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I was watching a Youtube documentary on Jaco Pastorius today. It was called "the lost tapes" or something. It got me thinking about the definition of genius and the whole idea of labelling artists as geniuses. I found myself getting irritated by how the musicians interviewed expounded on Jaco's genius, never getting specific and using lots of flowery nondescript adjectives. I have heard and read so many of these kinds of interviews.
I considered some of the boxes that Jaco ticked that I think have helped to raise him to this status.
It all happened a while ago in a golden musical period
He looks very cool most of the time
He was at the forefront of something new with the bass
He came to a tragic end, living life on the edge with many problems
I am a huge Jaco fan but was he, along with many other artists, a genius? I'm not sure he was the first to rip the frets out of his bass. This is contested but he was the first to be widely recognised with the instrument. I think other players would have been doing this before long. It was an inevitable evolution of the instrument. He did amazing stuff with false harmonics but guitarists had been exploring them for years before Jaco. Django and a whole raft of classical composers.
Take these things and his stage charisma away and we have a very fine musician with a great ear, technical facility, sense of rhythm and some creativity. I've met a lot of them. None of them will ever be called a genius. At one point Peter Erskine was raving about how good his intonation was but Jaco could see where the frets had been on his bass! His solos often sound incoherent to me with a lot of showboating. Was he a genius?
I'm not looking to offend anyone. I know it doesn't sound like it but I'm a massive Jaco fan. I've picked on Jaco but I could have chosen a number of other "genius"musicians. I'm interested in what others think and look forward to being put in my place.
I'll justify this discussion on the forum by saying that Jaco worked with Birelli. So Jaco was almost one of us 😉