Jaco Is One Of 2015’s Top New Music, Overall Documentaries

Courtesy:  MVD Visual/Iron Horse Entertainment

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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Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Return to Forever have returned in a big way on new live release

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Return to Forever has returned.  And it has returned in a huge way.  The band released its brand new live set, “The Mothership Returns” this past Tuesday, June 19th.  Being that it’s been nearly forty years since the band released its last full-length studio album, this new live release is an excellent “return” for this jazz/fusion/rock band.  It’s an equally impressive introduction to the legendary act for fans who might be new to RTF’s music.

Jazz/fusion, jazz/rock, jazz.  Call it what you will.  But one thing that can be said of Return to Forever on its new live release, “The Mothership Returns”, is that it shows that in the nearly four decades since the release of RTF’s last release, this band hasn’t lost even the slightest bit of steam.  The double disc audio portion of the set covers some of the band’s biggest hits including:  ‘School Days’, ‘Spain’, and Medieval Overture’ just to name a few.  This incarnation of RTF isn’t the original lineup.  But even with a new lineup, the band is still as strong as ever.  Drummer Lenny White’s work behind the kit is incredible to say the least.  He keeps perfect time all while crafting some of the most creative music of any drummer out there.  And founder/keyboardist Chick Corea continues to prove why he is one of the top musicians in his category, too.  Alongside Stanley Clarke (Bass), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), and Frank Gamble (guitars), the quintet’s performance makes for a wonderful experience for any lover of jazz.

The audio portion of “The Mothership Returns” is impressive in itself.  But it’s the addition of the bonus dvd that makes this release that much more enjoyable.  The documentary, “Return to Forever:  Inside The Music” is a bonus that makes the whole epxerience that much more enjoyable.  The documentary offers insight into how the songs on the live show came to life.  There’s even an extra discussion on the song, ‘Dayride.’  Bassist Stanley Clarke discusses how he came up with the song.  He notes in the band interviews that it started coming to life when he was watching the Grammys one night.  Mel Torme was awarding a Grammy to Chick Corea, and mispronounced Chick’s last name.  Clarke laughs about how Torme had to be corrected about the pronunciation of Chick’s name.  That’s just one of many more memorable anecdotes shared by the band throughout the interviews.

The bonus documentary dvd included in “The Mothership Returns” is loaded with lots of memorable anecdotes that audiences will love to listen to again and again.  They aren’t all that make the bonus documentary the great extra that it is.  As the band talks about how the songs on this show came to life, each one shares with audiences what the other band memers bring to the table.  Not one of the band members has anything bad to say about the other.  Drummer Lenny White even jokes with bandmate Stanley Clarke about how Clarke had told him that he [Clarke] swore he would not be playing ‘School Days’ at fifty years old.  that obviously didn’t work out too well for Clarke.  That camaraderie shows through to the show, too.  The chemistry between every one of the band members is evident in their playing during both the audio and video portions of the show.  It’s part of what gives the show the energy that it has.

The video portion of the set is another extra that makes the bonus dvd a welcome addition to “The Mothership Returns.”  As the band discusses the songs featured on the audio portion of the set, audiences get to see performances of those songs from the Montreux Jazz Festival.  One of the songs discussed that’s not included in the double disc audio portion of the set is ‘Dayride.’ As noted earlier, there is a discussion of this on the bonus dvd. Fans who pick up “The Mothership Returns” will get to not only hear the discussion on this one, but see it performed at length, too, thanks to that inclusion. 

The entire “Inside The Music” documentary clocks in at just over an hour.  In that time, the documentary alone shines as the cornerstone of the bonus dvd.  From the insight into the band’s music to the laugh filled anecdotes to the extra bonus content, the bonus dvd helps to bring the entire package completely together.  Together with the double disc performance by this newest incarnation, RTF has proven that even after nearly forty years the band is still a leader not just in the world of jazz, but in music in general.

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