Watch Jaco Pastorius go from funk to fuzz in one of his most groundbreaking bass solos

Jaco Pastorius (1951 - 1987) performing with Weather Report at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, Illinois, November 15, 1978.
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

On September 29, 1978, Weather Report took to the stage in Offenbach, Germany, with the seminal fusion band’s most celebrated lineup of keyboardist Joe Zawinul, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Dressed in bright-red pants, long hair swinging wildly, Jaco’s solo spot is delivered with metaphorical blood, plenty of sweat and probably a few tears too, and is still one of the most exciting wakeup calls for young bass players everywhere.

A guided tour of Pastorius’s talents, the solo traverses a series of staccato runs and a harmonic masterclass, developing into a funk and blues jam and even a fuzz freakout. It’s a jaw-dropping display of technical ambition and execution across a 10-minute odyssey, and essential viewing for bassists of all stripes.

Even today, Jaco’s aggressive but melodic upfront style, demonstrated in inspired fashion throughout this 1978 concert – complete with his classic track Teen Town and the global funk of River People – stands out as a reference point by which modern bass playing divides into ‘pre- and post-Jaco’.

“He’d do a bass solo every night and end it with the bass on the ground with a note sustaining,” Jaco’s close friend and contemporary, Michael Brecker, once said. “He’d do a running flip over the bass and dampen the note as he was in mid-air [in the clip at around 10:00]. And that was the end of the solo.”

Back in the early '80s, Bass Player spoke to Jaco about his legendary 1962 Fender Jazz. "I throw this thing around," he said. "I do flips on it, but I've never, ever, hurt this bass, ever! It looks like I demolish it every night, but I've never touched it; I've had it now for 11 years.”

"The secret to the sound is to drop it on the floor!" he continued. "I got this bass for 90 bucks with a case, and the frets were out. See this shit that looks like somebody chewed it up? That's the way it was when I got it. Petit's Poly-Poxy, that's what I put on the neck, but that shit won't go away. $90 with a case! The most I've been offered for this bass is $80,000!”

Anyone reading this who has watched Jaco’s infamous Modern Electric Bass video – with the great bassist struggling to play his classic Portrait of Tracy – will revel in the inspired bass playing throughout this concert.

While much of this footage was pinned in fuzzy YouTube form for some time, it is now available on a commemorative DVD that captures the full live Weather Report experience.

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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.