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My Personal 911 2007/09/11

Posted by Daddy Dave in Musings.
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[Picture of Joe Zawinul]I am sad today. It is the 20th anniversary of the death of a hero of mine – Jaco Pastorius (although he officially died on 21st, the 11th was his last day of consciousness), so I naturally browsed the web today and got a shock and a surprise — Jaco’s musical partner in Weather Report died today — the great Viennese Keyboard player and composer Josef Zawinul

Joe lost his battle with a type of skin cancer variously called ‘Trabecular cancer’, ‘Apudoma of the skin’, and ‘Merkel cell carcinoma’. He died aged 75, in his native Vienna where he ran a Jazz bar called ‘Birdland’.

Jaco-and-Joe’s music has been a constant through my life — from secondary school through to adulthood. — and oh, such wonderful music — especially live concerts. Inspirational to a musician, these guys were so good that it was OK to admit it! They were beyond jealousy and pettiness.

Weather Report gigs with Zawinul and Pastorius were legendary, and I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing them many times in Edinburgh, London and Glasgow… some of the best gigs I have experienced.

Weather Report were amazing, and from the fun ‘Birdland’ through the slow, jazzy ‘A remark You Made’ to the danceable ‘Pearl on a Half Shell’, they led the way with Joe as the godfather of fusion! Joe’s amazing composition, amazing technical knowledge of synths and studio gadgets, combined with musical and technical ability to create a unique and new musical genre at the time of punk rock and disco.

But it is the strange date coincidence I cannot shake off.

[Picture of Jaco]It is just strange that it was exactly 20 years ago, back in 1987, when we heard the shocking news that Jaco Pastorius had been beaten senseless and was in a coma and on life support.

Jaco was a genius and another serious and major hero of mine. When Jaco and Joe got together, the whole world took notice – these guys rocked musicians (and still do).

Life has ups and downs, and Jaco was on a down at that time — he was divorced, depressed and dependent on drink and possibly drugs. He was unstable but managed to get some bass playing gigs to stay alive. I personally understand where he was. Been there and done that. He was only 35, so there was plenty of time to straighten things out and make it work properly again.

On 11th September back in 1987, he had fallen off the stage and was thrown out on the street. It was late, and he was lonely and bored as well as drunk, so he pushed on, and made his drunken way to The Midnight Bottle Club.

Unfortunately for Jaco, the bouncer on the door that night was martial arts expert, Luc Haven. These guys had bad blood, so a quarrel broke out.

You have to understand that in 1987, I had spent some years learning Karate in Glasgow’s world-famous Kobe Osaka dojo. As a new black belt I was getting offered part time work as a bouncer — I took security work at the new Virgin Megastore on Renfield Street on Saturdays just to get cheap albums. I also took occasional jobs as bouncer at nightclubs. This as well as being a bassist and guitarist means that I can relate completely with the tragic and dramatic events of that night…

Listen to one who knows, it doesn’t take much to beat up a man who is so drunk he could not stand unaided. Luc beat-up the bass legend so comprehensively that poor Jaco lost one arm and one eye and suffered a total disfigurement of his face — ears, nose and bone

With irreversible brain damage, and thankfully in a deep coma, he was rushed to ‘Broward General Medical Center’ and put on life support until declared brain dead after a brain haemorrhage a couple of days later. ‘Just as well’ I thought – his life was over — if he recovered consciousness he would have been brain dead, if he was mentally OK, he couldn’t perform as a result of disfigurement, but then again he couldn’t exactly play sessions with only one arm. This was a thousand deaths indeed. I heard all about it on the BBC radio and was deeply affected by the whole thing. It just amazed me.

His death was the beginning of the on-going family feuds and squabbles as his last wife refused to give consent to pulling the plug — she was outnumbered by the rest of his family. This took over a week, and finally the great Jaco Pastorius was removed from the life support system — and continued to live for three hours before dying on 21st September aged just 35. I heard the news from Johnny Walker on the BBC Radio the following weekend.

  • The vicious, cowardly bouncer, Luc Haven, was tried in a court of law and found guilty of the murder of Jaco Pastorius in the Second Degree, and he went to prison for FOUR MONTHS!

In the martial arts we were always taught to use the minimum force – to hurt rather than maim, to maim rather than kill — I was so disgusted that I quit martial arts forever! I quit my jobs, the Kobe Osaka,the karate-do renmei, all competitions and classes, and I formally returned my black belt to my sensei, Tommy Morris. I’m not sure that he fully understood as he gave me a puzzled look, but then he gave me an embroidered black belt which I still have to this day. Mind you he never did return any money!

