an article that originally appeared in the January 2002 issue of BassPlayer . All rights reserved by CMP Information Inc.
Jaco’s Gear Through the
By E.E. Bradman & Scott Shiraki
Jaco’s Gear Through the
Fifteen-year-old Jaco got his first electric bass, a new sunburst Fender Jazz with binding and pearl blocks, in 1967. He strung it with La Bella flatwounds and played it through a Sunn amp in Las Olas Brass, and with the organ trio Woodchuck. It was his main electric until 1971.
Jaco’s father, Jack Pastorius, gave Jaco his first upright around the same time he received his first electric. Jaco later acquired a second upright, which he played throughout high school and until around 1974. He loved the sound but found the instrument’s upkeep frustrating. Eventually, he traded it for a 60 Jazz Bass.
1960 Fender Jazz, SN 026100
Jaco's '67 Jazz was louder, but he preferred the smoother, sweeter sound of the black '60 stack-knob with clay dots on a rosewood neck. Jaco eventually sold this instrument-refretted-to bassist/guitarist John Paulus for $425 around 1971.
1974 acoustic bass guitar
Jaco and luthier Larry Breslin co-designed a fretless, 5-string acoustic bass guitar with a high C string; upon completion, Jaco paid Breslin $500. It featured a 34"-scale neck with a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with maple veneer fretmarkers, Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top. Jaco strung it with Rotosound roundwounds. In later years, the headstock broke off and Jaco brought the bass to Kaufman. He still has it.
1962 Fender Jazz, a.k.a. the "Bass of Doom," SN 64437
Like the fate of a mythic hero's mighty weapon, the original condition and final resting place of the world's most famous fretless are shrouded in mystery. Its legendary tone was well documented through every era of Jaco's career, and he himself told several versions of the tale.
According to Bill Milkowski's August '84 Guitar Player cover story, the '62 Jazz was already fretless when Jaco bought it in Florida for $90. Upon meeting Kaufman in 1978, Jaco told him he removed the frets himself with a butter knife and filled in the slots and missing fingerboard chunks with Plastic Wood, followed by several brushed-on coats of Petite's Poly-Poxy. Kaufman's first job for Jaco was to replace the peeling epoxy, which he did by using his own method of pouring on the epoxy in one treatment and shaping it with a rasp. According to Kaufman, Jaco left it in New York's Central Park shortly before his death. It hasn't been seen since.
1960 Fender Jazz, SN 57308
Jaco's main fretted Jazz Bass, a two-tone sunburst, of average weight and "very resonant" according to Kaufman. This was Jaco's main bass on tour with Joni Mitchell; it can be seen and heard on her Shadows and Light album and DVD. Its whereabouts are unknown.
Early '60s Fender Jazz, SN 82429
During his 1982 Word of Mouth tour of Japan, Jaco threw this bass into Hiroshima Bay; Ibanez Guitars then refinished it natural. Shigeru Uchiyama's photographs of Jaco and this bass appear in promotional material for the live Twins and Invitation albums, on the back cover of Invitation , and on BP 's Jan/Feb '91 cover. According to Kaufman, Jaco didn't like this bass as much as the others. Its whereabouts are unknown.
1963 Fender Jazz, SN L14769
The opening shot of Jaco's DCI instructional video, Modern Electric Bass , shows Jaco slotting the nut on this bass. The original neck was being repaired at the time, so Jaco installed a '70s Fender Precision neck on the Jazz body. This bass wound up at Albert Molinaro's Guitars R Us shop in Los Angeles and was sold to a collector with the original and the P-Bass necks.
1960 Fender Jazz
Longtime Buddy Guy bassist Greg Rzab bought one of Jaco's final Jazz Basses from the Pastorius family ** in 1994. Rzab played the bass, apparently used by Jaco during a six-month stretch of intense practicing in 1986, on Guy's 1994 album Slippin' In . "I used it on 'Lover with a Feeling,' and it was really alive in the studio-the notes and harmonics jumped out of that bass." Greg eventually sold it to a good friend-a famous bassist who chooses to remain anonymous. "It's in good hands and being kept safe."
The Acoustic 360 amp, which debuted in 1968, featured a 200-watt power amp. The separate preamp had a built-in fuzz effect, and the large cabinet housed an 18" backward-firing speaker and a folded horn. Jaco saw South Florida bassist Carlos Garcia using one on a gig with Nemo Spliff. He went to Modern Music in Fort Lauderdale and put money down on one.
In retrospect, the Acoustic was as important to the development of Jaco's tone and technique as his Jazz Basses were. "The Acoustic held up better than a Sunn or an Ampeg fliptop B-15 could. Jaco could play an open E while he did intervals up the neck, harmonics, and his muted fingerfunk style, which required punch and clarity. The timing of that amp was important, because no one would have been able to get that particular sound without it. Rumors continue to circulate regarding several of Jaco's Acoustic 360s.
Special thanks to Greg Rzab, David Page (for providing serial numbers of Jaco's basses), John Paulus, Albert Molinaro, and Kevin Kaufman. Kevin Kaufman now operates Kaufman-Daenzer Instruments; he can be reached at (561) 832-1249 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Larry Breslin of Deerhead Guitars can be reached at (719) 576-4567.