Courtesy: MVD Visual/Iron Horse Entertainment
“He was our Hendrix.” That one simple statement sums up what made bass legend Jaco Pastorius one of the most legendary figures to ever pick up the bass guitar if not the most legendary. It is a statement made by one of the interviewees in MVD Visual and Iron Horse Entertainment’s new documentary on Jaco Pastorius, or John Francis Pastorius III (as audiences learn in watching the new documentary about the famed bassist) and quite the powerful statement, too. In watching through the nearly two-hour documentary audiences will agree that it is just one of the important statements made in reference to the brilliant yet troubled figure. Speaking of the many statements made throughout the course of the documentary, the story presented via those statements lies at the center of the documentary. It is just one of the elements that make the program worth the watch. The footage and music incorporated into the story makes Jaco all the more engaging. The bonus interviews included in the documentary’s second disc round out the program. Together with the program’s central story and the footage and music used to flesh out the story, all three elements show in whole that Jaco is one of the year’s most important music documentaries and one of the year’s best documentaries overall.
MVD Visual and Iron Horse Entertainment’s new profile of Jaco Pastorius is one of 2015’s most important music documentaries. It is also one of the year’s best documentaries overall. The main reason for this is the very fact that it centers on a bass player — one of the most prolific bass players in modern music history no less. That is just one part of what makes this documentary so important. It is rare for bassists to get their own profile. So that makes his presentation even more important. At the center of the presentation is the story of a man with a brilliant yet troubled mind. It was a mind troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by a mental disease. To be more specific, he suffered from bipolar disorder. As is noted in the interviews it wasn’t just bipolar disorder in general but a specific branch of bipolar disorder. Considering this revelation made late in the program, the erratic behavior that those closest to him described make much more sense. What’s really interesting to consider here is whether or not Pastorius himself knew that he suffered from the disorder or if anyone around him even had an inkling of it. Considering that one of his friends alleges that Pastorius had told him that he [Pastorius] wanted to die, one can only assume that Pastorius knew that something was wrong with him. Whether or not he knew specifically what it was and whether or not knowledge and treatment of bipolar disorder was available at the time is a whole other story in itself. These are just a couple aspects of the program’s main story that make Jaco such an interesting watch. There are also stories about an alleged rift between Pastorius and Joe Zawinul and some apparent issues with singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, too. Those are just a couple of the side stories featured in this documentary that will keep viewers engaged. Together with the main story of Pastorius’ brilliant yet troubled mind, the whole of Jaco’s main presentation gives viewers plenty of reason to watch it.
The central story presented in Jaco is in itself more than enough reason for music lovers and lovers of music history to watch the documentary. That is because it paints a rich picture of a brilliant yet troubled mind. The thing is that his was a mind troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by mental disorder. While his battle with bipolar disorder obviously complicated his life, it also led to some of the most brilliant and innovative works that the music community in whole has ever had the pleasure of experiencing. And audiences learn all about that through the course of Jaco’s nearly two-hour run time. Of course the story centered on Pastorius’ impact on the music community is just one part of what makes this documentary such an important addition to this year’s field of documentaries. The combination of the program’s footage and music makes up another of the program’s key elements. In regards to the footage that accompanies the interviews, the footage gives audiences a look into Pastorius at different avenues of his career both onstage and off. It serves to help illustrate the highs and lows that he experienced and how they affected both him and those that were closest to him. The use of music from Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, and from Pastorius himself helps in its own way to give some insight (in hindsight that is) into the struggle that Pastorius must have fought throughout his life. That is especially the case as it is finally revealed late in the program that he suffered from bipolar disorder. Pastorius is shown sitting in front of a piano at a live venue playing a rather interesting piece that really heightens the importance of the revelation. It is just one example of how the music serves its own important purpose in Jaco’s overall presentation. The changing styles exhibited throughout the course of the program both before and after the revelation of his diagnosis shows in hindsight the intensity of the battle going on inside Pastorius’ mind. When coupled with the footage used to flesh out the story of Pastorius’ life and career the two elements together work with the documentary’s main story (told through collected interviews with those closest to Pastorius) to exhibit even more exactly why Jaco is such a rare and important gem of a documentary. Even with all of this in mind, there is still at least one more element to examine in Jaco’s overall presentation. That final element is the bonus material included with the program.
Both the central story of Jaco Pastorius’ story life and career and the material used to flesh out the story (I.E. the music and footage, which also includes home movies of Pastorius and his family) are integral parts in their own right to the whole of Jaco. While both elements are equally important to the whole of the program, the bonus material included in the presentation’s second disc cannot be ignored in its importance. The bonus material in question is an hour and forty minutes of bonus interview footage in which those closest to Jaco and even those who were more acquaintances share their memories of Pastorius. They share insightful thoughts and happy memories of the legendary bassist. Joni Mitchell shares her thoughts on having to hunt down Pastorius in one interview, revealing that he was at a “rehearsal” with members of Weather Report. In reality, he was where she expected to find him. But he wasn’t practicing. Instead he was playing Frisbee with one of his fellow musicians. There is also a funny anecdote from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea in which Flea outlines the reach of Pastorius’ body of work as he discusses a young Australian teen that made a bet with him about learning Pastorius’ work. While the bet that Flea and the young gentleman made is itself pretty funny, the outcome of the deal is just as funny. There are also some insights that are at times thought-provoking and at others moving from those that knew him best. Together with the other noted interviews, the whole of those interviews makes Jaco’s bonus material just as important as the presentation’s other noted elements. Audiences will especially agree with this sentiment as they realize that the interviews in question are extensions of the interviews featured in the main body of the documentary. This adds even more interest to the interviews as it allows audiences to get a fuller view of the picture painted by those interviewed. Together with those interview segments and the material that accompanies said segments (the footage and music), all three elements combine to make Jaco a program that will keep audiences completely engaged from beginning to end. And in keeping audiences so solidly engaged, audiences will agree that Jaco proves, in the end, to be one of this year’s most important music documentaries and one of the year’s best new documentaries overall.
Jaco is a rare gem of a documentary. It is just as rare in the realm of music documentaries. That is because of how few documentaries have ever been produced about bass players. That is just part of what makes this presentation so important. The story presented within the documentary makes it even more important. It isn’t just another run-of-the-mill bio piece. It doesn’t follow Pastorius from birth to death. Rather it picks up in his young adult life and goes from there. And unlike so many other music documentaries it reveals a man that was troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by mental disorder. Audiences get more than just a bunch of interviews here, too. They also get a well-edited program that utilizes both home movies and pictures from Pastorius’ life and career, and samples of his music to help better illustrate the story of who Jaco Pastorius was. There are even complete interview segments included as bonus material to make that picture whole and clear. Whether through said interviews, through the noted music samples and footage, or through the program’s main story, audiences get so much from this new profile of one of the music industry’s most prolific performers. All things considered Jaco proves in the end to be without argument one of the most important music documentaries to be released this year and one of the best overall documentaries to be released this year. It is available now in stores and online via MVD Visual’s online store at http://mvdb2b.com/?q=Jaco&s=t&site_id=search&boolean=IN+BOOLEAN+MODE. More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:
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