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Jaco Pastorious

After a year in which the music community suffered the loss of so many heroes, it’s sobering to realize just how drastically Jaco Pastorius changed our world in the short time he was here. In seven years, between 1975 and 1982, Jaco’s staggering contributions to discs by Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and Weather Report radically upended our expectations of electric bass, and he further cemented his legend on records by Herbie Hancock, Albert Mangelsdorff, Michel Colombier, Al Di Meola, and others. In his own work, the charismatic Philadelphia native fused seemingly disparate elements—big bands, Motown, the Caribbean/Latin flavors of his South Florida upbringing, the influences of jazz heroes like Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers, the funk of James Brown’s bassists, Western classical, the innovations of contemporaries like Jerry Jemmott, and Paul McCartney’s melodicism—into a hip, soulful, signature cocktail with more than a twist of rock & roll attitude. Three decades after Jaco’s death at the hands of a South Florida bouncer, he’s still the gold standard for expressiveness and intonation on fretless bass, Jazz Bass back-pickup tone, and 16th-note stamina, but few can match his effortless blend of abundant technique and earthy groove.