jacoAs a bass player, I was influenced by players such as Geddy Lee from Rush, Iron Madien’s Steve Harris and Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath among others. But there’s one guy that established the benchmark for everyone; one who not only set the bar but raised it to a dizzying height, and that was Jaco Pastorius. Most likely you haven’t heard of Jaco as bass players are not usually the stand out rock stars of the group. But, if you ever heard of jazz legends Weather Report or you’re a fan of Joni Mitchell, you’ve heard some of Jaco’s work.

Jaco is to the bass what Jimi Hendrix is to the electric guitar. He redefined the instrument in ways noone saw coming creating sounds and phrasing that players have been trying to replicate their whole careers. Just to give you an idea of how influential a player he was, there were bass players that broke their thumbs trying to achieve the same fingering techniques that Jaco was able to pull off.

The documentary (produced by Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo) showcases Jaco’s brilliance as a musician as well as his life as a family man in addition to his mercurial rise in the heyday of his career to the spiraling downfall as a homeless man suffering from alcoholism and being bi-polar ultimately leading to his murder. The story has moments of amazing happiness and inspiration from some incredible music (I’ll be hitting iTunes soon) to the heartbreak of someone who had it all and lost it all leaving a lot of people and even more questions behind.

Trujillo and his crew put together a beautiful piece here, I was engaged from the opening of the film all the way through the end credits. Fans of music (especially jazz) owe it to themselves to watch this doc and learn some important history while being turned on to a chapter of the music that maybe wasn’t appreciated before. I know I felt that way after I saw it. I was familiar with Jaco as a young musician but I never understood the impact he had on the instrument much less how he helped to redefine not only how it was played but how it fit within music itself. It’s mind blowing when you see Jaco trading licks with some of the most incredible piano players and trumpet players ever, matching notes and phrasing as has never been done before and has never been re-created since. He was one-of-a-kind.

People interviewed throughout the doc include members of Jaco’s family as well as musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Sting, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Geddy Lee, Bootsy Collins, and Herbie Hancock among others. The archival footage alone makes this worth watching, especially the footage from the Montreaux Jazz Fest.

If you are a bass player or just a fan of good music, especially jazz, catch this on Netflix.

reviewed by Sean McKnight