Basspiration Friday – 11/14/2014

In 1976 guitarist Pat Metheny released his debut album Bright Size Life on ECM Reocrds. The guitarist has maintained in many interviews that he finds the album to be rather tepid and that Manfred Eicher’s vaunted “ECM sound” actually dulled what was otherwise a powerhouse trio in a live setting.

Rumors and apocryphal stories of those gigs have existed on Internet message boards for a long time. Then with the advent of YouTube, audio uploads of those mid-70s trio shows began appearing. Having perused many of the uploads I can confirm that Metheny was correct. His trio with drummer Bob Moses and bassist Jaco Pastorius played more like a jazz-fusion version of Cream than a polite, Wes Montgomery-esque jazz guitar trio.

Metheny is my biggest musical hero and has been for many years. But this is a “basspiration” piece and so I want to spend a few moments considering the playing of Pastorius in this clip.

Metheny plays solo for the first :36 seconds of the clip and sets up the tune. Following the intro, Pastorius announces his presence with a single long note, Moses begins keeping time a few moments later, and from there it is off to the races.

Pastorius’ walking line underneath the guitarist is full of all of the things that made his playing so startling and fresh during the early 70s–a prodigious use of double-stops, impeccable fretless bass intonation, and an aggressive swing feel that ranges the entire neck of the bass. Ironically, Pastorius’ solo isn’t one of my favorites that I’ve heard. He shows several flashes of brilliance (the rapid descending passage at 5:19 is particularly nice). However, he seems to either lose or ignore the chord changes and resorts a bit to stock licks. and some  This happens to everyone from time to time and doesn’t diminish one bit the importance of archival material such as this.

 

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