that pull bits and pieces from his short and storied career. This Essential title revisits his debut Epic self-titled release extensively with 7 of that album’s nine tracks found there. From there, this set visits some of the more popular tunes that he played on including songs from Joni Mitchell, Michael Colombier, and Herbie Hancock. The rest of the tracks on here include many well-represented albums from his years with Weather Report as well as from his exemplary Word of Mouth album.
The Joni Mitchell tracks (“Hejira,” “Talk to Me,” “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines”) are unique in that they showcase a strong set by Jaco for another well-known talent. This is especially true on “Talk to Me” from Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), where it is just Jaco and Joni in an amazing guitar and bass song, where Jaco Pastorius’ bass performance is as prevalent in the forefront as Joni’s vocals and acoustic guitar are.
There are 4 songs from Weather Report’s most important and highest charted album, Heavy Weather (1977) including “Birdland.” There are 6 other Weather Report songs from the rest of the Pastorius years but none as represented as Heavy Weather is all by itself.
The set is enhanced by a fantastic and extensive biographical essay about the life and times of Jaco Pastorius written by Pastorius biographer (JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius – Backbeat Books) and contributor to Jazz Times and Jazziz magazines, Bill Milkowski. The booklet also has photos and deep credits for each of the songs on this set.
Jaco Pastorius experimented with a multiplicity of styles and The Essential Jaco Pastorius does the best job that it can over 2CDs in an attempt to shine a light on this extraordinary bass player who died all too young and tragically. It is recommended as a start point to further exploration of Jaco’s music.