“It was one of the few tunes that the band didn’t try to play live, but it’s definitive Jaco”: Discovering Jaco Pastorius and the making of Havona

Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Manolo Badrena, Alex Acuna, Jaco Pastorius performing live onstage
(Image credit: Photos by Andrew Putler/Redferns & Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“Come here and take a look at this.” The request came from legendary engineer Ron Malo, whose recordings at Chess, Motown, Capitol and other labels ranged from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel. He was speaking to young engineer Brian Risner. On the other side of the glass, an equally youthful Jaco Pastorius had just plugged in for his Weather Report audition track: Cannonball, from the album Black Market

As Risner relates, “Ron said, ‘All I have is maybe 3dB of peak limiting and almost no EQ, and it’s not even going into limiting. There’s only one other bass player I’ve ever worked with who got this great a sound from his hands, and that was James Jamerson.’”

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.