Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jaco Pastorius - 2014 "Anthology" - The Warner Bros. Years

Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years is a comprehensive anthology of Jaco Pastorius' output for the label, in 2 CDs, including collaborations with Airto Moreira and Mike Stern, as well as the previously unreleased "Donna Lee" from The Birthday Concert, available for the very first time. Accompanying the discs is a 16-page booklet, featuring a comprehensive essay by Bill Milkowski, author of Jaco: The Extraordinary And Tragic Life Of Jaco Pastorius, and photos by Shigeru Uchiyama.

In 1981, Jaco Pastorius left Weather Report to pursue work with his Word of Mouth Big Band. He released his second solo effort, Word of Mouth under his new contract with Warner Bros.

On December 1st of that year, Jaco celebrated his 30th birthday by hosting a party at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida club. He flew in musicians from the Word of Mouth project to perform, and the event was recorded by Jaco’s friend and engineer Peter Yianilos. Yianilos intended for the recording to be a birthday gift, but it remained unreleased until 1995, when Warner released it on The Birthday Concert.

In 1982, Jaco took his Word of Mouth band on a tour in Japan, which resulted in the release of Invitation in the U.S. by Warner.

Warner has just released an all-new anthology which collects remastered versions of many of the tracks on those three albums, along with some of Jaco’s guest appearances, and a previously unreleased performance of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.”

The two guest appearances include “Nativity,” from percussionist Airto Moreira’s 1977 album I’m Fine, How Are You? and “Mood Swings,” from Mike Stern’s 1986 release, Upside Downside.

Jaco biographer Bill Milkowski contributed the liner notes for the anthology, saying “Through his brilliant innovations…Pastorius liberated his instrument from its traditional role in the background and re-imagined it as a potent solo axe and orchestral tool.”

Material from Jaco Pastorius’s solo career has been compiled many times over. That’s what happens to a musician who meets an untimely death. People want more, but there’s only a finite number of recorded goods. Pastorius recorded plenty of stuff during and after his tenure in the jazz fusion supergroup Weather Report. His legendary status came from him finding a highly specialized niche within the genre, that of a wizard of the fretless bass.

The hit title track from 1976’s Black Market gave a snapshot of Pastorius transforming the low end instrument into, if not a lead instrument, one capable of mighty hooks. Joe Zawinul’s Weather Report soared to new heights with Pastorius and Wayne Shorter in the lineup, but it’s tough to argue whether or not their respective departures resulted in Weather Report losing steam. At any rate, Pastorius’s next move was to wrap up work on an album called Word of Mouth.

This is the starting point of Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years, a collection that only spans three albums. So if you already have copies of Word of Mouth, The Birthday Concert and Invitation, you already have a majority of what Anthology has to offer. What remains are only three tracks of the 22 track double-disc compilation, two of which were previously accounted for on albums where Pastorius was a guest musician. The one not accounted for is a live recording of “Donna Lee”, which is interesting but not as refined as the version heard on Pastorius’s self-titled 1976 record.

Since The Birthday Concert and Invitation are both live albums, the studio tracks are naturally outnumbered on Anthology. One factor that strained the working relationship between Pastorius and Joe Zawinul was Zawinul’s distaste for Pastorius’s showmanship. Watching those old Weather Report shows, he sometimes looked like a rock star trapped inside a jazz band. But sure enough, the crowds as Pastorius’s shows ate it up. You hear it at the end of every live track, the sound of an audience getting pumped up after hearing jazz! With horns too! “Liberty City”, “Soul Intro/The Chicken” and “Invitation” are chock-full of zest, tight auxiliary percussion be damned. “Continuum” and the Weather Report leftover “Punk Jazz” slow the momentum to steady grooves. There is lots of overlap between these two live albums and, for many fans of jazz fusion, picking one version of “Continuum” over another is a matter of apples against oranges.

