November 2003

Jaco Pastorius Big Band - Word of Mouth Revisited
Heads Up SACD HUSA 9078
Released: 2003

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) is considered by many to be among the greatest electric-bass players who ever lived, perhaps the greatest. Many of his innovations as a player, writer, and arranger are evident in the work of young jazz musicians today. As Christian McBride, one brightest young bass players of his generation, put it: "Jaco Pastorius was, without question, the Charlie Parker of the electric bass. If you play the saxophone, you have to come through Charlie Parker at some point. If you play the electric bass, you have to come through Jaco. Nobody has ever innovated on that instrument like he did."

Word of Mouth Revisited offers nine of today’s top bassists the opportunity to pay tribute to Jaco Pastorius and demonstrate just how much he influenced and shaped their careers. Victor Bailey, Richard Bona, Jeff Carswell, Gerald Veasley, Jaco’s nephew David Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Jimmy Haslip and the aforementioned Christian McBride are joined by the former Peter Graves Big Band, now renamed in Pastorius’s honor, on this wonderful tribute album. Graves gave a teen-aged Jaco his initial opportunity as both player and arranger, before his foray with Weather Report and a solo career. Each bass player takes a turn on this all Jaco Pastorius musical program.

Pastorius composed or wrote the arrangements for 12 of the 13 tunes used here. The remaining track, Herbie Hancock’s "Wiggle Waggle," features Pastorius himself, reaching out from the great beyond to play bass via help of modern overdubbing technology. Nearly all of these numbers are now over 30 years old, yet the writing still seems fresh. They sound as up to date and relevant now as they did when Pastorius first recorded them.

Word of Mouth Revisited is what a tribute album should be. Not simply a rehashing or exact replication of the original songs, it is a reinterpretation of them musically and sonically by a group headed by a man who knew Pastorius as well as anyone. The timelessness of Jaco Pastorius’s compositions and arrangements is clearly evident on this album, as is the love of the musicians who are playing them.

One other addition from Heads Up that aids immeasurably in the enjoyment of Word of Mouth Revisited is the discreet spacing of musical cuts with brief shots of Pastorius’ own voice - offering encouragement, direction and/or insight into his work. These snippets are much older than the music recorded on this SACD, but they fit in so seamlessly that it appears as though Pastorius were directing these proceedings himself. I think you’ll find them fascinating.

The sonics of this Hybrid SACD (which means it’ll play on your home or car CD player and/or your SACD stereo or multichannel player) are up to the usual Telarc/Heads Up standards. The CD layer carries enough of the sonic splendor to make this disc a worthwhile purchase by those without SACD capabilities. The stereo SACD layer fleshes out the musicians and adds ambience to the recording acoustic. The multichannel mix adds even more ambience, and places you within the recording studio, with instruments coming at you from all sides. Normally, this would be distracting, but it fits well with this style of music.

Word of Mouth Revisited works on whatever level you chose to listen -- as a tribute album, as a piece of musical history, or as simply an expression of modern jazz fusion music. I can’t think of any reason why you won’t find something in this album to enjoy long after the newness of the purchase wears off.