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Rick Suchow: Bass

jaco pastorius rare mp3s...

Above sketch signed by Jaco, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine and Bob Mintzer, after the show (artwork by Chris Ciprios).

- Peter Erskine's letter describing the opening tune of the night, 'Invitation'.

"I remember how much I dug hearing Jaco up close like that. And also Gil Evans chuckling at how 'unabashedly romantic' Jaco's fretless was. It was definitely a beautiful night!"
- Marcus Miller's recent response when I asked him his recollection of Jaco's performance at Seventh Avenue South.

"So good to hear those soundclips of Jaco's band, the early Word Of Mouth quintet, and how fortunate you were there to record it. Thank you for maintaining your integrity regarding sharing it with us, the world of bass, and Jaco fans."
- Ingrid Pastorius who was kind enough to write.

"For some reason, we couldn't advertise this gig. It had something to do with Jaco still honoring his commitment to Weather Report. As it turned out, the place was packed anyway. The news of that gig spread completely by word of mouth. And that was how Jaco got the title for the album and the name of his band."
- Michael Brecker, as quoted in the book "Jaco" by author Bill Milkowski (Bill unfortunately got the date of the gig wrong by nearly half a year, writing "winter of 1980").

The Birth Of Word Of Mouth: April 13, 1981
Although I had previously seen Jaco perform several times with Weather Report and Joni Mitchell, I didn't actually meet him until April 13, 1981 at the Seventh Avenue South jazz club in New York City, which was owned and operated by the Brecker Brothers. It was Jaco's very first solo performance with his 'Word Of Mouth' group. In its first incarnation, WOM was just a quintet with Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer on saxes, Don Alias on percussion and Peter Erskine on drums (no keyboards, no guitar). If I remember correctly, this was an unadvertised show, but somehow I had gotten word that Jaco was going to be performing at the club. When I arrived there that night there was a piece of paper with some writing taped to the inside front window, and on close inspection it was a stick figure drawing (Jaco's trademark artwork) with only the words "word of mouth" on it -- hence the group name was born.

I spoke to Jaco briefly after the show. He was sure he knew me from somewhere (I assured him he didn't), and graciously brought me into the back room to meet the rest of the band. I showed him a sketch I'd brought with me (beautifully drawn and given to me by my friend Christine Ciprios) and Jaco had all the band members sign it with him. The grin on his face when he handed it back to me was great, something I'll never forget. I also remember spotting Marcus Miller in the crowd on my way out and going over to say hello. I asked him if he cared to sign the sketch, and when he humbly declined with a laugh I realized Marcus was as in awe of Jaco as I was.

Fortunately I taped the band's performance that night, and although the sound quality of the tape is below average, I think the historical value is priceless. Making the audio of that night's performance available on this website for all to hear is my own small way of honoring Jaco; until now, my tapes were only heard by Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, and Ingrid Pastorius, all of whom I sent copies to. The audio clips are on my Music page, and you can get more details about each tune by clicking on it's title.

To hear audio clips, click on the album cover below:

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Jaco 1978 Radio Interview - audio mp3
This is not the Clive Williamson BBC interview that's reprinted on many websites (including It's a 1978 interview that aired on London's Capital Radio network. The interviewer is Adrian Love (at least according to Colin Carroll of the UK, who was kind enough to write me with that info and remembered hearing the original broadcast). At the time, Jaco was out promoting Weather Report's 'Mr. Gone' album just before it was released.

Consider these great quotes from the interview:

on Zawinul: "He's the master, he's the cat... he can play all that stuff , he's the only guy that can do it."

on his musical education: "Most of the music I know, believe it or not, I learned from TV. There are great writers that are writing on TV in America... Henri Mancini, the Dick Van Dyke Show, or Wonderful World Of Disney. These people are writing some beautiful music, you know?"

on recording 'Birdland': "I read treble clef because Zawinul writes all his shit in treble clef, and I gotta read it. Like Birdland for instance. I sightread that all in the treble clef, one take man. Birdland is one take. One of the greatest tunes ever, we did it in one take."

To hear interview, click here.
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Jaco's "Donna Lee" featuring Bird & Miles

Let me explain what this track is. For many bassists (like myself), our first time hearing Jaco was the opening track of his debut album playing Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" with only percussionist Don Alias accompanying on congas. Many agree that this track, and the album itself, was a turning point in our development as players, and forever changed the concept of what electric bass could be in the musical landscape.

I haven't attempted to create a 'remix' or simulate an actual performance. My purpose is simply to provide bassists who've been listening to Jaco's "Donna Lee" bass solo for years, but perhaps were not that familiar with the Parker tune itself, an opportunity to hear the solo with some 'harmonic reference', so to speak. You can also hear how Miles and Bird constructed their solos over the same changes for comparison.

You'll first hear Jaco playing the head with the Charlie Parker quintet, which featured Miles Davis on trumpet, then soloing over the rhythm section of Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Ben Riley (courtesy of Jamey Aebersold). Jaco is followed by Miles' solo over 16 bars, then back to the 2nd half of the head, and finally Charlie Parker soloing out.

The technical difficulties in doing this track were abundant. For starters, I had to sync up three different groups playing the tune at slightly different tempos, although fortunately they all agreed on the original key. Add to that various time conflicts, in particular Jaco and Don rushing the end of his solo, and the Aebersold trio's occasional drifts. Furthermore, although all versions swing, Jaco and Don have a slightly different feel than the trio. The result of all these subtle time variations is that the congas tend to have an 'out of sync' feel with the rhythm section at times.

In any event, although it isn't perfect, you can at least hear Jaco's "Donna Lee" bass solo in a new way, and hear the chord changes that Jaco 'heard in his head' when he actually played the solo in the studio.

Regarding the solo, consider this quote from Marcus Miller, as posted on the official website:

"I'll never forget when, just for kicks, I decided to walk the changes to "Donna Lee" on my bass while Jaco's version was playing. This was probably a year into listening to Jaco's album and I had finally learned "Donna Lee" at school. I was still assuming that, once Jaco stated Charlie Parker's melody, he pretty much was playing any ol' thing that he wanted and that it had nothing to do with the changes. Well I'm walking the changes under Jaco's melody and continue the changes under Jaco's 'crazy solo' and of course realize that it's not crazy at all! I realize that he's playing the changes -- and not just playing them. He was creating harmonies and lines that were so amazing it was sick! My appreciation of him grew so much that afternoon."
So here's your chance to discover what Marcus did, without having to play it yourself! Hope you enjoy it.

To hear track, click here.
Don Alias, congas
Kenny Barron, piano
Ron Carter, bass
Miles Davis, trumpet
Charlie Parker, alto sax
Tommy Potter, bass
Bud Powell, piano
Ben Riley, drums
Max Roach, drums

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"John And Mary" and "Liberty City" Promo 1981

This is the cover of the 1981 Warner Bros. promotional record for the "Word Of Mouth" album. Side two contains a slightly different version of "Liberty City", and ends with the guys laughing for a few seconds after the tune, as opposed to the actual album version that fades out at the very end. On side one is a shortened "John & Mary". This record is extremely rare!

(Hangin' with Mary Pastorius, NYC 2006 -- photo by Bob Bobbing)
Obviously for copyright reasons I can't add these to my Music page, however the laugh outtake from "Liberty City " has been uploaded. To hear it, click here.
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Please note: I've made these tracks available for non-profit educational purposes only, and ask the public to respect the copyright owners and to not copy, reproduce, or use them for any other reason. It's my belief that the "fair use" doctrine of section 107 of US Copyright law allows me to make these tracks available to the public for the sole purpose of study, review or critical analysis.