Following the success of Word of Mouth Revisited, the critically acclaimed and award winning 2003 release on Heads Up International, the Jaco Pastorius Big Band has crafted a second chapter in their ongoing tribute to the brilliant legacy of the bassist/composer/arranger from whom they’ve taken their name. The Word Is Out! (HUCD 3110 and on SACD in 5.1 as HUSA 9110), an album that features an array of guest artists – not only on bass, but on a variety of other instruments.
On this second outing, the Jaco Pastorius Big Band again addresses Jaco’s compositional genius, this time with newly expanded arrangements of pieces that harken back to 1976, that pivotal year in Jaco’s career when he appeared on three near-simultaneous releases – Weather Report’s Black Market, Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life and his own self-titled debut – that stand today as major landmarks in his fabled career. Included among the 11 tracks on The Word Is Out! are new treatments of a few Jaco rarities and more familiar Jaco gems.
"From the very beginning, one of the things I’ve tried to explore is Jaco’s compositional genius," says Peter Graves, conductor of the Jaco Pastorius Big Band and co-producer of The Word Is Out! "So much of the world knew Jaco as this phenomenal bass player, but I’ve always thought that his abilities as a composer and arranger were something that really needed to be explored more. On the first album, we did things that were a bit more familiar to everybody, but this project actually gave us the chance to explore a variety of tunes that probably a lot of Jaco aficionados are not familiar with."
Many of the same guest bassists who contributed to Word of Mouth Revisited reappear on The Word Is Out!, including Gerald Veasley, Victor Wooten, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip and Jeff Carswell. The bottom end on the new recording is further augmented by the likes of Israel "Cachao" López, Jr., Mark Egan, Oteil Burbridge and Will Lee.
"As familiar as I am with many of Jaco’s compositions, I am nonetheless astonished by the depth and beauty of his writing," says Veasley, who lays the foundation on the lively and richly layered "Dania." "You could be easily fooled by Jaco’s chops into thinking that his compositions require that level of virtuosity. On the contrary, the songs stand on their own. It’s a joy to be included on this second recording of the Jaco Pastorius Big Band for Heads Up. I am honored to make a small contribution toward keeping Jaco’s flame burning."
Wooten steps in on "Beaver Patrol," a track whose slap-and-funk bass line underscores the song’s inherent bravado. "I’d never heard this track before, so I was able to take a fresh approach," says Wooten. "I could easily imagine Jaco playing this song. He could play anything, although I don’t remember hearing him ever play in 11/8. I just played it my own way while sticking in a few influences every once in a while. I never got to see Jaco live, but would have loved to hear him play this song."
Veteran Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip oscillates back and forth between impossibly rapid-fire fingerwork and more relaxed and understated lines in "Kuru"/"Speak Like a Child," a medley of well-matched compositions penned by Jaco and Herbie Hancock, respectively "Jaco was a supreme musician with the most amazing sense of harmony in his compositions and a truly innovative style of playing the electric bass," says Haslip. "A true genius, Jaco will be a barometer for all musicians for many years to come."
But while The Word Is Out! is a showcase for some of the hottest bassists on the contemporary jazz scene, it’s also much more than that. Other guest voices on this richly layered recording include trumpeters Randy Brecker and Arturo Sandoval, guitarists Hiram Bullock and Mike Stern, tenor saxophonists Ed Calle and Bob Mintzer, drummers Peter Erskine and Robert Thomas, Jr., steel drummer Othello Molineaux and harmonica player Toots Thielmans. And once again, Jaco himself makes an appearance – this time on "Reza," a track built around a bass line extracted from a live performance recorded on Sanibel Island in the mid-1980s.
"Jaco’s music was timeless," says saxophonist Bob Mintzer, who not only solos on "Dania" but provided the arrangement as well. "Aside from revolutionizing the way the electric bass was played, he was a serious composer and bandleader whose music should join the ranks of jazz repertoire."
Also lending a hand on "Dania" – as well as the assertive and confident sounding "River People" much later in the sequence – is trumpeter Randy Brecker, who regards Jaco on a par with some of the greatest composers of the ages. "Jaco was our Mozart," says Brecker. "I learned so much about improvising and composition from him. Being involved with this project has brought back many great memories. The music is as contemporary and captivating as it ever was."
Guitarist Mike Stern, who lends his signature sound to the contemplative "Sirabhorn," first heard Jaco in the early ‘70s when the bassist played in Pat Metheny’s trio – the same combo that eventually recorded Bright Size Life. "One of the tunes they recorded on that album was ‘Sirabhorn,’ and I’m certainly happy to be playing on this big band arrangement," says Stern. "Jaco and I were close friends, and I miss him to this day. We played together all the time. It’s wonderful that his music lives on in so many ways."
Bill Milkowski, who penned the liner notes to The Word Is Out! and authored Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic life of Jaco Pastorius, calls this recording "further proof of Jaco’s compositional prowess – an aspect that is often overlooked in assessing the legacy of ‘the world’s greatest bass player. Clearly, Jaco’s music – sounding as potent, provocative and alive here as it did 30 years ago – has stood the test of time."