John Francis Anthony Pastorius III (December 1, 1951 – September 21, 1987), better known as Jaco Pastorius, was an influential American jazz musician, composer and electric bass player.



Pastorius' playing style was noteworthy for his playing intricate solos in the higher register and for the "singing" quality he achieved on his fretless bass. Among his many innovations with the electric bass included his use of harmonics. Pastorius suffered from mental illness including a substance-related disorder, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982. He died in 1987 at age 35 following a violent altercation at a Wilton Manors bar.

Pastorius was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only six bassists so honored (and the only electric bass guitarist).

Early life and educationEdit

John Francis Pastorius III was born December 1, 1951 in Norristown, Pennsylvania[1] to Jack Pastorius (big band singer and drummer) and Stephanie Katherine Haapala Pastorius,[2] the first of their three children. Jaco Pastorius was of Finnish, German, Swedish and Irish ancestry.[3]

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Oakland Park, Florida, (near Fort Lauderdale). Pastorius went to elementary and middle school at St. Clement's Catholic School in Wilton Manors, and he was an altar boy at the adjoining church.[4] In his years at St. Clement's, the art he was most known for was drawing.[citation needed]

Pastorius formed his first band named The Sonics (unrelated to the Seattle-based band of the same name) along with John Caputo and Dean Noel. He went to high school at Northeast High in Oakland Park, Florida.[5] He was a talented athlete with skills in football, basketball, and baseball, and he picked up music at an early age. He took the name "Anthony" at his confirmation.[5]

He loved baseball and often watched it with his father. Pastorius' nickname was influenced by his love of sports and also by the umpire Jocko Conlan.[5] He changed the spelling from "Jocko" to "Jaco" after the pianist Alex Darqui sent him a note. Darqui, who was French, assumed "Jaco" was the correct spelling. Pastorius liked the new spelling.[5] Jaco Pastorius had a second nickname, given to him by his younger brother Gregory: "Mowgli", after the wild young boy in Rudyard Kipling's children's classic, The Jungle Book. Gregory gave him the nickname in reference to his seemingly endless energy as a child.[5] Pastorius later established his music publishing company as Mowgli Music. In 1973, he was an instructor at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music.[citation needed]

Music careerEdit

File:Weather Report (Jaco Pastorius).jpg

Jaco Pastorius started out following in the footsteps of his father Jack, playing the drums[6] until he injured his wrist playing football at age 13. The damage to his wrist was severe enough to warrant corrective surgery and ultimately inhibited his ability to play drums.[5] At the time, he had been playing with a local band, Las Olas Brass. When the band's bass player, David Neubauer decided to quit the band, Pastorius bought an electric bass guitar from a local pawn shop for $15.00 USD, and began to learn to play[7]Template:Failed verification with drummer Rich Franks, becoming the bassist for the band.[8]

By 1968–1969, Pastorius had begun to appreciate jazz and had scraped up enough money to buy an upright bass. Its deep, mellow tone appealed to him, though it strained his finances. Pastorius had difficulties maintaining the instrument, which he attributed to the humidity of his Florida home, coupled with his additional interest in R&B music. After waking one day, he found his costly upright bass had cracked. Following this development, he at last traded it in for a 1960 Fender Jazz Bass.[9]

Pastorius' first real break came when he secured the bass chair with Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders[6] He also played on various local R&B and jazz records during that time such as Little Beaver, and Ira Sullivan. In 1974, he began playing with his friend and future famous jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny. They recorded together, first with Paul Bley as leader and Bruce Ditmas on drums, then with drummer Bob Moses. Metheny and Pastorius recorded a trio album with Bob Moses on the ECM label, entitled Bright Size Life (1976). During this period, he began to work on his own signature sound. Template:ListenThe "Jaco growl", often used for lyrical and melodic effect during solos, is obtained by plucking the strings at the base of the fingerboard. Jaco achieved his more punchy sound by using the bridge pickup exclusively and plucking right above the bridge pickup. Pastorius used natural and false harmonics to extend the range of the bass (exemplified in the bass solo composition ”Portrait of Tracy” from his eponymous album) and could achieve his signature horn-like tone by using his fretless neck (covered in polyurethane marine varnish). His playing techniques earned him accolades from both critics and audiences. He used finger-style playing exclusively, rather than the slap-and-pop method that dominated the R&B charts.[citation needed]