Thing is that I totally turned my back on martial arts on 21st September 1987 and although technically Jaco is down as 21st September, I cannot help thinking he departed on 11th September — same as Joe.

Jaco and Joe have been so influential on my life in so many ways – my wife feels the same, and in fact we almost called our baby son “Jaco”!

Joe was instantly recognisable, being bald with a thick moustache, his type of cancer is rare, but most common in bald men. I guess there will always be “what ifs”, but it all goes to show how lives touch other lives in surprising ways. It’s all here — even the family feuds and the nerds and geeks who are obsessed with Joe’s and Jaco’s minutae.

If you have not heard of Joe Zawinul or Jaco Pastorius, do a search on the web, listen to Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and Maynard Ferguson.

Their genius was that both Joe and Jaco took what was around and made new connections, manipulating things and combining to make something new, and they did this together.

Much may even seem obvious and logical now — looking back with hindsight — but at the time they were stunningly creative moves.

Joe was responsible for bringing electronic keyboards into Jazz, for updating the genre, for putting soul into synthesiser music.

The upright bass is like a large violin or cello — a rounded neck to be played with a bow and with no frets. However, when Leo Fender invented the electric bass guitar, he made made an instrument that was a guitar (flat neck and fingerboard and frets), but used to play bass parts.

What Jaco did was to pull the frets out of the neck and fill the gaps with wood filler.

So if Leo Fender invented an entirely new instrument (the electric bass guitar), Pastorius did too — a fretless electric bass guitar.

He then played this fretless utilising the techniques of the classical, flamenco and gypsy guitar genres — chords, thumbed harmonics, hammer on harmonics, and a lot more — he even slid chords and invented his own techniques, in particular, as evident in Weather Report’s ‘Birdland’, the bass guitar plays the high melody part (harmonics) while the saxophone and keyboards play the bass line! Revelation and revolution ensued!

911, eh. What a bleak date indeed.


1. notfainthearted - 2007/10/09

What a great remembrance of how these geniuses affected your life. Thanks for sharing it, and thanks for stopping by and commenting on my remembrance of the day as well.


2. aquasensia - 2007/10/10

Thank you for sharing with us your memories on two great musicians.
I’m impressed with how they influenced your life. May you always be blessed and not just by their music. Thank you also for your comment.
Many, many blessings to you and your family.

3. gabriel gordillo - 2009/01/09

What can we say, I guess life shows its beauty in many diferrent ilusions, I personally thank you, you sure know how to write a story telling us about these great musicians and how things can relate to a person, thank you man, whenever you can, join us at the international jass festival in playa del carmen mexico every december, hope jaco and joe are in peace somehow.

4. JACO - PORTRAIT OF TRACY « davedevine.co.uk - 2009/02/11

[…] If you want to read my thoughts on Jaco’s murder, and how it changed my life — read my post on the death of Joe Zawinul and the death of Jaco Pastorius: 2007/09/11/my-personal-911/ […]

5. Christian - 2009/04/23

My brother was fortunate enough to meet Jaco at a Harvey Mandell show. It’s a fabulous story that I hope he will post it one day. As 35 year old, I was a little late for the whole Jaco thing, he died when I was in Junior High…and at the time I was listening to absolute crap =P

Now that I have discovered Jaco and Weather Report, I’m so drawn in to the legacy. As a native of South Florida, I also feel more connected to the narritive as it happened here in my home.

Last December (2008) the Oakland Park City Commission dedicated a park and named it Jaco Pasorius Park. A little late, but a good start in paying tribute to one of the world’s most important musicians.

Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts.

Daddy Dave - 2009/04/25

Thank you for your nice words, and the news that (finally) there is a monument to Jaco. Cheers!

Fefee - 2009/06/02

WoW, thanks for sharing with those of us who only HEARD about Jaco but never heard his music. And I’m very angry that this Luc man felt he had to just DESTROY this man a Human Being named Jaco Pastorius. Come On along with the other physical damages Lost his arm too. This man should have spent Life in Prison.

R.I.P. Jaco

6. Miles - 2009/07/26

Jaco Pastorius also died on my birthday. Five years before I was born, exactly. All of these coincidences are certainly difficult to shake!

7. CHET BAKER « davedevine.co.uk - 2010/01/09

[…] like Jaco, Chet got in a late night brawl and took a severe beating. But unlike Jaco, Chet didn’t die from the assault — but the beating made a mess of […]

8. Yvonne Weatherwalk - 2010/01/31

Thank you for this bittersweet post…I am 49 and from PA, where Jaco was born. I feel into a depression when both these men were taken…especially the brutality with poor Jaco from a deranged, sadistic coward who felt what he did was legitimate. I guess he wont do real time til he kills someone else. Jaco was a true inspiration and I cannot say enough wonderful things about him

We all die, but not everyone truly lives…these two truly LIVED and shared their gifts with a grateful world.

