Remember way back in 1981, when skinny, Berklee-trained chopsmeister Victor Bailey took on the unenviable task of following the mighty Jaco Pastorius into Weather Report? The Philly-born musician - deeply influenced by Jaco, Stanley Clarke, and funk master Larry Graham - duly played like a mofo rising. Too bad Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul shifted into cruise control for the fusion band's final four records.
Nearly two decades later, and after countless mundane big-money gigs (i.e., Madonna, Mary J. Blige, the smooth-jazz brigade), the bassist gets his biggest artistic boost from the still effervescent spirit of Jaco, who died in 1987. Case in point: "Do You Know Who/Continuum," the soulful, haunting centerpiece of Bailey's first solo album since 1989's Bottom's Up. Bailey transcribed this Pastorius tune at age 16 and here retrofits its curious zigs and zags with lyrics that handily convey the impact of his early encounter with Jaco. "I've got to admit I was blown away / by the sound of his heart," Bailey sings, above his own four-string and overdubbed keyboards and the drumming of former Weather Report cohort Omar Hakim. "And it tore me apart / yet it gave me a brand-new start." It's a risky move that results in one of the smartest, sweetest, most moving of all tributes to the fallen genius.
Jaco also lurks in the grooves and moves of the title track, a chattering piece of fretboard frenzy, with Hakim and guitarist Wayne Krantz, that might have been inspired by "Teen Town." "Graham Cracker," a slap-and-tickle salute to the Graham Central Station dynamo, benefits from Kenny Garrett's righteous soprano sax. And "Baby Talk," a leisurely ballad, has the leader taking a straightahead stroll with drummer Dennis Chambers and pianist Jim Beard. Bailey, on the slow-funk turn "Feels Like a Hug" and practically everywhere else, blows like you knew he could and you hoped he would.
--Philip Booth, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz