Jaco Pastorius was born John Francis Anthony Pastorius III on December 1, 1951 in Norristown, Pennsylvania to Jack Pastorius, a big band singer and drummer. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Oakland Park, Florida, where he went to elementary and middle school at St. Clement’s Catholic School in Wilton Manors. Picking up music at an early age he formed his first band named the Sonics along with John Caputo and Dean Noel while in high school at Northeast High. He was also a talented athlete playing football, basketball, and baseball. His nickname came from a play on the spelling of umpire Jocko Conlan when French pianist Alex Darqui assumed Jaco was the correct spelling.
Following in the footsteps of his father Jack, playing the drums until he injured his wrist playing football at age 13. Pastorius then bought an electric bass from a local pawn shop for $15, began to learn to play with drummer Rich Franks, and switched from drummer to becoming the bassist for the Las Olas Brass.band. By the age of 17 he had begun to appreciate jazz and had saved enough money to buy an upright bass. Though its deep, mellow tone appealed to him, it strained his finances and had difficulty maintaining the instrument, and one day found it had cracked. At that point he traded it in for a 1962 Fender Jazz Bass.
His first real break came when he became bass player for Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. He also played on various local R&B and jazz records with Little Beaver and Ira Sullivan. At 22, Jaco began teaching bass at the University of Miami, where he met student Pat Metheny in 1972, but he was too advanced a player to remain a student and likewise became part of the UM music faculty at the age of 18. By 1974 they began playing and recording together, first with pianist Paul Bley as leader and Bruce Ditmas on drums, on an album later titled Jaco, on the Paul Bley/Carol Goss Improvising Artists label. They followed this with drummer Bob Moses on a trio album on the ECM label, titled Bright Size Life in 1976).
1975 saw Pastorius introduced to Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, who had been asked by Columbia Records to find new talent for their jazz division. This meeting produced his debut album as a leader titled Jaco Pastorius in 1976, that became a breakthrough album for the electric bass, and is considered by many as the finest bass album ever recorded. The album also boasted a lineup of heavyweights Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Hubert Laws, Don Alias, and Michael Brecker, as well as, soul singers Sam & Dave, who reunited to appear on the track Come On, Come Over.
He joined Weather Report after a somewhat rocky introduction after a Miami concert to Joe Zawinul, claiming he expected more from the band. Put off by his comments, Pastorius persisted and an admiration soon formed for the brash young bassist who claimed to be the best in the world. A demo tape and correspondence followed and in 1976 he joined Weather Report during the recording sessions for Black Market, and for the next five years became a vital part of the band by virtue of the unique playing qualities, his skills as a composer and arranger, and his exuberant showmanship on stage.
Pastorius guested on many albums by Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, David Sanborn, Aynsley Dunbar, Joni Mitchell, Al Di Meola, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Mike Stern, guitarist Bireli Lagrene and drummer Brian Melvin. In 1985, he recorded an instructional video, Modern Electric Bass, hosted by bassist Jerry Jemmott.
Following Weather Report he put together the big band project Word Of Mouth with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Toots Thielemans, and Hubert Laws in tow. Though well produced on both coasts and in Belgium, the album didn’t do well as audiences were moving away from improvisation and chamber like jazz rock for a more commercially viable sound in the late Seventies. Warner Bros. released him from his contract and he had difficulty getting signed afterwards.
Now in his thirties Pastorius began touring in 1982 and his visit to Japan, though a highlight, surfaced the beginnings of deteriorating behavior. He shaved his head, painted his face black and threw his bass into Hiroshima Bay at one point. In his early career Pastorius had avoided alcohol and drugs. With Weather Report he increasingly used alcohol and other drugs, the abuse of which exacerbated his mental issues and led to increasingly erratic and sometimes anti-social behavior. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in late 1982 following his Word of Mouth tour of Japan.
By 1986, Pastorius’s health had further deteriorated, he began living on the streets after being evicted from his New York apartment, was admitted to Bellevue Hospital in New York, where he was prescribed carbamazepine in preference to lithium. He moved back to Fort Lauderdale and again lived on the streets for weeks at a time. After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana concert in 1987 and being ejected, he kicked in the glass door of the Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, engaged in a violent confrontation with the club bouncer Luc Havan, that left him hospitalized with multiple facial fractures, injuries to his right eye and left arm.
