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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jaco Pastorius

Heavy ‘N Jazz

Review by Gary Hill

When it comes to bass players you just can’t get much better than Jaco Pastorius. This album from him might not be his best, but it’s got some great material. A live recording (with one studio track) from 1986, Pastorius is joined by Serge Bringolf on drums and Bireli Lagrene on guitar. The music here does a great job of treading the fine line between jazz and rock and at times reminds me of King Crimson. This might not be Pastorius’ best disc, but it’s got some fine material (although the sound quality on the live stuff isn’t quite top notch – it’s not bad either). I’d heartily recommend this to all his fans – and anyone who appreciates some great bass work.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Broad Way Blues

Distortion and nearly metal sounds dominate the short bass solo that leads off here. It then shifts out to a more pure fusion texture for a fast paced jam that’s quite cool. The bass still dominates but other instrumentation is heard alongside. Around the minute and a half minute mark guitar takes over moving us into a jazz trio sort of motif. This is worked out and around and eventually moves into some rather King Crimson like territory. It’s some amazing stuff. Around the five minute mark they resolve into a more pure jazz journey. That lasts less than a minute and they take it back to more Crimsonian styled fusion improv. This gets very crunchy and hard rock like as it carries forward. Around the ten minute mark this is turned out into a drum solo. A more traditional jazz trio sound takes it after the solo and ends it after working through.

 

Bluma/Smoke on the Water
The first minute or so of this is a spoken introduction of the band members. Then guitar enters and begins a mellow jazz jam. This extended guitar solo segment gets quite fiery at times. We even get a Van Halen style hammer on section – albeit with a jazz guitar sound. Around the three and a half minute mark it moves out to something along the lines of Al Di Meola. The guitar sound turns more rocking and I am reminded of Hendrix. A short classical section takes it and then we’re into a technical hard rock guitar solo – ala Malmsteen. As the title says, we get a rounding jam on the Deep Purple classic. At first it’s just guitar and then the rest of the guys join. As they move into a jamming groove the guitar solos and again I hear King Crimson at times.
Medley: Purple Haze/Third Stone from the Sun/Teen Town

Bass starts this off and holds it for a time. As this actually moves into “Purple Haze” it’s just on the bass at first and feels very King Crimson-like. As the other instruments join there’s still a bit of that KC texture, but we also get more Hendrix in the midst – appropriate since it’s his song. They shift out into a more groove oriented excursion as they carry forward, moving in new directions. A while after the six and a half minute mark they take it out into some full on funk. This holds it for a minute or so and then we are taken into “Third Stone from the Sun.” Then it’s back out into the funk as they continue. They take it from there into a more rock oriented excursion and then shift back to fusion as they carry forward. We get more funk further down the road. As they continue on this long trip (this track is over seventeen minutes in length) we are treated to some of the most incendiary guitar work of the whole disc. They keep changing and rearranging the song structure as they carry on. The tempo is ramped way up later as the cut moves more towards some serious hard rock jamming. A couple more changes ensue before they close it out. If this were the only great track on here (and it’s not) the disc would be worth having. That’s how good this is.
 

Star Spangled Banner
Much as Jimi Hendrix made this piece his own when he created a guitar solo around it, Jaco Pastorius does the same here bring his own flavor to it on this noisy bass solo.
Reza

As this comes in it feels like another take on “Smoke on the Water,” but with a more jazz jam texture and arrangement. They take it out from there into solid jamming that calls to mind the type of material California Guitar Trio are known for. We get more distorted sounds as it turns more hard rocking (and closer again to that Deep Purple song) later. They rework this and at times I’m reminded of Trevor Rabin’s music. We get a drum solo a little past the three minute mark. When the other instruments join back in it’s with the same sounds that lead off the track and they work through a similar progression of elements.

 

Honestly

This is a (mostly) unaccompanied bass solo. Pastorius covers a lot of musical territory on this. It’s cool, but probably a bit much for non-bass people. If you are a bassist like me, though, it’s amazing.

Invitation
Here is a fairly typical jazz jam that moves through a number of changes and alterations. At times the guitar definitely moves it into the hard rock realm, though. It’s another strong piece on a disc with no shortage of them.
Jaco Reggae

The sole studio performance here, this is also the one minor misstep. Much of this is far too mellow and “pop” oriented. It’s got its moments and its charms, but overall this is not up to the same musical quality as the rest of the stuff on show. There is a cool, rock and roll section later in the piece.

 
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