By Fernando Gonzalez
Bassist, composer and arranger Jaco Pastorius is one of a handful of artists in the history of jazz whose work profoundly affected the sound of his instrument and, arguably, the sound of jazz itself. Now one of the tools of his trade will be available for purchase at a Fame Bureau auction on April 28.
This is not the fretless, 1962 Fender Jazz bass Pastorius himself nicknamed “The Bass of Doom” and was used in Pastorius’ solo albums as well as his work with Pat Metheny, Weather Report, and Joni Mitchell among others. Rather, this is a natural-finish 1960 Fender Jazz Bass that was part of the early development of his sound and approach.
In fact, Pastorius modified this instrument to his liking and even attempted to de-fret it. And that’s where the actual owner of the bass, classically trained bassist and concert promoter Rod Glaubman, a friend of Pastorius at the time, drew the line.
“At the time no one saw the value in un-fretted instruments,” said Glaubman from his home in San Francisco. “It was a bass guitar. What happens to the instrument once you’ve done that? It’s worthless. If he did that to my main instrument, I would have to go find another fretted bass.”
Glaubman, who joined the Miami Philharmonic at 16, was not only a working musician, but eventually became an arts promoter and concert organizer, most notably through Performing Arts for Community and Education (PACE, 1974 -1986), a non-profit organization that presented hundreds of concerts. Young, Miami-based musicians such as Pastorius, Metheny, bassist Will Lee (whose father was the Dean of the University of Miami School of Music), and singer Phyllis Hyman, performed at many of these events.
Glaubman bought the Fender Jazz Bass in the early ’70s for $300. Over the years he would lend it to friends such as Lee and Mark Egan but, Glaubman says, Pastorius was the one who borrowed it most. His recollections of that relationship offer some interesting insights into the early evolution of one of jazz’s iconic players.
“Our ‘friendship was around bass playing, instruments and gear,” says Glaubman. “I was not a social friend of Jaco’s. We didn’t just hang out. He would come over to borrow my bass or my Acoustic 360 [amp]. Once or twice he borrowed an upright from me. As he was becoming famous, we would meet at PACE gigs he would be playing when he was in town. He played several PACE Benefits.”
It was hanging out with Glaubman that helped Pastorius become familiar with Bach and develop a greater knowledge of harmonics, which later became a distinctive part of his vocabulary.
“I wouldn’t characterize what happened with Jaco as ‘teaching.'” continued Glaubman. “He would come over, hang out. We would talk. I played for him and he played for me. I was a serious upright player and he was interested in left hand fingering techniques and bowing. The instrument he had chosen, the electric bass, is a brand new instrument. The upright is what, 300 years old? So you have 300 years of know-how applied to an instrument that’s only been around [since1951].
“I played some contemporary stuff, but my technique was never right for the electric bass. He would play funky stuff for me and show off his technique. On one occasion I played [Serge Koussevitzky’s] Valse Miniature which has the upright bass playing all in harmonics at the end of the finger board. Jaco had been playing with harmonics on his own, but was gassed by the ability to play actual melodies all in harmonics. We talked a lot about harmonics. If you play funky it doesn’t matter where the harmonics are. But he was on the cutting edge of electric bass.
“At another juncture, he asked me what I played to get a legato, or as he put it ‘smooth,’ sound. I gave him Bach’s Cello Suites which I played constantly and Bach’s Violin Partitas. A month later he came back improvising Bach. His level of musical comprehension was off the charts — beyond serious, past curious, disciplined in the most unusual ways.”
Glaubman sold the amp but held on to the bass, which he still occasionally played. But while he has some misgivings about selling it, expenses such as health insurance and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Glaubman was living at the time in New Orleans) nudged him to it.
Pastorius’ favorite fretted bass, the 1960 Fender Jazz Bass will be in an auction in Paris, April 28 (details below) and then London on May 9, then possibly to Christies in New York. The estimated selling price will range between $25,000 to $40.000.
The Fame Bureau auction is April 28 at 10:00 a.m. Online bidding is available now. Here’s a link to the Jaco bass: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/6336208