Jaco Pastorius started out following in the footsteps of his father Jack, playing the drums until he injured his wrist playing football at age 13. The damage to his wrist was severe enough to warrant corrective surgery and ultimately inhibited his ability to play drums.At the time, he had been playing with a local band, Las Olas Brass. When the band’s bass player, David Neubauer decided to quit the band, Pastorius bought an electric bass guitar from a local pawn shop for $15.00 USD, and began to learn to play[not in citation given] with drummer Rich Franks, becoming the bassist for the band.
By 1968–1969, Pastorius had begun to appreciate jazz and had scraped up enough money to buy an upright bass. Its deep, mellow tone appealed to him, though it strained his finances. Pastorius had difficulties maintaining the instrument, which he attributed to the humidity of his Florida home, coupled with his additional interest in R&B music. After waking one day, he found his costly upright bass had cracked. Following this development, he at last traded it in for a 1960 Fender Jazz Bass.
Pastorius’ first real break came when he secured the bass chair with Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders He also played on various local R&B and jazz records during that time such as Little Beaver, and Ira Sullivan. In 1974, he began playing with his friend and future famous jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny. They recorded together, first with Paul Bley as leader and Bruce Ditmas on drums, then with drummer Bob Moses. Metheny and Pastorius recorded a trio album with Bob Moses on the ECM label, entitled Bright Size Life (1976). During this period, he began to work on his own signature sound.
The “Jaco growl”, often used for lyrical and melodic effect during solos, is obtained by plucking the strings at the base of the fingerboard. Jaco achieved his more punchy sound by using the bridge pickup exclusively and plucking right above the bridge pickup. Pastorius used natural and false harmonics to extend the range of the bass (exemplified in the bass solo composition ”Portrait of Tracy” from his eponymous album) and could achieve his signature horn-like tone by using his fretless neck (covered in polyurethane marine varnish). His playing techniques earned him accolades from both critics and audiences. He used finger-style playing exclusively, rather than the slap-and-pop method that dominated the R&B chart