Features previously unreleased Jaco Pastorius compositions.
Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Randy Bernsen (guitar); Billy Ross (flute, piccolo, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Ed Calle (flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Gary Keller (flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Michael Brignola (flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone); Jason Carder, Jim Hacker, Kenneth Faulk (trumpet, flugelhorn); Dana Teboe (tenor trombone); John Kricker (bass trombone); Mike Levine (piano, synthesizer); Jeff Carswell (bass instrument); Mark Griffith (drums).
Jazz fusion bass freaks and fans of the late great Weather Report innovator first got the message that his richly textured compositions were ripe for spirited big-band arrangements on 2003's critically acclaimed Word of Mouth, whose all-star band was led by Peter Graves (whose orchestra Pastorius launched his career with) and included sharp melodic and rhythmic contributions by bassmen who have proudly carried on the tradition -- Victor Wooten, Gerald Veasley, Richard Bona, Victor Bailey, Marcus Miller, and Jimmy Haslip. On the funky, energetic, yet frequently poignant follow-up -- which reminds listeners even more of the bass legend's genius for composition -- these monsters return, complemented by band newcomers like Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Jr., Mark Egan, Oteil Burbridge, and Will Lee. What's exciting is that even though the set is joyfully plastered with grand solos by these rhythm masters as well as Randy Brecker, Hiram Bullock, Ed Calle, Bob Mintzer, Arturo Sandoval, Peter Erskine, and Mike Stern, everyone's truly dedicated to making this a buoyant team effort. So while Mintzer and Brecker blaze amidst the madness on "Dania," there's an eager sense of anticipation waiting for the sizzle of the whole ensemble to re-emerge. That same vibe extends to the midtempo cool yet simmering Latin arrangement of "Las Olas," which was arranged by Randy Bernsen and features a lush harmonica solo by Toots Thielemans. Pastorius' own compositions dominate, but classics from his famous collaborators Pat Metheny ("Sirabhorn") and Joe Zawinul (the low-key, soulful, and whimsical "Cannonball") are equally engaging. Another extra-Jaco treat is a speedy reading of the Beatles' "Blackbird," featuring a percussive soprano melody line by Calle over a subtle Bona-Erskine groove. Jaco Pastorius fans will flip with ecstasy, but even lovers of less progressive contemporary jazz will enjoy it for its spirit and lyrical melodies. ~ Jonathan Widran