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Jaco Pastorius - Truth, Liberty & Soul – Live In NYC album review

1982 live portrait of a genius at work

Jaco Pastorius - Truth, Liberty & Soul – Live In NYC album artwork

There are few musicians who can credibly claim to have changed the world, but Jaco Pastorius is one of them. After he appeared on the international scene, his unique sound created a wave upon which he surfed triumphantly, and almost everyone else fell by in his wake, trying to figure out how he did it. That signature sound mixed a smooth, fretless slide with an ebullient swagger, glittering with resonant harmonics. And although almost every bassist around the globe would try to emulate him, nobody ever managed to sound quite like Pastorius. Though his grandstanding could get the better of him toward the end of his revelatory tenure with Weather Report, on this pristine-sounding two-disc set, containing 40 minutes of unreleased music, the bassist had his ego in check and his incredible gifts firmly in support of the music.

The celebratory feel to the concert allows Jaco considerable expressive scope to show how he was able to back up his oft-stated claim that he was ‘the greatest bassist in the world’. As impressive as his solo perambulations are, the sparks truly fly when he’s operating within the capacious embrace of the 22-piece ensemble that includes his Weather Report sidekick, drummer Pete Erskine. This brass-heavy outing draws upon his 1981 solo album, Word Of Mouth. With steel drums and Toots Thielmans’ sunny harmonica casting a warm glow on top of swinging, punchy arrangements, pieces such as Three Views Of Secret, Liberty City and a devastating ensemble reading of Donna Lee produce a dazzling festival of colour and counterpoint. This release is accompanied by an impressive 100-page booklet featuring exhaustive and informative interviews, and it sets the bar for other archive projects. It also does a great job of reminding us of the phenomenal talent that was lost forever just five years after this remarkable concert was recorded. Taken from us aged just 35, Jaco, we hardly knew ye.