Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jaco Pastorius – Word of Mouth

I’m currently listening to “Word of Mouth” by Jaco Pastorius. I’ve been a fan of Jaco’s music since I first heard him on Pat Metheney’s first release – Bright Size Life. I’ve also had the privilege of studying with Bob Moses – the drummer on this LP (Bob provided insight into how that magnificent trio worked).  Jaco is one of the most intriguing musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to discover. Although I’ve never met him personally, I felt like I knew him through the many stories I’ve heard from so many musicians that have either jammed, recorded or toured with him. Unfortunately, he suffered from bipolar disorder, which contributed towards his demise (along with a history of drugs). However, like most great artists, you cannot take away the magical contribution he provided on every level – as a bass player (and he was the best….not just because he said it), a composer and a theatrical performer (check him out on Joni Mitchell’s “Shadow’s in Light” DVD). “Word of Mouth” is an album that put some of Jaco’s tunes on the “standards” map. “Three views of a Secret” is not only a well-crafted melody, but a beautiful, free-sounding waltz (thanks in no small part to Jack DeJohnette’s floating drum performance... one can imagine an image of rolling hills and ocean waves washing over the music in Jack’s effortless drum style…always driving, always swinging. Then of course, we have “Liberty City” which is, without question, a staple part of the big band repertoire.

I’ve always felt that a truly successful album should feel like an engaging show, including certain elements: a.) a beginning statement to get your attention such as Track one: “Crisis”…this should be en exercise for all bass players….just to see if they can hangJ  b.) several different colors or diverse pieces that take the listener on a sonic journey with twists and turns c.) a rewarding ending that feels like you’re glad you stayed for the whole experience…..and this certainly happens with “John and Mary” (last track on the album). The intro chords for “John and Mary” are harmonic gems leading us directly to the grooving ostinato, which is at the very heart of the tune. Throughout the album one can feel the overflow of creativity, groove and intelligent thought behind every tune (not to mention that everyone from the scene at the time is on this album including: Michael Brecker, Don Alias, David Taylor, Wayne Shorter, Peter Gordon, Toots Teilelman, Snooky Young, Tom Scott and so many others).

Though his accomplishments are known by virtually everyone in the jazz world (and even R & B), I’d like to say thank you, Jaco, wherever you are. Your music has made the difference for me.

-       Tom Nazziola