Jacofest, a rousing all-star tribute to the late genre-bending, electric bass phenom Jaco Pastorius, found that artful balance between legacy and longing, delicately mixing history and mystery. Expertly directed by longtime Pastorius bandmate and collaborator, drummer Kenwood Dennard, Jacofest was a spirited celebration of the life and music of a true musical innovator.
A venerable who’s who of New York session aces brought Pastorious’s funk-infused furor back into fashion. Dennard kicked off the concert with “The Chicken,” a longtime Pastorius favorite by former James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis. “Saturday Night Live” band alum Alex Foster, (who worked with Pastorius in the early 80’s), rode Dennard’s deep-pocketed groove on his sax, prodding the rhythm section throughout his soul-infused solo.
Bassist Matt Garrison captured the frenetic funk of the honoree’s bass wizardry, walking the fine line between groove and gumption. Garrison would wow the crowd again during a full band version of Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Donna Lee,” made famous by Pastorius on his 1976 eponymous debut recording.
Other performances of note included guitarist David Gilmore’s gritty solo on the Weather Report classic “Havona” and a chorded, polytonal tuba romp by Dave Bargeron that defied the engineering limits of the brass beast.
It’s hard to believe that Pastorius, who rose to worldwide acclaim anchoring the seminal jazz-rock collective Weather Report, died more than 20 years ago.