Friday, June 30, 2017

Jaco Pastorius - Truth, Liberty and Soul (Resonance Records, 2017)

Electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius and his Word of Mouth Big Band, which for this gig included jazz harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, were recorded in New York City in June of 1982, as part of the Kool Jazz Festival, and some of that performance was broadcast on NPR at the time. This package contains the whole concert, beginning with "Invitation" which opens the album in a warm and ingratiating fashion with Jaco's bass developing a thick and inviting tone and the rest of the band filling in with him. Randy Brecker and Bob Mintzer anchor the horn section and the band's secret ingredient is the steel drums of Othello Molineaux, which is one of the most distinguishing aspects of this band. He is playing an instrument rarely used in jazz, but sounds right at home in this setting. "Soul Intro/The Chicken" casts a glance back at the leader's rhythm and blues roots. The band riffs hard and Jaco's bass underpins a wicked groove and a powerfully built string of solos. Jazz standards play a role in the album as well, whether it is a blistering run through the bebop standard "Donna Lee" or sensitive ballad treatments of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" or Toots Thielemans taking the lead on his own subtle and intricate composition "Musette." Disc Two takes even more risks, like on the blistering medley "Reza/Giant Steps" with Pastorius taking the lead solo. The electric bass had been played in jazz before, but rarely with the speed and facility that is shown here, as evidenced by the lengthy "Bass and Drum Improvisation" where he folds in some credible Jimi Hendrix into the mix. "Fannie Mae" is a blasting move to the finish line, as Jaco introduces the band and the concert ends with a flourish. The result of a delicate dance between the Pastorius Estate, Warner Music Group and NPR Music was worth it, and this is highly recommended. Truth, Liberty and Soul - Live In NYC - amazon.com

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