Jaco Pastorius - Modern American Music...Period! The Criteria Sessions CD Review

The playing of the great Jaco Pastorius is already fully-formed in this release of his 1974 demo sessions at the Criteria studios.
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Bass players get no respect. Well, very little at least. The bass is just not an instrument that gets much attention. Sir Paul McCartney's playing is justly celebrated, and the late John Entwistle's rock-solid performance held the manic music of The Who together. In jazz, there was Charles Mingus of course, but not too many other household names. While there are a zillion superstar guitarists, or keyboard players for that matter, virtuoso bass players are a rare breed.

Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) was certainly one of them. Adrian Belew called him "arguably the most important and ground-breaking electric bassist in history." Pastorius was a key member of Weather Report, and played with numerous artists in both jazz and rock. He only released two albums under his own name during his all-too brief life though. Still, for those who were hip to him, Pastorius' achievements were right up there with those of a Hendrix or John Coltrane.

For all of these reasons and more, the release of Modern American Music ...Period! The Criteria Sessions was a major event on Record Store Day (April 19, 2014). The 11 tracks that make up this CD were recorded after-hours at the famous Criteria studio in Miami, FL  in 1974. Pastorius was just 22 years old at the time, but he knew exactly what he was after. The music ranges from completely solo bass pieces to full-band songs.

The intention of the sessions was to create Jaco's "calling card," a demo to win him a recording contract. Of the 11 songs, six were culled for transfer to acetate, which eventually got him signed to Epic Records. His solo debut Jaco Pastorius would be released in 1976.

The six songs that were used for the acetate are "Balloon Song (12-Tone)," "Pans #1," "Kuru," "Continuum," "Opus Pocus (Pans #2)," and "Time Lapse." Although they are probably sold out by now, Omnivore released those songs on a colored-vinyl album for  Record Store Day. The Modern American Music...Period! LP also included "Havona/Continuum" as a bonus track and a download card for the full CD version.

The CD is now available for all, and besides the previously mentioned songs, includes "Donna Lee," "Balloon Song (12-Tone) (Alternate)," "Time Lapse (Alternate)," and "Forgotten Love." Fans should be familiar with "Donna Lee," "Continuum," "Kuru," "Opus Pocus," and "Forgotten Child" as they were re-recorded for the Jaco Pastorius album.

Another huge Pastorius fan is Robert Trujillo, bassist with Metallica. He was involved in getting Modern American Music released, and with the new documentary Jaco as well. In his introductory essay for the booklet, Trujillo calls Pastorius' music "The real punk jazz!" Hear it for yourself in these early recordings, as Jaco completely reinvents the instrument, right before our very ears.