He fell into a coma and a massive brain hemorrhage a few days later led to brain death for bassist Jaco Pastorius, passing away on September 21, 1987 at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 35. In 1988, following his death, he was elected by readers’ poll for inclusion in the Down Beat Hall of Fame, the second bassist honored in this way. To date, only seven bassists have been inducted, the others being Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden and Milt Hinton.
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Randal Edward Brecker was born November 27, 1945 in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburb of Cheltenham to a musical family. Choosing the trumpet over the clarinet at school when he was eight, it was an easy selection after hearing Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Chet Baker at home. He attended Cheltenham High School and then Indiana University from 1963 to 1966 studying with Bill Adam, David Baker and Jerry Coker. He later moved to New York and performed with Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band, the Duke Pearson and the The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestras.
By 1967 Randy ventured into jazz-rock with the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, on their first album Child Is Father To The Man, but left to join the Horace Silver Quintet. He recorded his first solo album Score in 1968 and featured his brother Michael. Leaving Silver, he then joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers before teaming up with brother Michael, Barry Rogers, Billy Cobham and John Abercrombie to form the fusion group Dreams. They recorded two albums for Columbia Records before disbanding in 1971. In the early Seventies Randy performed live with The Eleventh House, Stevie Wonder and Billy Cobham and recorded several albums with his brother under pianist and composer Hal Galper.
By 1975, Randy and Michael formed the Brecker Brothers band, releasing six albums for Arista and garnered seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981. After the Brecker Brothers disbanded in 1982, he recorded and toured as a member of Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth big band. It was soon thereafter that he met and later married Brazilian jazz pianist Eliane Elias, formed their own band, toured the world several times and recorded one album named after their daughter together, Amanda on Passport Records.
The 1990s would see Randy and Michael reunited for a world tour and a triple-Grammy nomination for the GRP recording The Return of the Brecker Brothers. Their 1994 follow-up album Out of the Loop won two Grammy Awards and he went on to record an album with Polish composer Włodek Pawlik. His first Grammy as a solo artists came from his project Into the Sun and this was followed by a series of recordings over the next decade and winning his third Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album with 34th N Lex. He toured Europe, performed and recorded live and won a fourth Grammy with the WDR Big Band, and released a two CD set of live recordings with the Randy Brecker Band featuring Dave Kikoski, Victor Bailey, Steve Smith, Rodney Holmes and Hiram Bullock. He would go on to win a fifth Grammy with his album Randy in Brazil, and a sixth with Night in Calisia, a collaboration between Brecker, the Wlodek Pawlik Trio, the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra and Adam Klocek
Throughout the years he has performed and recorded with David Sanborn, Mike Stern, Bill Lee, Dave Weckl, Ada Rovatti, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Sandip Burman, Charles Mingus, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Horace Silver, Frank Zappa, Parliament-Funkadelic, Chris Parker, Dire Straits, Todd Rundgren, Blue Öyster Cult, Richard Barone, Spyro Gyra, Barbara Dennerlein Aerosmith Arkadia Jazz All Stars, Patti Austin, Gato Barbieri, George Benson, Carla Bley, Ron Carter, Robin Eubanks, Johnny Hodges, Jaroslav Jakubovič, Hubert Laws, Yusef Lateef, Arif Mardin, Brother Jack McDuff, Alphonse Mouzon, Idris Muhammad, Duke Pearson, Don Sebesky, Stanley Turrentine, Miroslav Vitous, Roseanna Vitro, Kenny Werner, Jack Wilkins, Charles Williams among others.
Trumpeter and flugelhornist Randy Brecker continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
Jean-Paul Bourelly was born November 23, 1960 in Chicago, Illinois to American and Haitian parents. He sang at the Lyric Opera when he was ten years old and learned piano and drums, picking up guitar by age 14. When he was nineteen he moved to New York City and began his career playing with Muhal Richard Abrams, Roy Haynes, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones.