File:Portrait of Tracy 1980.jpg

Debut albumEdit

In 1975, Pastorius was introduced to Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, who had been given the green light by Columbia Records to find "new talent" for their jazz division.[10] Pastorius' first album, produced by Colomby was the eponymous Jaco Pastorius (1976), a breakthrough album for the electric bass.[1] Many consider this the finest bass album ever recorded;[1] when it exploded onto the jazz scene it was widely praised by critics. The album also boasted a lineup of heavyweights in the jazz community at the time — essentially a stellar backup band — including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Don Alias, and Michael Brecker among others. Even the legendary soul singers Sam & Dave reunited to appear on the track Come On, Come Over.[11]

Weather ReportEdit

File:Weather Report2 (Jaco Pastorius).jpg

Around the time of his solo album, he attended a concert in Miami by the jazz band, Weather Report. After the concert, he approached keyboardist Josef Zawinul who fronted the band. According to Zawinul, Pastorius walked up to him after a concert one night and talked about the performance and said that it was all right but that he had expected more.[12] He then went on to introduce himself to Zawinul, adding that he was the greatest bass player in the world. An unamused Zawinul told him to "get the fuck outta here."[13] According to Milkowski's book, on that same evening, Pastorius persisted and, according to Zawinul, reminded Zawinul of himself when he was a "brash young man" in Cannonball Adderley's band, which made Zawinul admire the young bassist. Zawinul asked for a demo tape from Pastorius, and thus began a correspondence between the two.

Pastorius joined Weather Report during the recording sessions for Black Market (1976), and he became a vital part of the band by virtue of the unique qualities of his bass playing, his skills as a composer and his exuberant showmanship on stage.

Guest appearancesEdit

Pastorius guested on many albums by other artists, as for example in 1976 with Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame, on All American Alien Boy, which again featured David Sanborn as well as Aynsley Dunbar. Other recordings included Joni Mitchell's Hejira album, and a solo album by Al Di Meola, which were also standouts, both released in 1976. Soon after that, Weather Report bass player Alphonso Johnson left to start his own band. Zawinul invited Pastorius to join the band, where he played alongside Zawinul and Wayne Shorter until 1981. During his time with Weather Report, Pastorius made his indelible mark on jazz music, notably by being featured on one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, the Grammy Award-nominated Heavy Weather (1977). Not only did this album showcase Pastorius's bass playing and songwriting, but he also received a co-producing credit with Joe Zawinul and even played drums on his self-composed "Teen Town".

During the course of his musical career, Pastorius played on dozens of recording sessions for other musicians, both in and out of jazz circles. Some of his most notable are four highly regarded albums with acclaimed singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell: Hejira (1976), Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977), Mingus (1979) and the live album Shadows and Light (1980). His influence was most dominant on Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, and many of the songs on that album seem to be composed using the bass as the melodic source of inspiration. Also worthy of mention is his collaboration with important jazz figures Flora Purim and Airto Moreira. Pastorius can be heard on Moreira's 1977 release I'm Fine, How Are You? His signature sound is prominent on Purim's 1978 release Everyday Everynight, on which he played the bass melody for a Michel Colombier composition entitled "The Hope", and performed bass and vocals on one of his own compositions entitled "Las Olas".

Near the end of his career, he guested on low-key releases by jazz artists including guitarist Mike Stern, guitarist Bireli Lagrene, and drummer Brian Melvin. In 1985, he recorded an instructional video, Modern Electric Bass, hosted by acclaimed bassist Jerry Jemmott.


He and Weather Report parted ways in early 1981, and Jaco began pursuing his interest in creating a big band solo project named Word of Mouth, one that found its debut aurally on his second solo release, Word of Mouth. This 1981 album also boasted guest appearances by several distinguished jazz musicians: Herbie Hancock, Weather Report's Wayne Shorter and Peter Erskine, harmonica player Toots Thielemans and Hubert Laws. The album evinced Pastorius's composing talent alongside the focus on his instrumental performance. It also demonstrated his skills in production and his ability to deal with the logistics of a project that was recorded not only on both coasts of the United States, but also overseas: He recorded Thielemans' contributions in Belgium.

On his 30th birthday, December 1, 1981, he threw a party at a club in Fort Lauderdale, flew in some of the artists from his Word of Mouth project, and other noteworthy musicians that included Don Alias, and Michael Brecker. The event was recorded by his friend and engineer Peter Yianilos, who intended it as a birthday gift. The concert remained unreleased until 1995.

