Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Jaco Pastorius, "Crisis"

You may have noticed I don’t cover much jazz here (and by much, I mean any). While I have an appreciation for it and enjoy it from time to time, I just don’t feel that I have the knowledge or qualifications to talk about it intelligently.

I have kind of an interesting relationship with Jaco Pastorius’ work. When I first picked up a bass many years ago, I read a magazine article about him, and decided that I needed to check this guy out. Well, one listen told me that I’d never be able to play a bass even remotely like that, and while I was stunned by his abilities, I really didn’t feel most of the music he recorded. The relatively mellow sounds of Weather Report just didn’t appeal to a metal kid, and still don’t appeal to a metal dad in his 40s.

“Crisis,” though, well that’s another matter. I’ve never heard a more metal jazz tune than this, opening with Jaco’s frenetic bass riff that ends up, somehow, pinning the whole thing together. A variety of other musicians come in as the song goes on, all seemingly doing their own thing. It’s like everyone soloing at the same time. There’s no rhyme or reason, and there’s an utter chaos to the performance. It's an out-of-control sports car with no brakes barreling toward the edge of a cliff at top speed.

But then again, it's not. By some miracle or genius, all of the wildly divergent musical lines in the song manage to end up working to form a coherent piece. I was stunned the first time I heard it, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it again. I’ve heard attempts in the metal world to do something along these lines, but none of them worked like this.

In the end, if I had to recommend one piece of jazz music to metal fans, the appropriately-titled “Crisis” would be it. So, here you go.

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