In 1984 Jean-Paul landed a role in the Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club, three years later released his debut solo album, and played with Miles Davis in 1988. Not limited to jazz he has branched out into rock music, catching the attention of the Black Rock Coalition, founded by Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He has spent time playing with Buddy Miles, Robin Trower, Jack Bruce, Terry Bozzio, and Matalex.
Bourelly has performed and recorded with Cassandra Wilson on several of her albums, as well as with Mike Ellis, Charles & Eddie, and Craig Harris among others, and is a member of the Stone Raiders and Blackstone Riders bands. He has released a dozen albums that have found their most success in Japan. Jazz fusion and blues rock guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly continues to perform, record and tour.
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Lester William DeMerle was born on November 4, 1946 in Brooklyn , New York and studied drums and percussion from 1960 to 1965 with Bob Livngstone in New York, then music theory and harmony with Alf Clausen . At 16 he was jamming with Lionel Hampton and in 1966 he played with the Lee Castle led Dorsey band.
1967 found Les with Randy Brecker and Arnie Lawrence in the first band formation called Sound 67. By the late 1960s he joined with Joe Farrell and Lee Konitz in New York. By 1971 Les was moving to Los Angeles,California where he founded the band Transfusion, that became the house band at the Cellar Theatre. He also played with Michael Brecker, Eric Marienthal, David Benoit and Raul De Souza. In 1974 he joined Harry James at the Newport Jazz Festival and stayed for 12 years.
He recorded with the Heath Brothers on the album Smilin’ Billy Suite / A Day in the Life in 1976 on the Strata-East label, worked with Bunk Gardner and in the 1980s he worked on albums with his wife Bonnie Eisele. DeMerle has led big bands and made a series of albums on the Origin label including a tribute album to the classic Blue Note Records, Hittin’ the Blue Notes.
Les DeMerle is one of the few drummers who sings. He has accompanied Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Tormé and Eddie Jefferson. He continues to perform, record and tour.
Antonio Sánchez was born on November 1, 1971 in Mexico City, Mexico and started playing drums at the age of five. By his teen years he had begun playing professionally. Attaining a degree in classical piano from the National Conservatory in 1993, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to study at Berklee College of Music. After a Magna Cum Laude graduation in Jazz Studies, he obtained a scholarship for a Masters in Jazz Improvisation at Boston’s New England Conservatory.
While still at the Conservatory in 1997, his teacher, Danilo Pérez, recommended Sánchez to Paquito D’Rivera for the drum chair in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra, leading him to him touring with the orchestra. In 1997 Perez invited him to be a part of his acoustic trio, extensive touring, and the recording of the Grammy-nominated album Motherland. Post tour he joined Pat Metheny Group as the drummer after a series of auditions.
The group recorded two albums with Antonio the 2003 Grammy Award winning Speaking of Now, for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and in 2005 The Way Up. The Pat Metheny Trio, he and Metheny are joined by bassist Christian McBride on the recording Day Trip in 2008 and in 2012 he was the drummer on Pat Metheny’s album Unity Band.
In 2007 he recorded his debut solo album as a leader, Migration, with Metheny, Chick Corea, Chris Potter, David Sanchez, and Scott Colley. With his sophomore release, Live in New York, in 2010 Sánchez recorde the double live album at the Jazz Standard in New York after a US tour of Antonio’s band which included Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, David Sanchez on tenor and Scott Colley on acoustic bass.
In 2013 he release of his third album New Life, and in 2014 Sánchez composed the music for the film Birdman, garnering for the soundtrack a nomination for 2014 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, a nomination for the 2015 British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA), but was disqualified to compete in the Academy Award for Best Original Score, because the film also contained a significant amount of classical music.
Drummer Antonio Sanchez has performed and recorded with Avishai Cohen, Alexei Tsiganov, Misha Tsiganov, Michael Brecker, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Bendik Hofseth, Enrico Pieranunzi, Dewa Budjana, David Binney, Donny McCaslin, John Escreet and Matt Brewer among others, and continues to perform, record, tour and compose.
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