He toured in 1982; a swing through Japan was the highlight, and it was at this time that bizarre tales of Pastorius' deteriorating behavior first surfaced. He shaved his head, painted his face black and threw his bass into Hiroshima Bay at one point.[14] That tour was released in Japan as Twins I and Twins II and was condensed for an American release, which was known as Invitation.

In 1982, he recorded a third solo album, which made it as far as some unpolished demo tapes, a steelpans-tinged release entitled Holiday for Pans, which once again showcased him as a composer and producer rather than a performer. He could not find a distributor for the album and the album was never released; however, it has since been widely bootlegged. In 2003, a cut from Holiday for Pans, entitled ”Good Morning Anya”, was included on Rhino Records' anthology Punk Jazz.

Behavior and health problemsEdit

File:Jaco Pastorius 1986.jpg

Pastorius was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression.[15] Pastorius showed numerous features of the condition long before his initial diagnosis, though they were too mild to diagnose at the time as mental illness — being regarded instead as eccentricities or character flaws.[16] The condition in its earlier stages is likely to have contributed to his success as a musician. Hypomania, the cyclical peaks in mood that distinguish bipolar disorder from unipolar depression, have been associated with enhanced creativity.[17] Friends and family recognized retrospectively that these peaks played an essential role in his urge to create music.[18]

In his early career, Pastorius avoided alcohol and drugs, but increasingly used alcohol and other drugs while with Weather Report.[19] Alcohol abuse ultimately exacerbated Pastorius' mental issues, leading to increasingly erratic and sometimes anti-social behavior.[20]

Pastorius was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 1982 following the Word of Mouth tour of Japan, in which his erratic behavior became an increasing source of concern for his band members. Drummer Peter Erskine's father, Dr. Fred Erskine, suggested that Pastorius was showing signs of the condition and, on his return from the tour, his wife, Ingrid, had Pastorius committed to Holy Cross hospital under the Florida Mental Health Act, where he received the diagnosis and was prescribed lithium to stabilize his moods.[21]

By 1986, Pastorius' health had further deteriorated. He had been evicted from his New York apartment and began living on the streets.[22] In July 1986, following intervention by his then ex-wife Ingrid with the help of his brother Gregory, he was admitted to Bellevue Hospital in New York, where he was prescribed Tegretol in preference to Lithium.[21] He moved back to Fort Lauderdale in December of that year, again living on the streets for weeks at a time.[22]



Pastorius was most identified by his use of well-worn Fender Jazz Bass changing the neck a few times. The Fender Jazz Bass, known by Jaco Pastorius as the "Bass of Doom", was originally a fretted bass that had the frets removed. Pastorius claimed to have removed the frets himself[23] but later said he had bought it with the frets already removed.[6] Pastorius finished the fretboard with marine epoxy (Pettit's PolyPoxy) to protect the wood from the roundwound Rotosound Swing 66 strings he used.[6][23] Though he played both fretted and fretless, he preferred the fretless, because he felt frets were a hindrance, once calling them "speed bumps". However, he said in the instructional video that he never practiced with the fretless because the strings "eat the neck up".

His Fender bass was stolen shortly before he entered Bellevue hospital after he had gotten it repaired in 1986. In 1993, his bass was in the hands of a New York City music shop. In 2008, it was subsequently acquired by Robert Trujillo, bassist with Metallica. Although Trujillo currently owns the instrument, the Metallica bassist agreed in writing to relinquish the instrument to the family at any time for the same purchase price.[24]

Amplification, effects, and stringsEdit

Jaco Pastorius used the "Variamp" EQ (equalization) controls on his two Acoustic 360 amplifiers[25] (made by the Acoustic Control Corporation of Van Nuys, California) to boost the midrange frequencies, thus accentuating the natural growling tone of his fretless passive Fender Jazz Bass and roundwound string combination. He also controlled his tone color with a rackmount MXR digital delay unit that fed a second Acoustic amp rig.

At times, he used Hartke cabinets during the final three years of his life because of the bright character of aluminum speaker cones (as opposed to paper speaker cones). These provided a bright, clear sound. He typically used the delay in a chorus-like mode, providing a shimmering stereo doubling effect. He often used the fuzz control built in on the Acoustic 361. For the bass solo ”Slang” on the Weather Report's live album 8:30 (1979), Pastorius used the MXR digital delay to layer and loop a chordal figure and then soloed over it.


