There are few people I can think of who come close to the sheer/unadulterated musical genius, skill and chops of Jaco Pastorius – the nearest that comes to mind is the late John Entwistle, the bass player extraordinaire for The Who. But Entwistle was firmly entrenched in the rock world and Jaco Pastorius was clearly from a different, more fluid musical realm. The argument could be made that he is one of the founding fathers of what became “jazz fusion” in the 1970’s – the melding of jazz, rock and soul/funk to create a groove of its own.
This brilliant documentary is a labor of love from Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who co-produced it along with John Battsek; it was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak, and through the help of crowd funding, tells the story of the celebrated but tragic bass-master/legend in straightforward detail, memories and footage through family, friends and fellow players. Among the giant names interviewed are Bootsy Collins, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Flea and Wayne Shorter; two of Jaco’s sons appear as well.
Jaco Pastorius’ story is not an easy one; while there is little-to-no doubt of his musical genius and his complete reinvention of the bass as more than a rhythm accompaniment, his personal life was far tougher to digest. Emotional problems, a drinking problem later in life; divorces, destitution and then a brutal ending, this is not a warming tale – save for the amount of love emanating from the interviewees, recalling their encounters and various relationships with Pastorius. For me, what makes this movie so good is, aside from the music, the direct manner in which the story is told – a timeline, a complete background and picture – all linear and complete. The homework was done and done well And I give Jaco very high praise for just that alone. A worthwhile afternoon’s viewing.
JACO is out now on DVD