Jaco meets Joe Zawinul

“Hello Mr. Zawinul, It’s an honor to meet you. My father really loved your piano work with Cannonball Adderley Quintet..” The young Jaco spoke respectfully, his long straight black hair, narrow features, almost a cross between Boticelli and Geronimo. The Weather Report concert in Miami was good, but not sold out. “…And..” Jaco continued, “…I am the greatest bass player in the world.” Joe was ready to tell this punk to fuck off when the woman who had introduced them interjected, “Don’t be too hasty. He just might be right.” Their correspondence consisted of casettes from Jaco to Joe. His playing was unique, unusual, lyrical, his fretless electric bass had nuance, tone and vibrato unlike anything, but he was young and untried. When Miroslav decided to leave the band, Joe called up Jaco to give him a try. Initially Jaco overplayed, bombastic and operatic. Joe had to cool him down, playing simply to fit into the arrangements, but when the song “Birdland” started to come together, it was obvious that Jaco was gifted beyond anyone’s expectations. The song is one of the most popular modern jazz songs, right up there with Take Five. Joe Zawinul was amazed and pleased at their success. He had resolved himself to playing dingy jazz clubs the rest of his life, but since Jaco joined the band they were headlining at colleges and festivals. They had a new young audience that loved their music. When Jaco recorded with Joni Mitchell he forced his way between Joni standing next to her engineer at the mixing console, he pushed the faders up that controlled the volume of his bass accompaniment to Joni’s song. It was suddenly very loud in the mix. “That’s the way it should be.” He said with conviction. Joni heard it; he was right. Jaco’s gorgeous fretless bass stayed way up in the mix.

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