After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana concert on September 11, 1987, and being ejected from the premises, Pastorius made his way to the Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, Florida.[26] After reportedly kicking in a glass door, having been refused entrance to the club, he was engaged in a violent confrontation with the club bouncer, Luc Havan.[27] Pastorius was hospitalized for multiple facial fractures and injuries to his right eye and left arm. He fell into a coma and was put on life support.[citation needed]

Initial encouraging signs that he would come out of the coma and recover faded. A massive brain hemorrhage a few days later led to brain death. Pastorius died on September 21, 1987, aged 35, at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, and was buried at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.[28]

In the wake of Pastorius' death, Havan was charged with second degree murder but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Because he had no prior convictions, and accounting for time served while waiting for the verdict, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison, and five years probation. After four months in prison, he was paroled for good behavior. [29]

Biography controversyEdit

In 1995, jazz author Bill Milkowski wrote Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius.[30] Published by Miller-Freeman, the book incorporated Milkowski's firsthand experiences with Jaco, when he lived in New York between 1982 and 1986, when Pastorius's health had deteriorated.[31] This was supplemented by extensive interviews with friends, family and colleagues of Pastorius, as well as musicians and industry insiders.[32]

Pastorius's second wife Ingrid has complained that the book treated Jaco Pastorius with a lack of sensitivity,[31] and has listed a number of contextual inaccuracies on her website.[6] Guitarist Pat Metheny, who was a close friend before Pastorius joined Weather Report,[33] wrote in the liner notes of the reissue of Pastorius's first album that Milkowski's book was "...a horribly inaccurate, botched biography."[34] Meanwhile, John Corbett of Downbeat wrote: “With insight, care and plenty of musical detail, Milkowski charts the bassist’s trip from Florida beach and cruise-ship gigs and a year in Wayne Cochran’s C.C. Riders to fame with Weather Report and misfortune in his drug-and-drink ridden ‘dark years.’” Michael Point of the Austin American-Statesman wrote: “To his great literary credit, Milkowski tells the bassist’s story with enlightening candor, allowing his sympathy to be palpable without obscuring the hard, cold facts.” Rick Anderson of Library Journal called it "A clean, carefully written, biography that tells Jaco’s story without lurid drama but also without flinching from the tragic details."

A 10th anniversary edition, published in 2005 by Backbeat Books, was a greatly expanded and updated version that included a 40-minute CD of spoken word testimonies from key figures in Jaco's life along with examples of his early bands before joining Weather Report in 1976.

Awards and tributesEdit

Apart from his career in the jazz fusion band Weather Report, Jaco Pastorius had two Grammy Award nominations for his self-titled debut album (1976).[1]

He won the readers' poll for induction into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988, one of only four bassists so honored (the others being Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, and Ray Brown), and the only electric bassist to receive this distinction.

  • The Pat Metheny Group also honored Pastorius on their album Pat Metheny Group (1978) with the track ”Jaco”. This song was not specifically written for Pastorius. Metheny wrote the song and then realized that the main melody sounded a lot like Pastorius' ”Come On, Come Over”, and subsequently decided to name the tune for Pastorius.[35]
  • English keyboard player Rod Argent includes a track titled "Pastorius Mentioned" on his 1979 album Moving Home.
  • In 1985 bassist Jeff Berlin released an instructional video which included the well known Jaco Pastorius track Invitation (actually the title track from his 1983 solo album).[36]
  • Miles Davis honored the late bassist on his album Amandla (1989) with the Marcus Miller composition ”Mr. Pastorius”, as Jaco Pastorius was an inspiration for Marcus Miller.[37]
  • In 2000 bassist Victor Bailey (who had the honour of replacing Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report) did "Continuum" as his tribute to Jaco Pastorius on the Who Loves You album. Live Victor Bailey would always explicitely mention Jaco Pastorius as a major influence on his own style.[38]
  • Bass player Brian Bromberg recorded a Pastorius tribute album entitled Jaco (2002), which includes his interpretations of ”Come On, Come Over”, ”The Chicken”, ”Portrait of Tracy”, and more.[39]
  • Bassist Victor Wooten honored Jaco Pastorius on his album Soul Circus (2005) on the track ”Bass Tribute”, thanking Pastorius several times. Wooten and Steve Bailey's Bass Extremes project includes the tracks ”Glorius Pastorius”, ”Portrait of Tracy”, and also a tribute to Pastorius' interpretation of Miles Davis's ”Donna Lee” titled ”Madonna Lee”.
  • In 2010, recording artist The Flashbulb released a song titled "Pastorial Whiskers" on the album Love as a Dark Hallway. Nearly all of the bass tracks on the album are played with a Roland Jaco replica and are a homage to Pastorius' technique.
  • Stuart Zender, the original bass player and founding member of Jamiroquai, cites Pastorius as one of his main influences.

