Pastorius guested on many albums by other artists, as for example in 1976 with Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame, on All American Alien Boy, which again featured David Sanborn as well asAynsley Dunbar. Other recordings included Joni Mitchell’s Hejira album, and a solo album by Al Di Meola, which were also standouts, both released in 1976. Soon after that, Weather Report bass player Alphonso Johnson left to start his own band. Zawinul invited Pastorius to join the band, where he played alongside Zawinul and Wayne Shorter until 1981. During his time with Weather Report, Pastorius made his indelible mark on jazz music, notably by being featured on one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, the Grammy Award-nominated Heavy Weather (1977). Not only did this album showcase Pastorius’s bass playing and songwriting, but he also received a co-producing credit with Joe Zawinul and even played drums on his self-composed “Teen Town”.
During the course of his musical career, Pastorius played on dozens of recording sessions for other musicians, both in and out of jazz circles. Some of his most notable are four highly regarded albums with acclaimed singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell: Hejira (1976), Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), Mingus (1979) and the live album Shadows and Light (1980). His influence was most dominant on Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, and many of the songs on that album seem to be composed using the bass as the melodic source of inspiration. Also worthy of mention is his collaboration with important jazz figures Flora Purim and Airto Moreira. Pastorius can be heard on Moreira’s 1977 release I’m Fine, How Are You? His signature sound is prominent on Purim’s 1978 release Everyday Everynight, on which he played the bass melody for a Michel Colombier composition entitled “The Hope”, and performed bass and vocals on one of his own compositions entitled “Las Olas”.
Near the end of his career, he guested on low-key releases by jazz artists including guitarist Mike Stern, guitarist Bireli Lagrene, and drummer Brian Melvin. In 1985, he recorded an instructional video, Modern Electric Bass, hosted by acclaimed bassist Jerry Jemmott.
He and Weather Report parted ways in early 1981, and Jaco began pursuing his interest in creating a big band solo project named Word of Mouth, one that found its debut aurally on his second solo release, Word of Mouth. This 1981 album also boasted guest appearances by several distinguished jazz musicians: Herbie Hancock, Weather Report’s Wayne Shorter and Peter Erskine, harmonica player Toots Thielemans and Hubert Laws. The album evinced Pastorius’s composing talent alongside the focus on his instrumental performance. It also demonstrated his skills in production and his ability to deal with the logistics of a project that was recorded not only on both coasts of the United States, but also overseas: He recorded Thielemans’ contributions in Belgium.
On his 30th birthday, December 1, 1981, he threw a party at a club in Fort Lauderdale, flew in some of the artists from his Word of Mouth project, and other noteworthy musicians that includedDon Alias, and Michael Brecker. The event was recorded by his friend and engineer Peter Yianilos, who intended it as a birthday gift. The concert remained unreleased until 1995.
He toured in 1982; a swing through Japan was the highlight, and it was at this time that bizarre tales of Pastorius’ deteriorating behavior first surfaced. He shaved his head, painted his face black and threw his bass into Hiroshima Bay at one point. That tour was released in Japan as Twins I and Twins II and was condensed for an American release, which was known as Invitation.
In 1982, he recorded a third solo album, which made it as far as some unpolished demo tapes, a steelpans-tinged release entitled Holiday for Pans, which once again showcased him as a composer and producer rather than a performer. Jaco Pastorius did not play any of the bass parts on this album. He could not find a distributor for the album and the album was never released; however, it has since been widely bootlegged. In 2003, a cut from Holiday for Pans, entitled ”Good Morning Anya”, was included on Rhino Records’ anthology Punk Jazz.