“He’s our Hendrix,” said Juan Alderete of legendary bassist John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius. In fact, it took a bassist to produce a music documentary about another bassist. Robert Trujillo, bassist for Metallica, produced a fantastic documentary about the life and times of this musical virtuoso titled, “Jaco”. The two-disc set showcases Jaco’s life from his upbringing in Oakland Park, FL, all the way to his untimely death in 1987 at the age of 35.
For those of you who may or may not know, I was first a musician (saxophone specifically) before I became a photographer. During my high school years, my saxophone heroes were Eric Leeds and Kirk Whalum, I never even heard of Jaco. It wasn’t until I was in the 300th Army Band, where several musicians spoke about Jaco’s musical mastery. It was his sound and command of the bass that drew discussions about the man. It wasn’t until I saw a Facebook post advertising about the film Trujillo produced that finally motivated me to buy the DVD set. To be honest, I’m glad I bought the DVD because the film displayed early photos of Jaco, plus home movies and concert footage. But what really struck a chord with me were the personal stories and anecdotes people were sharing across both discs.
Seeing musical icons like Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Sting, Flea, Peter Erskine and others give heart-warming and funny stories about Jaco showed me how much they loved him. Without a doubt, the documentary simply showcased how much one man and musician was truly loved and respected. One of the highlights of the movie was seeing his first two kids (Mary and John Francis Pastorius IV) and his brother (Gregory) give interviews. There were recorded conversations of Jaco and his father throughout the film. The saddest part of the movie was the audio conversation of Jaco’s father talking about Jaco’s stint in the hospital while he was in a coma. But the most touching moment came when John, Jaco’s oldest son, commented about his father and the experiences he had growing up. It was obvious to me how much John missed his father and the emotion was clearly written all over his face.
The only thing Jaco wanted to do more than anything was to play music and he got to do just that. The list of musicians Jaco played with is astronomically legendary. He’s gotten to play with Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Michael Brecker, Al DiMeola and Joe Zawinul just to name a few. As much as he was loved by his peers, he was also a very polarizing figure, you either liked him or not which didn’t really matter to Jaco. Mitchell commented during the film that Jaco told her to take more control (or be more in charge) during the recording sessions. So when she did, he ignored her.
Prior to receiving the DVD, I first became aware of his story by watching on YouTube a four-part documentary about him by BBC Radio 1. The special outlined Jaco’s life just like the film and had not as many interviews like the film Trujillo produced. Did I spoil the experience of learning about Jaco? I don’t think so. It’s like reading a story told by different authors. I’m glad I was able to learn about Jaco, his bass, music and love of music. He truly loved what he did.
Jaco was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak and produced by Trujillo, John Pastorius IV, Bob Bobbing, Lorenzo Esparza, Andrew Ruhemann and John Battsek. The film won the 2015 Best Documentary at the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival and was an official selection at the 2015 South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. For more about The World’s Greatest Bass Player, visit www.jacothefilm.com, www.jacopastorius.com or do a YouTube search for “Jaco Pastorius”. You can also like the film on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jacodocumentary), Twitter (www.twitter.com/jacofilm) and on Instagram (www.instagram.com/jacofilm).