Friday, January 1, 2016

A few thoughts on Jaco (2015)

I highly recommend Jaco (2015)for anybody, at any age, with an interest in music (or in cultural studies for that matter). Although it might help to be familiar with Jaco Pastorius, the musicians he worked with, and the albums he recorded, you really don't need to be to appreciate this documentary. For me, personally, Jaco and his contemporaries were musical heroes. They were in their prime when I was learning to play, and I continually turn to their LPs from the 70s and 80s for ideas and for inspiration.

Two bits of history I was not aware of before watching this struck me, and both pertain to Jaco's masterpiece, Word of Mouth (1981). The first is that Jaco desperately wanted Joe Zawinul's approval of it, and that Zawinul in turn was so dismissive of it when he heard it (here and in Peter Erskine's No Beethoven: An Autobiography & Chronicle of Weather Report Zawinul does not come off as the nicest, most easy-going cat). The second is that Warner Brothers was looking for a completely different kind of LP, something more akin to a pop album, and that they didn't know what to do with it and couldn't market it. Here I'd always considered Word of Mouth an artistic triumph, but I was too young at the time to understand that it was a commercial failure.

Jaco's is a sad, tragic story but an important one. Check out this documentary when you can.

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