John Francis Anthony Pastorius III, better known as Jaco Pastorius, was an American jazz musician and composer highly regarded as the most influential electric bass players of all time. His playing style was famous for having complex solos in the higher register and for the “singing” quality he achieved on the fretless bass, as well as his innovative use of false and natural harmonics. Towards the end of his life, Pastorius was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which was exacerbated by substance abuse, and died in 1987 at the age of 35 following a violent altercation with a bouncer at a Fort Lauderdale bar.
Pastorius was well known as an innovator of the electric bass and was rumored to have personally defretted his Fender Jazz Bass, as Fender did not make a defretted electric bass at the time. Pastorius achieved his signature “Jaco growl” by plucking the strings on the edge of the fretboard, creating what many describe as a “singing” effect revolutionary at the time, which he used on many of his solos. For the more punchy bass lines, Pastorius would pluck the strings around the bridge pickup exclusively. Along with impressive innovations in technique, Pastorius would also incorporate natural and false harmonics, coupled with his fretless bass covered in polyurethane marine varnish, which would creating a horn-like tone applauded by critics and audiences alike.