Since 1997, an annual birthday event takes place around December 1 in South Florida, hosted by his sons Julius and Felix Pastorius.

On December 2, 2007, the day after what would have been Pastorius' 56th birthday, a concert called "20th Anniversary (of his death) Tribute to Jaco Pastorius" was held at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, featuring performances by the award-winning Jaco Pastorius Big Band with special guest appearances by Peter Erskine, Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, David Bargeron, Jimmy Haslip, Gerald Veasley, Pastorius' sons John and Julius Pastorius, Pastorius' daughter Mary Pastorius, Ira Sullivan, Bobby Thomas, Jr., and Dana Paul. Also shown were exclusive home movies and rare concert footage as well as video appearances by Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and other luminaries from Pastorius' life. Almost 20 years after his death, Fender released the Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass, a fretless instrument from its Artist Series.

On December 1, 2008, on what would have been Pastorius' 57th birthday, the park in Oakland Park's new downtown redevelopment was formally named 'Jaco Pastorius Park' in honor of its former resident.[40]


Jaco has been cited as an influence by such bass players of both jazz and rock as:

among many others.

Selected discographyEdit

Main article: Jaco Pastorius discography
Solo Weather Report Collaboration
Album Artist
1975 Pat Metheny
1976 Ian Hunter
Joni Mitchell

Al Di Meola

1977 Joni Mitchell
1978 Herbie Hancock
1979 Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
1980 Herbie Hancock
  • Invitation

See also Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Jaco Pastorius official website
  2. Ingrid's Jaco Cyber Nest; FAQ
  3. Ingrid's Jaco Cybernest; FAQ
  4. GQ, 1988
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Milkowski, 2005
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Jaco Pastorius official website biography
  7. BBC radio 3 profile; Jaco Pastorius official website biography
  8. Rich Franks; Jaco Pastorius official website biography
  9. Bob Bobbing (2007), Jaco and the upright bass; Jaco Pastorius Official Website biography
  10. Bobby Colomby
  11. AllMusic; Jaco Pastorius credits
  12. Zawinul, Josef. Portrait of Jaco
  13. GQ
  14. Milkowski, 20055
  15. Mary Pastorius; Daddy, just Daddy to me
  16. Milkowski, 2005; Grayson, 2003
  17. Santosa, 2006; Redfield 1993
  18. Ingrid's Jaco Cybernest; Ken Gemmer's Insight; Torn Moon 1987
  19. Milkowski, 2005; Flynn
  20. Torn Moon 1987; United Press 1987
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ingrid's Jaco Cybernest; Mind II
  22. 22.0 22.1 Torn Moon 1987
  23. 23.0 23.1 Rosen, 1978
  24. Robert Trujillo Assists Pastorius Family In Recovering the Infamous Bass Of Doom
  25. "Acoustic 360 amplifiers". Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  26. Stanton p195
  27. Jeff Stratton (2006-11-30). "". Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  28. Stanton
  29. Broward Palm Beach News 2006
  30. Milkowski, 1995
  31. 31.0 31.1 Ingrid's Jaco Cybernest; Book
  32. Bob Bobbing post; forums
  33. Flynn, Metheny interview
  34. Metheny, liner notes
  35. Metheny, Pat. Pat Metheny Songbook. Appendix: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 439. ISBN 0-634-00796-3. 
  37. Perspectives on Jaco; Cole p297
  39. Billboard, Oct 26, 2002; Kelman, 2009
  40. Oakland Park Main Street
  41. "Pedro Aznar: encuentro con Jaco Pastorius". 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  42. "Tony Franklin's bass tips". Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  43. Dmitry M. EPSTEIN Copyright 2003 - dmitry at "LET IT ROCK - Neil MURRAY interview". Retrieved 2011-07-19. 


External linksEdit

Template:Commons category

Template:Weather Report


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