Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Nucleus of Passion:Remembering Jaco

 For those of you who know me personally (or musically) it is no secret that I am a great admirer of Jaco Pastorius. Recently, well,for the past 5 years actually, Metallica's Robert Trujillo has been working on a documentary about Jaco's life and music. The project is being funded by Trujillo himself and admirer's of Jaco via PledgeMusic. As of this writing the goal has been met.
 Though my musical roots are heavily influenced by the punk and metal scenes of the 70's and 80's,and being inspired to pick up the bass after watching John Entwistle's amazing prowess on The Who film "The Kids Are Alright", it was after listening to Jaco's album "Three Views of a Secret" that I was completely and utterly blown away by the possibility of the bass as a truly multifaceted instrument. Upon hearing Jaco's rendition of The Beatles' "Blackbird" I was struck with the severe revelation that left me (and my muse) in awestruck admiration for this new found gem.

 In 1984,while burning up copies of Metallica's Ride The Lightning,Black Flag's Slip It In,and Dead Kennedys' In God We Trust, I stumbled upon an article in Guitar Player Magazine written by Bill Milkowski (that same article was later reprinted in the pages of the book "Bass Heroes" GPI Books,Miller Freeman Inc. ISBN0-87930-274-7). The article was about Jaco..whom I had heard of but never actually heard (or so I thought) and I was intrigued by the self proclaimed "World's Greatest Bass Player".

 "Holy shit! This is the guy from Weather Report?" (this is long before the internet and Wikipedia folks). I knew I had to pay more attention to this guy. That's when I decided to delve into his music..and it consumed me. The fact that Jaco refereed to his own music as "Punk Jazz"...well,that sealed the deal.

 Yes...I ripped the frets out of my Hondo P-Bass copy (damn thing had a tremelo!). I did this ala Jaco...with a pair of pliers while sitting in a Bible study group in a small, agricultural, So Cal town called Blythe. It could have been Siberia for all we knew. Any news,especially that of a musical bent,was retrieved from basic,very basic,cable and the local radio station (where I worked after graduating high school). So any musical info came from magazine subscriptions and word of mouth from the scant handful of musicians. Blythe was no cultural hub folks. Needless to say that finding Jaco was a super nova of auditory input.

 Jaco's music impassioned me to be a better bassist,artist,musician. It did so in such a secretive way,though. I found myself assimilating his attitude,albeit subconsciously at first. I remember wanting to play like Billy Sheehan, John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, and Hendrix, and I now found myself infused with a new found passion to my playing. I wanted to contribute to the overall experience of the music I was involved in whether it was metal, punk,gospel,blues,prog,or whatever And this new found passion came from listening to Jaco. It was as if I was starting anew. Granted, I had only been playing bass for about 3-4 years at the time,but I felt like I needed to re-evaluate what the bass was...and could be.

 I had been listening to metal and punk..and my mother had classical and big band playing all the time in the house, dad had traditional Mexican ranchera music from the heavy weights like Vicente Fernandes, Antonio Aguilar, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, as well as  Los Tigres Del Norte, so I had a variety of music around me to infuse into my id. But over the next year my musical taste expanded to include jazz in all it's forms. Fusion became a comfortable home for me..with it's rock attitude and virtuoso me the best of rock and jazz had hit me straight in the face..and at the front of this new found passion was Jaco. Yes..I know Jaco was more than "fusion", but in a sense he redefined fusion to me. Truly not limited by his instrument or any genre he mastered..Jaco could walk down Saks 5th Ave and any ole' chittlin circuit back alley without skipping a beat and that's what fusion means to me. Thank you Jaco.

 So..on about 30 yrs + and I am in a progressive improgroovinstrumetal trio, to be exact, and Jaco's music is still a big part of what drives me to create interesting and melodic bass lines with true consideration to the overall composition. I frequently play a fretless Jazz. A sunburst Vin Modified Fretless, no pickguard, and a laser etched image of Jaco on the neckplate. For luck,of course.

 In 2014 I won the Songwriters Showcase of America's Musician of the Year. It's an honor that blew my mind...and frankly, I just don't get it folks! I am truly honored but I have yet to feel satisfied with my playing and continuously strive to be better.However I would like to think...actually I know, that Jaco's music,artistry,and passion is what lead me to places I never imagined as an artist. Without Jaco I wouldn't still be at this in the way I am. Jaco has been opening doors for me like he has for so many bassists over the years.

I don't know who said it..but they said it well...

 “Jaco opened the door, and we walked through.”

 Thank you Jaco..for your music, your passion,and for opening the door.
And thank you Robert Trujillo for realizing a dream for Jaco fans the world over.
                                       Eres el hombre mas chingon ese!!!!!

 Juan R. Leõn Vasquez
 Feb 2015

Jaco The Film
Jaco Pastorius  
Jaco:"The World's Greatest Bass Player" Biography by Bill Milkowski
Robert Trujillo
Guitar Player Magazine


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