Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Making of "Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty and Soul"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“In recognition for all they do for the music, Resonance Records was recently voted best Jazz Recording Company by the Jazz Journalist Association, the second year-in-a-row that it has been accorded this distinction.

George brings some unique qualities to the recordings that Resonance issues having been a recording engineer himself, as well as, a producer of Jazz concerts and a manager of Jazz musicians and vocalists.

And while the number of recordings that Resonance releases each year is perhaps not on a scale as many of its esteemed predecessors, very few Jazz records are of the quality of those issued by George’s company in terms of a spectacular format made up of beautiful color graphics, superb black and white photographs of the represented artists as taken by leading Jazz photographers, thick insert note booklets jammed package with information, interviews, annotations and observations by some of the leading writers on a variety of Jazz subjects and topics, and, of course, the music itself rendered in the highest audio quality available.

Put another way, George’s spares no expense - including compensating the surviving family or estate of the artist, paying the musicians who appear on these dates and banking the necessary royalties - in putting together a final product that he can be proud of and that you can enjoy from a number of audio-visual perspectives.”
- The editorial staff at JazzProfiles

I made the above statement in the context of a blog posting about two new releases by guitarist Grant Green [1935-1979] on Resonance Records: Funk In France: Paris And Antibes (1969-1970) [HCD-2033] and Slick! Live At Oil Can Harry's [HCD-2034].

While perusing the insert booklet to another Resonance Records CD - Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty and Soul [HCD2027] - I came across this detailed elaboration by Zev Feldman of what goes on, behind-the-scenes in the Resonance Records approach to developing a Jazz recording which adds further substance to my opening comments.

“It sure seems that a lot of our productions at Resonance take years and years to come to fruition. This usually happens because there are layers of legal clearances we must obtain and other steps we have to complete before we can even begin production. The actual production itself takes time.
Assembling the accompanying books and the packages entails detailed research, tracking people down and conducting interviews with them, hiring writers, scouring the landscape for photographs, then putting it all together, handing it over to our brilliant designer. Burton Yount, and finally massaging everything through production; it's no small thing.

This was certainly true with this album. It took over six years for it finally to come together, but we were determined. Where most other companies faced with such a complex undertaking would probably just have taken a pass, we felt passionately that these glorious recordings of Jaco Pastorius and the "New York" Word of Mouth big band with special guest,the incredible Toots Thielemans, were precious. Clearly they needed to be treated with utmost sensitivity and care; and above all, with patience.

Thanks to the generosity of executive producer George Klabin, Resonance's founder and president, we were able to make it happen in spite of the many roadblocks we encountered. George allowed us the time and resources to acquire the rights and build the album package in a way that we all felt would do honor to Jaco's art. Above all, we wanted to reach out to the legions of Jaco Pastorius fans out there as well as folks just discovering him for the first time. We were determined to present this material in a way that recognizes the rare and unique piece of history it represents: Jaco, the apotheosis of the electric bass, in a concert recording that most of the musicians closest to him believe is the finest recorded evidence of his musical vision.

The story of our release of this album begins in 2011 when legendary record producer, label executive and great friend of Resonance, Michael Cuscuna, introduced us to Tim Owens, the producer of the nationally syndicated Peabody Award-winning NPR program. Jazz Alive!, which showcased the best jazz of its day — from 1977 to 1983. A portion of the Word of Mouth concert we present here had been the subject of an episode of Jazz Alive!.

Public radio stations across the country broadcast that show and later, in the '90s, NPR aired that portion again on JazzSet with Branford Marsalis. An excerpt of the concert even surfaced illicitly on YouTube, of course with very poor audio, but this concert has never before been heard in its entirety, as we're presenting it here. Indeed, over 40 minutes of music contained in this album have never been heard before at all, even on the NPR broadcasts.

So thanks to Michael, I met Tim Owens for the first time over lunch in Santa Barbara, where he now lives. As we sat and talked,Tim reminded me that he'd produced a broadcast of a Jaco Pastorius Word of Mouth big band concert in New York from 1982, I was beyond excited! I've always considered Jaco a real hero; someone whose recordings I'd collected since I was a teenager. I knew then and there we had to get our hands on that music and release it.

This is an unusually fine-sounding recording thanks to the talents and dedication of Grammy'-winning recording engineer Paul Blakemore,who not only recorded the original concert, but who mixed it again for us decades later — now with the benefit of better equipment than he had access to in 1982. Fortunately, for the original recording, Paul was able to use a first-class remote sound-truck stationed outside Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall and he was able to capture excellent signal quality to tape. So decades later, for this release, he had top-quality source material to mix from.The sound on this album surpassed all of our expectations.

Given the exceptional significance of this material, I wanted our team to build a truly special package befitting the magnitude of the occasion. We wanted to build new reference materials to help us all to understand and appreciate Jaco's genius. While today the validity of his self-assessment as "the greatest bass player in the world" is virtually undisputed, Jaco is also becoming appreciated more and more as a composer and musical catalyst.

This big band, with the participation of the pantheon of New York horn players, represented the culmination of his musical vision. Why is this recording more special than other recordings? You'll have to read what others have to say in this book and listen to the album to learn for yourself.
This was the New York version of the Word of Mouth big band, which was different than the band that played in L.A. or the band that went to Japan.

Over the course of putting this album together, we learned so much and we've gathered the voices of many of the musicians who participated in this event. We also take a look at two individuals who aren't spoken of enough: arrangers Larry Warrilow and Charlie Brent, both of whom collaborated with and influenced Jaco. We have the preeminent authority on Jaco, Bill Milkowski, who has written a fantastic lead essay, as well as Jaco's son John, who shares his memories of his father and of this concert, which he attended when he was eight years old. I'd like to personally thank all who participated in this book, including the legends who gave us their time for interviews and observations, towering figures including Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Othello Molineaux, Randy Emerick, Lou Marini, Bob Bobbing, Robert Trujillo, Victor Wooten, Jimmy Haslip, Ron McClure, Wayne Shorter, Tim Owens and Paul Blakemore.

The first step in getting this project rolling was to get a deal in place with the estate of Jaco Pastorius. This came about in large part because of the support of our executive producer, Dave Love, an industry veteran, label executive and producer, who knew the family and its legal team. Thanks Dave! Next, the folks at Warner Music Group, which Jaco was under contract to at the time of the recording. Because of the care and understanding of our good friend there, Kent Liu, who recognized the importance of the project and helped shepherd our deal for the rights through, we were able to cross that bridge. Lastly, we had to clear rights with National Public Radio in Washington D.C. and we did that, as well. In the end, as is our practice, we've been able to secure all of the rights needed to release this alburn legally and officially.

In closing, I'd like to thank the estate of Jaco Pastorius and his family; Mary Pastorius, John Pastorius, Felix Pastorius, Julius Pastorius, Rory Pastorius. And special thanks go to Pastorius estate attorney Stephen J. Carlisle.

It was a long and amazing journey to see this project through. I'd like to thank George Klabin again for making it all possible and associate producers John Koenig and Zak Shelby-Szyszko for all their help in joining me to bring this production home. It took a herculean effort by a team. Last but not least, I want to thank the great Burton Yount for continuing to grace Resonance's packages with his brilliant designs.

ZEV FELDMAN Los Angeles, January 2017

Is it any wonder that the finished product at Resonance is so outstanding?

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