Support the news

Songs We Love: Jaco Pastorius, 'Okonkole Y Trompa'

Jaco Pastorius.closemore
Jaco Pastorius.

When I tell people, "I saw Jaco play," I'm sometimes held in the same kind of reverential wonder that I shower on those who saw John Coltrane. Such is the reverence for his prolific, genre-busting vision and killer chops (jazz speak for an intensely creative display of technical prowess).

Between roughly 1974 and 1986, bassist Jaco Pastorious blazed a trail across the music landscape, speaking mostly jazz but having grown up steeped in R&B. Along the way, Jaco used his trusty fret-less Fender bass to redefine the role of the bass guitar in improvised music. That vision is audible as early as 1975's Bright Size Life, a trio album with guitarist Pat Metheny and drummer Bob Moses, but came into full bloom when Jaco was a member of the pioneering fusion band Weather Report, from 1976 to 1982. His compositions were part of just about every recording project he worked on.

His influence was, in other words, immense. The soundtrack for Jaco, an upcoming documentary, is produced by, among others, Pastorious's son John and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo.

"Okonkole Y Trompa," from his solo album Jaco Pastorious is a reflective, moody piece based on Afro-Cuban santeria rhythms of the late percussionist Don Alias, percolating under an airy, French horn meditation played by Peter Gordon. For my money, it reflects the yin and the yang of Jaco's essence: taking the bass to new sonic limits with an intensely emotional sense of melody and beauty.

Can't wait to see the film.

The original soundtrack of Jaco is out now on Sony Legacy.

Copyright NPR 2017.

+Join the discussion

Support the news

Next Up

Where to now?

More NPR or Explore Audio.