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LIVE REPORT

Jaco Pastorius Big Band
March 23, 2004 - 2nd Stage@BLUE NOTE TOKYO


A big band and 3 of the best bassists in contemporary fusion scene bring the genius of Jaco Pastorius to life again.


It was a little before 7 pm when the full house crowd at Blue Note Tokyo, a plae regularly packed by nonchalant adults, became a bit fidgety. It is no surprise that evening because they were there to see a magic - a magic indeed, to those who are still spell-bound by the genius of Jaco Pastorius, a figure held by not a few bassists to be on a par with God on the account of world creation: a world that has given new meanings to bass playing. Moreso when three of fusion's favorite bassists some up on the stage all together. The three are: Jimmy Haslip of Yellow Jackets fame and currently recording and touring with Robben Ford; Gerald Veasley who is known for his works with Larry Coryell and Grover Washington Jr. a mong many others; and Victor Wooten whose prowess on the instrument both as solo and the member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is admired around the globe. What about the big and, one may ask. It is none other than the band led by tromboninst/conductor Peter Graves, who hired Jaco as the regular bassist for his big band orchestra in 1971.

At the counting off of Peter Graves, the big band sound of "Soul Intro / The chicken" blasted off as the whole audience cheered in excitement. This funky tune was also played when Jaco himself led the band to perform in Tokyo in 1982, as heard on the live albums "Twins I & II". Ed Calle on tenor saxophone took the first solo, followed by bluesy and amusing solo by Jason Carder on trumpet. Randy Bernsen went on on his light-touched guitar with a slight distortion which was somewhat reminding of Darryl Stuermer during his fusion days. Jeff Carswell gave sturdy foundation to the band sound on his bass.
* The 1985 debut album by this guitarist from southern Florida, "Music for People, Planets & Washing Machines", was most notably joined by a fellow southern Floridian bassist: Jaco Pastorius.
* Jeff Carswell appears on 1982 album "Ross-Levine Band" by Billy Ross (alto sax and piccolo) and Michael Levine (keyboards) of this big band together with Pat Metheny although Michael Levine was not present for this tour.

Following tune was "Opus Pocus" from Jaco's 1976 first solo album. Guitar synthesizer emulating the sound of Shamisen led the introduction of this tune, soon joined by keyboards in Marimba sound to play the counter melody, then the full band presented the theme. Jeff Carswell impressed the audience with his fast fingers on his solo. The Shamisen guitar came in for a few bars, followed by the brass section on the main riff. Nice electric piano solo came from the capable hands of David Roitstien leading into a cool closing theme by the brass section.

Now came on stage the mighty Jimmy Haslip to play "Havona". The introduction played by muted trumpets took speed as Jimmy Haslip came in with masterful fast pitched bass lines. A hearty amount of sax solo was featured, which reminisced the development of the song performed by Weather Report. Electric piano filled in the break part to introduce Jimmy Haslip's thrilling bass solo, which extended into an interplay with Ed Calle on sax, all the way to the superb rounding off of the song.

Next tune was "(Used to be a) Cha Cha" from Word of Mouth's eponimous first album. Repeating bass line was joined by the brass ensemble, and the synthsized steel drum and flugelhorns played the main melody in unison, al in the typical style of latin fusion. Billy Ross played a nice Piccolo solo which added a picante Brazilian flavor. Jimmy Haslip went on freely on his bass while the drums was played only on the bass drum and the cymbal, and piano added light fills. The bass performance on the upper frets reminded of the style of Jaco but the sound was the unique tone of Jimmy Haslip.

For the next tune Gerald Veasley took the guest bassist's sopt. Originally his appearance was scheduled for the latter days of the band's 6 days at Blue Note Tokyo but his schedule had changed in favor of the fans in Tokyo. The tune was "Barbary Coast" from Weather Report's "Black Market". The crisp tone of Gerard Veasley's bass was quite reminding of Jaco's. Randy Bernsen started into a nice solo but unfortunately it had to be cut short due to technical problem with his gear, and David Roitstien covered thereafter on electric piano. Gerald Veasley's vibrant bass solo was featured again toward the ending of the song.

Next song, "Elegant People", also from "Black Market", written by Wayne Shorter, has ain interesting history, as Peter Graves introduced. Jaco liked to song so much that he re-recorded the song in Miami in 1981 but recorded tapes were misplaced and never released in the manner he intended. However, after circulating as a bootleg album, it was finally put into official release in 1998. The tight opening of the song transformed into a free-form middle section in a spectacular way. Greg Gisbert's trumpet solo started in a mysterious mood, reminding of Mark Isham, then gradually mounted heat to blasting sequences in the likes of Maynard Ferguson or Lew Soloff. The following high speed bass solo by Gerald Veasley was simply amazing to say the least.

