Music – Overture-Cotton Avenue – Jaco Pastorius – Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

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Music – Overture-Cotton Avenue – Jaco Pastorius – Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter – 1977
Article by Eric Larson, © Copyright 2015

Jaco Pastorius 01
Jaco Pastorius

A dissection: Many people consider Jaco Pastorius to be one of the best bass players to ever live, if not the best. Though his life was short, his impact is practically eternal. But with all of the music that has come and gone in the last five decades, it can be easy to become numb to just how good he was. Listening to Joni Mitchell’s Hejira (1976) and Don Juan’s Recklass Daughter (1977) albums recently, reminded me again of his frightening ability and innovation. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Joni Mitchell or the engineers working on these two projects. I chose to dissect “Overture-Cotton Avenue” as an exercise. This song is an outstanding example of several of Jaco’s signature styles. It has a little bit of everything, and is a good study in fretless bass guitar and bass guitar in general. From an expressive beginning to chord slides, from bass groove importance and rhythm section support to harmonics, from the evolution of the bass line throughout the song to soaring melodic voicing, not to mention overall support of and respect for the song-writer, this song is a must-listen.

  • 0:00 – Intro section, acoustic/vocal intro
  • 1:45 – Jaco comes in, expressive bass string hit, like thunder, with high slide
  • 1:56 – strong bass riffs and fast staccato walk-up, walk-down, followed by a chord “chime-in”, and accenting with low string hits and rumble
  • 2:17 – expressive section – likely hitting the strings and body of the bass together
  • 2:43 – big chord slide-in’s – a signature of Jaco
  • 2:57 – “A” section, lyrics come in, bass supports with solid bass line, nice bass chords at end of each section (x2)
  • 3:32 – “B” section, nice driving, supportive, percussive bass line
  • 3:44 – dancing chords, into big bass chords
  • 4:00 – “C” section, bass line evolves a bit, walks around more, exploring
  • 4:35 – “B” section again, chords have slight harmonic overtones
  • 4:47 – bass builds with nice dancing chords, ending with big bass chord slides
  • 5:04 – “C” section, bass line really evolves, walking and sliding
  • 5:08 – nice big slide
  • 5:14 – amazing melodic high riff, with high slide – another signature of Jaco – the pinnacle
  • 5:20 – “C” section again
  • 5:36 – nice harmonics – yet another signature of Jaco
  • 5:39 – nice advanced evolution of the “B” section, driving bass with lots of percussive octave action, plus nice complimentary horn-like second bass track
  • 5:51 – nice dancing chords into a big, high chord slide, chords have more obvious harmonic overtones
  • 6:11 – chords with vibrato/rolling finger action
  • 6:16 – nice high harmonics
  • 6:29 – expression, fooling around
  • 6:35 – listen closely to the quiet chord back and forth, likely done on fingerboard alone with right hand or left hand tapping


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3 thoughts on “Music – Overture-Cotton Avenue – Jaco Pastorius – Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

  1. This has been a favorite of mine since it first came out. It is a class full of lessons in itself. I have had young bass players listen to it just to hear the kind of things that can be done and imagined with the bass, as well as an introduction to fretless…and Jaco.

    1. I heard this album in my first year of University and I felt a similar way. Didn’t know you were alwoled to mix up pop and jazz at that point to make something really special, and it blew my freshly developed jazz snobbery out of the water.

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