JACO tells the story of Jaco Pastorius, a self-taught, larger-than-life musician who single-handedly changed the course of modern music by redefining the sound and the role of the electric bass guitar. Never-before-seen 8mm film, photographs, and audio recordings unveil the true story behind the legend of Jaco’s life, his music, and his heartbreaking end. Featuring Joni Mitchell, Sting, Flea, Herbie Hancock, Geddy Lee, Bootsy Collins, Santana, Wayne Shorter and more, JACO will leave you longing for a time when “musicians owned the music industry.” Produced by Metallica's Robert Trujillo with Passion Pictures (Searching for Sugar Man) and directed by Mr. Paul Marchand & Stephen Kijak.
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★★★★ review by JesseSP on Letterboxd
I disagree with some who have said it's overlong. As someone who knew little about the man, the time taken to show footage from the phases of his career made the film (and the ultimate tragedy of his life) that much sadder. Watching his downfall is one of the saddest depictions of a sad musician's life in the history of sad musician biographies.
★★★★ review by nursemommy4 on Letterboxd
I saw this documentary which is currently streaming on Netflix. It is the story of one of my favorite bass guitarists, Jaco Pastorius. He was also a member of the group, Weather Report. Someone in the film said he was our generation's Jimi Hendrix. It tells the tragic story of his rise to fame and his constant battle with mental illness throughout his career. It was very insightful and the candid and poignant thoughts by some of today's well respected musicians also adds a nice touch. If you enjoy documentaries about musical artists, I suggest this one. Several diehard jazz aficionados had issue with Flea being one of the featured musicians in the film but for me, it was not an issue at all. Jaco crossed many boundaries and his influence can be seen vastly throughout many musical genres, not just jazz. I gave it a 4/5 stars due to some choppiness in the flow of the film.
★★★½ review by Hans Morgenstern on Letterboxd
It might be a bit of a cliché to say musicians are a special breed of people because they share in the language of music, but to understand this notion is to understand a tribe of kindred spirits most comfortable on that astral plain where only musicians tread. Once you can appreciate that, the loss of the ability to communicate through music for one of these people becomes heartbreaking. It happened to Jaco Pastorius after he redefined the limitations of what the bass guitar could do and played arenas with jazz fusion groups like Weather Report. His story, which began and ended in Wilton Manors, Florida, is nothing short of a tragedy.
With Jaco, co-directors Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak follow the classic formula of a documentary focused on an influential creative person gone too soon. There are talking heads, from musicians who worked with him, like Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, to admirers like Sting, Flea and Juan Alderete from The Mars Volta who says, “He’s our Hendrix.” There is also a lot of vintage footage, including plenty of home videos and photographs. Though the directors follow Pastorius’ life chronologically, they also frame it around his creative ethos while dropping in sly reminders of his tragic mental illness.
The film opens with a scene of Pastorius in his destitute later years, interviewed on television, around 1983 or ’84, by famed bassist Jerry Jemmott. Jemmott bestows Pastorius with praise on his influence on music and other bass players. When Jemmott asks him how he feels about being such an influence, Pastorius, who mostly stares down at his battered, scratched up bass perched on his lap, looks up and says, “Give me a gig, you know.” Cut to Jemmot reflecting on this meeting from the current day. He describes Pastorius as someone desperate to communicate and work again after a massively successful tour of Japan that ended with a decent into drugs and alcohol and erratic behavior. It’s the right kind of sad dynamic to set up a movie that refuses to gloss over the flaws of its talented subject.
It’s the directors’ sensitivity to Jaco’s personal turmoil and clear admiration of him as an artist that allows the film to be more than a chronological tale of tragedy ...
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★★★★ review by nichy6 on Letterboxd
★★★★ review by Bill Shannon on Letterboxd
A superior exploration of a true musical genius and a fascinating figure.
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