The Ghost of Jaco

The legend’s profound influence is alive in all of us

By Jon Liebman
January 24, 2019

In this week’s interview with Damian Erskine, we talked about his successful career as a freelance bassist, touring schedule, gear, solo recordings, and his work with his uncle, Peter Erskine, the legendary Weather Report drummer. What was especially intriguing was listening to Damian recount his experiences with the Weather Report band members, having attended his first Weather Report concert when he was just two weeks old. That’s right – 2 weeks old!

Damian has a special place in his heart for his late grandfather, who loved taking him to concerts, not only of Weather Report, but also many of the other top fusion artists during their heyday, including the Brecker Brothers and many others. Perhaps what’s most memorable to Damian is the time he spent with the incomparable Jaco Pastorius. From the time he was a mere 6 or 7 years old, Damian would get informal bass lessons from Jaco, learning various scales, finger positions, and tips for moving both horizontally and vertically on the bass fingerboard.

Though Damian was far too young to appreciate the enormity and the specialness of this one-on-one coaching, Jaco’s influence no doubt became a huge component of Damian’s stellar bass technique.

The incalculable impact Jaco had on the music world in general, and the bass world in particular, never ceases to amaze me. It still feels surreal to me when I recall, ever so fondly, how I fortunate I was able to hang out with Jaco during my Florida years, back in the ‘80s. What a privilege it was watching him perform, jamming with him in his living room, getting to ask him all kinds of questions about fingerings and practice technique, hearing him tell Joe Zawinul stories and Wayne Shorter stories, and getting private previews of some of his never-before-heard compositions. All those experiences remain indelibly etched in my memory.

The fact is, Jaco changed the way we play. His incredible innovations with the fretless bass, the uniqueness in his rhythmic grooving ability, flawless intonation and dazzling technique are among the reasons he is considered by many to have been the greatest bass player who ever lived (maybe that’s why his name has come up in nearly every bass player interview I’ve conducted over the past ten years!).

How about you? In what ways has Jaco influenced you and your bass playing? If you have a thought on the subject, I invite you to leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.

In the meantime, you can check out our interview with Damian here.

Comments on The Ghost of Jaco

  1. Anthony miley says:

    As a youth and into my teens, I loved the bass. I listened to everyone! But when I heard the album 8:30,EVERYTHING I loved about the bass came to a halt. It was awakening musically unlike any other. It was Hendrix all over again! I listened to everything Jaco ever since. Some of his stuff brings tears to my eyes. Such a troubled genius he was.

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