Watch Will Lee and Richard Bona cover Liberty City by Jaco Pastorius in this exclusive clip from the Beneath The Bassline documentary

Jaco Pastorious performs on stage with Weather Report at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 1981
(Image credit: Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Jaco Pastorius will be forever remembered as arguably the number one bass player of all time. Even today, his aggressive but melodic upfront style, demonstrated in such inspired fashion on his 1976 self-titled debut, stands as a reference point by which modern bass guitar playing divides into ‘pre-Jaco’ and ‘post-Jaco.’ The album became to the electric bass what Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix was to the electric guitar.

“I think it’s impossible to pick up a fretless electric bass and not think of Jaco Pastorius,” says jazz bassist Christian McBride. “Much in the same way that you can't pick up an alto saxophone and not think of Charlie Parker. At some point you either consciously try to avoid that or you address it without even knowing."

Our clip features a roll-call of bass players from jazz, rock, blues and funk who each cite Pastorius as an inspiration, speaking of an artist who changed the game. “When I first heard Jaco's solo record it stopped me in my tracks," said bassist and bandleader Laurence Cottle. "He employed techniques that had never been executed on the bass guitar before. Joe Zawinul once said that Jaco had that magical thing about him, like Jimi Hendrix had. He was a real superstar.”

Laurence Cottle and Jaco Pastorius juggling in Boston

(Image credit: Laurence Cottle)

Laurence first met Jaco in the early 1980s. “Weather Report were playing in Boston and just as we were going into the theater he was walking out," says Laurence in the clip. "We talked about music and all about the gig. He said that he was a keen juggler and I was as well, so we went out onto the common and had an afternoon of juggling. Jaco was a superstar and embraced everything that went with it, but in his formative years he was completely dedicated to music. Music was everything to him.”

Jaco's 1976 debut album is available to download (opens in new tab). For more info visit jacopastorius.com. The full 90 minute Beneath The Bassline documentary is available to download and stream (opens in new tab).

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Nick Wells
Writer

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.