The Path To Jaco


January 14, 2016

Reader Submission and Video – Gratitude for My Great Teacher, Jaco by Mike Frost

Mike Shares…

In 1982, I was studying with Jerry Jemmott, and he knew I was a disciple of Jaco; he arranged for me to get some lessons with Jaco.

Jaco changed my life forever and I wanted to do a tribute to him.

Gratitude for my great teacher, Jaco

Like anyone that heard the opening track on Jaco’s first solo album, I was in left in awe. It seemed impossible that a bass could be played in such a fashion and more impossible that I would be ever able to play it. That has been my view for that past 35+ years.

I had recently been reflecting on the impact of Jaco on my life, the bass world and the world of music. And in my opinion, in all three cases that impact is immeasurable. It is with this awareness that I was able to realize the debt of gratitude owed for all my teachers; Jerry Jemmott, Chuck Alder, Carlos Castillo, and of course, my time studying with Jaco. Those precious hours would transform my approach to the bass and music forever. Moreover, they gave me the inspiration to make this precious art form the main route in life’s precious journey.

With all the noise and anticipation around the new Jaco documentary to be released this year, I began to reflect on that moment when many years ago I placed the Jaco Pastorius LP on the turntable and heard the opening track. Donna Lee – the ‘impossible’ made possible by Jaco. With the suggestion of a friend, I began to ponder tackling the ‘impossible’. Note by note, week by week, and month by month I strived until the end was reached. The video above is the culmination of this effort. I often imagined who was Donna Lee? That is the inspiration for the video track. Having Edwin Hamilton on congas, my main drummer these days, was a no-brainer.

The effort started in the Spring 2015 when I began listening to the track over and over to reacquaint myself with the form. I also needed to become familiar with the nuances of the track and trying out different fingerings in an attempt to capture Jaco’s inflections. It’s not 100%, but close enough for now. I can’t tell you how many times I changed it up. In fact, right up to the very video shoot I was re-thinking the lines.

After all these decades I am still in awe of this piece and of Jaco’s work in general. To think there was no track, nor Jaco, for Jaco to emulate is indeed mind boggling. I can’t imagine electric bass today without his pioneering work or imagine how he was able to single-handedly reinvent the instrument.

I will never be done with the piece. I will never master it. It will be an everlasting challenge that I may or may not pull off each time I attempt it, but it has brought me, as Jaco did, to higher ground and an even greater appreciation for the greatest bass player we have ever seen. Jaco, where ever you may be, thank you for the music, the lessons, and the inspiration. You are certainly missed by me and many.

The recording is direct. No effects, no compression. Just a preamp and then into Logic. The bass is a Clifford Roi with an ebony board, wenge and santos mahogany neck, an alder and mahogany body. The top is flamed redwood.

Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes

Frost Band heats things up

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The Mike Frost Band was a pleasant surprise at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s January 14 concert in Port Charlotte, stepping boldly into more contemporary genres while also digging deep into the mainstream jazz canon.
Mike Frost
This was the Aiken, South Carolina-based group’s first appearance in Port Charlotte – and in Florida, for that matter. The unit featured leader Mike Frost on 4- and 5-string electric basses; Lauren Meccia on alto and saxophones, wind synthesizer and vocals; Shannon Pinckney on piano and electric keyboard; and Ron Green on drums.
Lauren Meccia
The quartet skillfully blended jazz and the jazz sensibility with a bit of Latin, some pop classics and even a taste of rhythm & blues. The result underscored that fact that jazz is a musical process, not a specific repertoire. It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. Their polished blend of contemporary jazz and updates of some familiar classics worked well – because the players delivered the goods.
The standards scattered throughout their two sets included “That Old Black Magic,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” How High the Moon,” “Night and Day” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five," dropping in a few bars of the "Theme from Mission Impossible" to add a novel twist to the Dave Brubeck quartet’s signature tune. There were a few more-modern jazz pieces: Chick Corea’s exotic “Spain” and a Herbie Hancock medley featuring “Cantaloupe Island” and “Watermelon Man.”
The other material, equally strong, brought more surprises in this concert setting. 

Here are some examples:
Meccia, Frost
  • Their take on Michel LeGrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind,” inspired by a David Sanborn-Randy Crawford collaboration, featured Meccia on soprano sax and vocals. Her instrumental tone and soulfulness on this song and most others, revealed a deep influence by the late saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. That is not a bad thing.
  • The band’s version of “Come Away With Me,” a mega-hit for Norah Jones, showcased Frost’s serious chops on his electric basses. His soloing, and his cushion beneath Meccia’s vocals, became conversational bass lines.
  • Frost had much the same impact on the Beatles hit “Blackbird,” his bass almost singing along behind Meccia’s vocals and her solo on her EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), a saxophone-like synthesizer that the late Michael Brecker brought into jazz in 1987.
  • Meccia’s vocals on “Songbird,” written by Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie but popularized through an  Eva Cassidy posthumous release, were both soaring and beautiful. 
Ron Green
Shannon Pinckney

The band also dug into the 1960s Bobby Hebb pop hit, “Sunny,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Dave Stewart’s “Lily Was Here” (which he recorded in 1990 with contemporary jazz saxophonist Candy Dulfer), and Earth Wind & Fire’s “Getaway.” 

The crowd dug the night’s fusion with enthusiasm, clamoring for more at the end, and then entreating the band members to come back soon.
The concert, drawing a crowd of nearly 300, was at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's WIlliam H. Wakeman III Theater.
Pinckney, Meccia, Frost, Green