Rarely has an individual player so radically transformed an already established band as Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) did upon joining Weather Report in 1976. Not only did the electric bassist set a new direction for the band, leading it to unprecedented commercial success, he also rewrote the rules for his instrument. Long after his tragic death, Pastorius remains the single most influential electric bassist, his virtuosic, daring, and eminently funky playing still a model for countless instrumentalists. His work with Weather Report is among the very finest of his truncated career.
With co-founders Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter at the helm, Weather Report had already positioned itself as one of the leading fusion ensembles of the era. Yet when the brash young -- and practically unknown -- bassist elbowed his way into the band, he very quickly injected an energy and infectious rhythmic feel that solidified the various musical directions the band had been investigating. The bassist's amalgamation of jazz, R&B, and world music influences lent an irresistible spice to the Weather Report brew.
Pastorius's startling playing, both wildly frenetic and deeply lyrical, enlivened such Weather Report gems as "Birdland" and "A Remark You Made," two signature masterpieces from the 1977 hit album, Heavy Weather. A distinctive composer as well as a master player, Pastorius also penned such Weather Report favorites as "Teen Town", "Punk Jazz," and the lauded "Three Views of a Secret."
8:30, the Grammy-winning 1979 live album, may best capture both the brute force and the instrumental reach of this ambitious band. Zawinul's keyboard outings, Shorter's evocative saxophone swirls, Peter Erskine's striking drumming, and the bassist s dazzling explorations (exemplified by the momentous solo feature, "Slang," which interpolates his "Portrait of Tracy," a highlight of Pastorius's first solo album) were mighty examples of a peak-era fusion outfit. It may be a long while before we encounter the likes of a musical unit such as Weather Report, or an audaciously brilliant player akin to Pastorius, again.
The Columbia Albums Collection (6 CDs):
1. Black Market (1976)
2. Heavy Weather (1977)
3. Mr. Gone (1978)
4. 8:30 (1979)
5. Night Passage (1980)
6. Weather Report (1982)