Happy Birthday Jaco Pastorius: Performing Live In Berlin In ’76

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Jaco Pastorius is one of the greatest bassists of all time. His picking up the electric four-string bass, somewhat unusual for a mid-20th-century jazz bassist, came out of necessity. Jaco grew up in the Fort Lauderdale area. He saved up money for the standard double bass but had a hard time maintaining it. Jaco blamed the humid climate in Florida and after waking up one morning and finding his standup bass cracked, switched to the electric bass.

As the legend goes, Pastorius removed the frets on his 1962 Fender Jazz Bass to make it sound more like a standup, practically inventing the fretless electric bass. He called it the Bass Of Doom. Fender would begin to offer an actual fretless bass in the 1980s and would also release a Jaco Pastorius signature model in the 1990s.

With his innovative instrument, Pastorius would go on to play with landmark jazz crossover group Weather Report as well as Joni Mitchell, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and more. But Pastorius’ own contributions and innovations to his instrument would influence generations of bass players.

Today, December 1, marks what would have been his 68th birthday. He died tragically at the far too early age of 35 due to injuries sustained in an altercation. But not before he would revolutionize his instrument. That fact is on full display during one of his shows from Berlin in 1976.

While Jaco had begun his tenure with Weather Report the same year, in Berlin he played with a trio rounded out by renowned musicians Alphonse Mouzon (drums) and Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone). Mouzon was Weather Report’s first drummer but would go on to play with such jazz and rock luminaries as Weather Report’s Wayne Shorter, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and many more. One of Germany’s most famous jazz musicians, Albert Mangelsdorff was an innovator of the free jazz and multiphonics styles.

The Berlin show features mostly composition from Mangelsdorff and kicks off with his “Foreign Fun.” As a very much free form jazz show the band improvised on a number of extended instrumentals including “Trilogue” and the Pastorius composition “Portrait Of Tracy.” The set closed out with “Ant Steps on an Elephant’s Toe.” Check it out via YourFreeSelf below:

Setlist:

Set: Foreign Fun, Accidental Meeting, Zores Mores, Trilogue, Portrait Of Tracy, Trio Song, Ant Steps on an Elephant’s Toe