Jaco Pastorius Opens Up in His First Guitar World Interview From 1983
Here's Guitar World's first interview with bass legend Jaco Pastorius from the May 1983 issue.
In fact, one really didn't notice that it was a bass at all; it could have been a guitar or a synthesizer or an electric piano he was playing.
Victor Bailey supplied the history: "If I may interject, the thing that happened was: Stanley Clarke says, 'I don't want to be in the background and be a bass player; I want to play some music.' Then Alphonso Johnson says, 'Okay, but I can do more with the bass.' And then Jaco says, 'Hell with being a bass - let it be whatever I want it to be!'" Victor himself has the hardest act to follow in bassdom.
As a matter of course, Victor supplied some of the best commentary of the evening, as thoughts and jibes bounced between the two bassists. What was amazing about the duo was the camaraderie between them, considering that this was the first time they'd spent together.
You might think that Jaco and Victor would not be so chummy, one replaced by the other in a world famous, often recorded, and from its inception all-star band. This wasn't the case at all, though. Jaco is still chummy and connected to, if critical of, his former bandmates.
"I have not left Weather Report, and I am not 'Miscellaneous Personnel,'" he maintained. "Victor, I guess, is going on tour, and he's a very lucky cat to get that position. Joseph Zawinul does overkill, and his technological overkill sucks, but there's no friction between us; I just say, 'Look,' and that's it. Do you have any idea how much music I learned from him? I played a D-seven-sus-nine for Joe once and he said, 'Hell, that sounds terrible; only Duke Ellington can do that!'"
Jaco continued, "One of the important things Joe taught me is that the media actually is helping you if you permit them to help you." Let's help him clarify: some critics felt that Jaco was getting too big to be the bassist of Weather Report, that his conception of music overstepped his ability to be a team player. He said, "My concept is not bigger than Weather Report. I am Weather Report. It comes through me; I do not create nothing. It comes from being a child and listening to the radio every day of my life.
"See what happens: Joseph Zawinul on the planet today. And Joe knows what he wants — he's an Aryan, he's Germanic and I don't care if everybody knows it. Joseph Zawinul can play like nobody! Joseph Zawinul and Toots Thielmans, in my opinion, are the only Europeans who can play rhythm-and-blues.”
Composer/keyboardist Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter are, of course, the founding members of Weather Report; guitarist/harmonica virtuoso and whistler Thielmans contributed his composition "Bluesette" to Jaco's Word of Mouth.
Jaco still harbors a warm ambivalence toward the band he was with for six years and half a dozen albums, including Mr. Gone, 8:30, Night Passage and Weather Report; he implies that their business sense never matched the quality of their music or their personal relations.
"My momma told me when I joined Weather Report, 'They've got the worst managers in the world.' Joseph Zawinul and Wayne Shorter are my best friends, and Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams, too. I mean, they will never lie to me. If I need some help they tell me right to my face. And that's what nobody understands. You see, I grew up on the tracks; to me, white and black - there's no difference, Bro."
What about Jaco's contribution to the electric bass? He took time to talk about the fantastic "Chromatic Fantasy" — a transcription of a Bach organ piece he performed on electric bass on Word of Mouth.
"I will say one thing: I invented the electric bass, and everybody knows it. The 'Chromatic Fantasy?' That don't mean shit. I just want to play the blues — in F," he laughed.
But he plays it fast. This interchange began:
Jaco: "I don't play fast! "
Victor: "When you listen to a person whose objective is to play fast you go, ‘Wow, That guy can really play fast.'"
Jaco: "I have never tried to play fast in my life."
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