Jaco Pastorius blazed onto the scene in the 1970s, only to flame out tragically in the 1980s. With brilliant technique and melodic imagination, Pastorius made his fretless electric bass leap out from the rhythm section into the front line with fluid machine-gun-like passages that demanded attention. He and Stanley Clarke were the towering influences on their instrument in the 1970s.
Though born in Pennsylvania, Pastorius grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he played with visiting R&B and pop acts while still a teenager and built a reputation as a local legend. By 1976, he had been invited to join Weather Report, where he remained until 1981, gradually becoming a third lead voice along with Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter. Outside Weather Report, he found himself in constant demand as a sessionman and producer, playing on Joni Mitchell, Blood Sweat and Tears, Paul Bley, Bireli Lagrene and Ira Sullivan albums - and his first eponymous solo album for Epic in 1976 was hailed as a tour de force. From 1980 to 1984, he toured and recorded with his own band, the innovative Word Of Mouth that fluctuated in size from a large combo to a big band. Pastorius became overwhelmed by mental problems, exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, in the mid-'80s, leading to several embarrassing public incidents (one was a violent crackup onstage at Hollywood Bowl in mid-set at the 1984 Playboy Jazz Festival). Though almost totally forgotten at the time of his death, Pastorius was immediately canonized afterwards (Miles Davis even wrote a tune "Mr. Pastorius" in his honor.