Jaco and Joe were taken from us early, and the world is a quieter and less attractive planet without them, I am sure Heaven is even more beautiful WITH them.

RIP, Jaco and Joe

Daddy Dave - 2010/02/01

Thanks Yvonne; I agree entirely.
I would have loved to have taken my kids to see these guys play, I feel sad that Jaco’s family didn’t see him recover and reconcile. I also feel sad that we’ve all missed what a mature Jaco could have brought to music, and the possibility of him playing with Joe; these guys would definitely NOT have just rehashed the old faves, they were not wired up like that, they were not one-hit-wonders or even of their era, they were innovative, experimental risk-takers. I really do believe that. I read a short time ago that someone took Bob Dylan for a down-and-out tramp! One HUGE lesson with Dylan, with Pastorius, and with guys like Chet Baker, is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. These are great men, historical men, influential and greatly loved men — what’s that supposed to look like? I try to treat everyone as being a secret genius or secret millionaire; you just never know do you?

Yvonne Weatherwalk - 2010/02/23

Amen, Brother! The bible says to treat EVERYONE kindly, as they may be an angel! I had so much fun going to see Weather Report, every time they played Pittsburgh! You’re right, it would have been AWESOME to have shared that live, tribal experience with my kids…so sad…
Like you said in your article, ESPECIALLY live. I certainly never heard ANY band or group or pack of top professionals play even close to these guys! They were just perfection. Innovative, exciting, spot-on performers. Talent times 100.
Recently my 12 year old stated that she was thinking of quitting her sax lessons…until I sat her down in front of the computer and had her watch/listen to Wayne Shorter with Weather Report. So special…
“We may be entertaining angels, unaware’.

9. axisman - 2010/02/24

Jaco Pastorius would be proud to hear the bass chops of jazz artist Alessandro Bottura. His latest record, “Morning Grooves” is a smooth fusion of rock, jazz, and pop instrumentals all rolled into one amazing sound. Bottura’s bass playing speaks for itself and is immediately evident right from the opening track, “Out of Sight.” His jazz fueled bass runs fly up and down the neck and are nicely driven by some outstanding guitar/drum work. Bottura changes gears a bit and slow things down on “Sweet Tears,” which also highlights his staccato playing skills. Any fan of Jaco Pastorius or of virtuoso bass playing will love this album, plus the band behind Bottura is just as exceptional as he.

-Shaun H. and the RadioIndy.com Reviewer Team

10. Gary - 2010/07/31

Luc Haven’s life will one day come to a tradgic end. He’s surely not the baddest so-called, ‘bad ass’ in the world, and one can only hope that he gets into a fight with a real martial arts master, like the one who taught Bruce Lee kung fu, karate, jiu jitsu, and jeet kune do, when he was a boy.

Instant karma comes around to everyone who inflict pain and torment on others, whether the person deserved it or not. Jaco will be remembered for who he was and what he did, the bouncer/ bully Haven, won’t. For this brute to have used excessive force on one of the greatest bass players of all time, or anyone, in general, was one of the most cowardly acts throughout man’s history. And like the saying goes, ‘A coward dies a million deaths, a hero dies but one.’

Also to the judge that handed down Haven’s 4 month prison sentence/ Club Med retreat; you will be ‘judged’ in the end also. Hope you like the sentence that you’re going to receive. LONG LIVE JACO PASTORIUS, BASSIST EXTRA-ORDINAIRE!

11. Chris - 2010/08/04

I love the bass and never paid much attention to Jaco, I figured he was old school. Then I bought the Jaco big band series on Itunes. What an amazing talent. What an incredible loss for no reason at the hands of a loser. Amazing man and God bless.

12. Duchess - 2010/09/27

“but then again he couldn’t exactly play sessions with only one arm.”

Jaco most certainly could have…and would have! Through it all, the bass was Jaco’s lifeline, not a hobby, but the one thing of beauty that no one could take away from him. Reminds me of someone else…


13. mauro - 2010/11/01

luc haven you must cry to hell for eternity

14. tom - 2011/04/06

Let it be said that Jaco is immortal….god bless his soul. The club bouncer however will always be remembered as a murderer, and he should die as horribly.

15. God - 2011/06/11

Your F…… day will come luc Haven! You won’t get away from this one!

16. Emily King - 2012/01/25

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I forgot about Pastorius customising his bass. These guys music will always resonate deeply with me. My late Dad’s favourites – it’s like he walks back into the room whenever I play these guy’s music…. wouldn’t be without their fabulous sounds in my collection.

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