Proportionately, Word of Mouth is represented just as favorably. Six of its seven songs are here on Anthology, leaving out the 12-minute take of “Liberty City”. And what a brilliantly weird album Word of Mouth was. It begins with a bafflingly fast composition called “Crisis” where Pastorius plays seemingly every note on the neck as the horns scramble for a place to live. “Crisis” doesn’t seem to have a center or a main idea driving it, but it somehow feels like an appropriate opener. His band channel the majesty of the far east for “Chromatic Fantasy” and ram the Beatles’s “Blackbird” through a polyphonic skewer. Both tracks are short and end abruptly, as if someone accidentally sat on the mixing desk. And though Pastorius seemed to be taking a boppier direction in his solo career at this point, “Three Views of a Secret” and “John and Mary” demonstrate that he still had an element of Weather Report-esque fusion in his system.

Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years wraps up with the three outsider tracks mentioned earlier:  “Nativity”, Mood Swings” and “Donna Lee”. “Nativity” comes from percussionist Airto Moreira’s 1977 Warner release I’m Fine, How Are You? and “Mood Swings” is drawn from guitarist Mike Stern’s 1986 album Upside Down. Pastorius’ presence is felt heavily on “Nativity”, a track that swings from ambient world to something with considerably more drive to it. The duet with Mike Stern is some intense straight up jam fusion. The live recording of the Charlie Parker tune “Donna Lee”, the one and only exclusive to Anthology.

If you consider yourself a bass player and you don’t hold Jaco Pastorius in the highest esteem, then we can only presume you’ve never really listened to the man, because he’s one of those guys whose work with the instrument was so unique and groundbreaking that it’s hard to hear it without wanting to drop to your knees and begin recitation of the phrase, “I’m not worthy!”

‘Anthology: The Warner Bros. Years’ is one of many retrospectives of bass genius Jaco Pastorius’ work that have been issued since his tragic death at the age of 35. Containing music from his time with the Warner Bros. label, the vast majority of the album is made up of selections from his sophomore solo studio release ‘Word Of Mouth’ and live albums ‘The Birthday Concert’ and ‘Invitation’.

Among the four tracks which are not from these albums, first up is a live version of ‘Okonkole y Trompa’ from debut album ‘Jaco Pastorius’. This recording comes from the Japanese release ‘Twins I & II’ and stays pretty close to the original as an atmospheric piece featuring some beautiful French horn. ‘Nativity’ from Weather Report and Return To Forever percussionist Airto Moreira’s 1977 album, ‘I’m Fine, How Are You?’, continues in the atmospheric vein before a more upbeat mood is struck on ‘Mood Swings’ from Mike Stern’s ‘Upside Downside’.

While the idea of seeing Jaco in other settings could well provide some interest, if there are only a couple of token examples his work with Joni Mitchell or Pat Metheny would almost certainly lend more insight than the selections here. All three of the tracks here were in fact included on 2003's 'Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology' alongside some of his work with Mitchell and Metheny as well recordings from the beginnings of Jaco's career in an altogether more cohesive and informative compilation.

Here’s the track listing, to get you further excited about diving into the set:

Disc One

1. “Crisis”
2. “Blackbird”
3. “Chromatic Fantasy”
4. “Word Of Mouth”
5. “Three Views Of A Secret”
6. “John And Mary”
7. “Continuum”
8. “Liberty City”
9. “Soul Intro / The Chicken”
10. “Reza”
11. “Happy Birthday”

Disc Two

1. “Punk Jazz”
2. “Amerika”
3. “Invitation”
4. “Domingo”
5. “Sophisticated Lady”
6. “Fannie Mae”
7. “Eleven”
8. “Okonkole’ Y Trompa”
9. “Nativity” – with Airto Moreira
10. “Mood Swings” – with Mike Stern
11. “Donna Lee” – previously unreleased



  2. Thanks a lot for sharing this album. I'm a Jaco fan and his bass style is an absolute pioneer for the genre and for the musical instrument.