John "Jaco" Francis Pastorius III (December 1st, 1951-September 21st, 1987)

He is considered by many musicians to be the most influential, innovative, and technically proficient jazz bass player the world has ever heard. He recorded with many of the jazz greats during his professional career (1975-1987) and was a member of Weather Report and leader of his own band, Word of Mouth. Jaco used false harmonics and finger tapping along with an unprecedented melodic styling in a way that redefined the role of the bass guitar in modern music. He invented the fretless bass guitar one night by taking out a pair of pliers and some wood compound and removing the frets. Legend of his exploits is no doubt highly exagerrated, but enough stories (like the one where he was seen riding around the streets of Tokyo on a motorcycle, naked and screaming) exist that you have to believe that at least some of what you hear was true, if not most or all of it.

Jaco was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Fort Lauderdale, FL. His first musical influence was his father, a jazz drummer. Under his father's tutelege, Jaco taught himself to play guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards. He started backing visiting music acts and quickly gained both a reputation and a local following. His quick rise to stardom began in 1975 when Bobby Colomby, drummer with Blood, Sweat And Tears, was impressed enough to arrange the recording of Pastorius' first album, and a year later Pat Metheny asked him to play bass on his own debut album for ECM Records.

Soon after that Jaco was picked up by Weather Report. Legend has it that he walked up after the show, said he was a big fan, and announced himself as " The Greatest Bass Player in the World."

Weather Report discography:

Jaco also released a number of albums with Joni Mitchell

and of course on his own or with Word of Mouth:

thanks to Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, "The World's Greatest Bass Player, published by Miller Freeman Books, June 1995 for the Discography. Please excuse any broken hard links.

In the latter stages in his career Jaco started using cocaine heavily and drank alcohol to excess. His unstable mental state became more and more apparent and his self-destructive urges hindered both his social and his professional life. His friends turned their backs after trying to get him back on his feet time after time, and record companies could no longer deal with him on a professional level. During this period there were reports of him pawning his bass and panhandling for money to buy beer and drugs. He had been known to go into bars and pick fights with the toughest, meanest looking guy he could find, and then stand at attention with his hands behind his back as he was pummelled.

Like many of his musical idols, Jaco shot to stardom at a young age as a result of musical genius. Unfortunately he also followed their path to excess and an untimely demise. On September 21st, 1987, at the age of 36, Jaco was beaten into a coma by a bouncer at the Midnight Club in his home town of Fort Lauderdale. He never recovered.

Sidenote:
Jaco's influences are very noticeable in his music: Charlie Parker ("Donna Lee"), Duke Ellington ("Sophisticated Lady"), John Coltrane ("Giant Steps") Johann Sebastian Bach's ("Chromatic Fantasy") Jimi Hendrix ("Amerika," "Purple Haze," "Third Stone from the Sun"), James Brown ("The Chicken"), Bob Marley ("I Shot the Sheriff"), and the Beatles ("Blackbird," "Dear Prudence").