Now it was Vistor Wooten's turn to take on the guest spot. "Teen Town" from Weather Report's best selling album "Heavy Weather". The fast pitched bass line by Victor Wooten was joined by Joe Barati's bass trombone. The two, on top of Jeff Carswell, literally shook the ground level floors of Blue Note Tokyo. A nice interplay with soprano sax followed the quake to top it off.

The next tune "Continuum", from Jaco's first solo, featured a pleasantly lengthy monologue by Victor Wooten on his fretless bass involving the volume technique and sliding harmonics among other trickey techniques that were most naturally incorporated into melodic presentation. When Victor Wooten plays his bass, there seems to be nothing he can't bring out of the instrument. It was as if there were two bass players when he went on to two-hand tapping technique with right-hand thumb tapping on the low string to keep rhythm as the rest of fingers played melodies. When the brass came in and played a slow melody, the whole audience was breath taken at the sheer beauty of the sound.

Jimmy Haslip came back on stage to join Victor Wooten for the last song onthe set, "Liberty City" from Word of Mouth's first album. Upbeat brass ensemble started off the song, then the two basissts in unison followed by Jimmy's solo where Victor played accompanying chord sequence and Jimmy sped at the top gear. With Jimmy's fast fingering and Victor's melodic chords, the two made a splendid combination throughout the song. The ending of the song was awe inspiring, played by all the bass instruments, including the bass, baritone sax and bas trombone in unison.

For the encore stage all three guest bassists came on stage. It's "The Chicken" which was played as the opening tune for the show, but this time it's an upgrade version with four bassists. Victor Wooten led off the song with a riff to which Gerald Veasley gave accents and Jeff Carswell provided the bass line, and Jimmy Haslip played the melody line. The song developed to feature solos by the four bassists. Fist Gerald Veasley went on his 5 strings bass with an extra high string. As he played high frets it was as if hearing a guitar solo. Jimmy Haslip was up next with his machine gun solo. Victor Wooten followed with melodic lines on the fretless bass incorporating slides and taps. Jeff Carswell had no less to say with his sturdy finger picking style. Each of the four showed his sleight of hands to justly whet the ever hungry apetite of the full house audience there at Blue Note Tokyo. It was a "four bass hit - a homerun" as Peter Graves rightly called.

The cheering from the audience was overwhelming, and the band answered the call by another song. The song was "Wiggle Waggle" by Herbie Hancock, and it is found on the band's 2003 CD recording "Word of Mouth Revisited". Tenor sax and the four basses went over each other, and trumpet solo was truly fantastic. A short electric piano solo added nice spice towards the end of the song, as the closely woven ensemble of the whole band was nothing short of spectacular all the way to the grand finale.

What a gorgeous show it was. America's best bassists came all up on the stage to pay tribute to the most admired bassist / composer. Needless to say, Jaco Pastorius was an unparalleled composer, and continue to influence many musicians across fields. It was a night to remember that Jaco will always be a guiding light for those who dare to explore into the unknown realms of musical expression.

Personnel:
Jimmy Haslip (B), Victor Wooten (B), Gerald Veasley (B)
Ed Calle (Tenor sax), Billy Ross (Alto sax, Piccolo), Gary Keller (Alto, Tenor sax), Mike Brignola (Baritone sax, Bass clarinet)
Dante Luciani (Tb), Joe Barati (Bass Tb),
Jason Carder (Tp), Greg Gisbert (Tp), Ken Faulk (Tp)
David Roitstien (Key), Randy Bernsen (G), Mark Griffith (Ds), Jeff Carswell (B), Peter Graves (Conductor), Larry Warrilow (Arranger, Sound engineer)

Set list:
1. Soul Intro / The Chicken
2. Opus Pocus
3. Havona
4. (Used to be a) Cha Cha
5. Barbary Coast
6. Elegant People
7. Teen Town
8. Continuum
9. Liberty City
10. The Chicken
11. Wiggle Waggle

Not present for the show (recording members of "Word of Mouth Revisited")
Jeff Kievit(Tp), Dana Teboe(Tb), John Kricker(Tb), Mike Levine(Pf)

Report: Tatsuro Ueda
Many Thanks to
BLUE NOTE TOKYO

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