Resonance Records seems to annually be in competition with itself for the Best Historical Album of the Year Award. Last year, they were 1, 2, 3 and 4 with their Getz, Young, Evans and Montgomery sets, and already this year they’ve released the smoking 3 Sounds and Dennis Coffey discs. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to match this two cd discovery, which captures the most influential electric bassist, Jaco Pastorius, at his apotheosis on a recorded gig at Avery Fisher Hall, NYC on June 27, 1982.
Part of George Wein’s Kool Jazz Festiveal (remember when cigarettes actually were publicly mentioned?), this 2+ hour concert was initially part of NPR’s Jazz Alive program, but not even that show released all of the material. Pastorius’ Word of Mouth Band included the best of the best, with a core of Mob Mintzer/reeds, Randy Brecker/tp, Othello Molineaux/stdr, Don Alias/perc and Peter Erskine/dr and a big band which included Frank Wess/ts, Howard Johnson/bs, Lew Soloff/tp, Jon Faddis/tp, and special guest Toots Theileman on harmonica. Interested yet?
Pastorius gives a jaw dropping display of what his hands and bass could combine to produce throughout the concert. He hits the ground running with a wildly frenetic bass line as Mintzer solos and Alias sizzles on a big band smasher of “Invitation.” His funky bass line teams with Molineaux’s steel drum as the horns swagger on “The Chicken” and his signature read of “Donna Lee” includes david Bargeron’s tuba sounding like a landing space craft teaming with Bob Mintzer’s moody bass clarinet for a cosmic atmosphere. He does a solo that serves as a bass workshop, mixing echoes and effects while also throwing in quotes from “Purple Haze” and “America the Beautiful” before Erskine joins in for some heavy weather. John Clark brings his French horn to team with Pastorius during a hip and hypnotic “Okonkole’ Y Trompa” while the horns build up to a volcanic explosion to team sounds akin to James Bond themes to a Serengeti stampede on “Reza/Giant Steps.”
Then Toots Theileman joins on stage, you get a sublime and soft “Bluesette” in a small setting, a languid and bluesy “Three Views of A Secret” a joyfully funky “Liberty Secret,” a supple and lithe take of “I Shot The Sheriff,” and best of all, a gloriously sighing and agonizing duet on “Sophisticate Lady.” The show closes with Toots blowing and Jaco singing like he’s on 8th and Vine as he and the band shuffle to “Fannie Mae.”
This is a collection to savor, and if you don’t get it, you’ll probably spend the rest of your life wondering what’s missing in your life. This could very well be it.