Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The World's Greatest Bass Player"

I just finished reading Bill Milkowski's biography of Jaco Pastorius, The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius. I was a little skeptical aobut the book when I started reading it, expecting it to be a tribute of sorts, glossing over the sadder parts of Jaco's life. That said, I really liked the book. Milwowski does a great job detailing the life of Jaco and demonstrating how bad his mental illness really was. The book isn't at all hagiographic, but rather portrays Jaco as he was, a gifted musician with a severe and troubling problems. Part of the problem he faced was the way his behavior alienated everyone around him and the extent of his denial that he needed help. I found myself emotionally moved at times, experiencing anger, sadness, and frustration. Its a good read for any Jaco fns or jazz fans in general.

It got me thinking. I've always been a big Jaco fan. Following him, my electric basses are Fender jazz basses. I have one (a '78) that's been with me for years. I used to have a '69 fretless. I sold it when we moved to Canada and it became a significant portion of the down payment on our house. One of the first pieces I learned was Teen Town and in high school I was always chided for playing the opening of Birdland as false harmonics rather than following the bass line as written.

I remember when I first learned of Jaco's death. I was in college at rehearsal for the jazz ensemble. The piano player told me about it and we talked a bit about him. The band had a few (well, more than a few) purists in it who either weren't impressed by him or (in one case) didn't know who he was.

It makes me wonder what he could have accomplished had he gotten (and accepted) his the help he needed.

1 comment:

Anywhere said...

I read the book and found myself moved at times and outraged at others, like yourself.

I am friendly with Ingrid, his second wife and mother of the twins (Felix and Julius) and I can say she's fairly ambivalent about it but annoyed by ceratin factual errors which she has dedicated a section of her website to correcting.

See for yourself: