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Why is Jaco larger than life?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Guss, Jan 6, 2003.

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  1. Both Vic and Jaco are very good players, but it seems Jaco gets the most respect. Is it because of his historical value? I don't understand.
    I always hear things such as: "Well JACO only needed four strings". Well, so does Vic. In fact, a show of hands is all done on a four string. Whats up? This isn't a defending complaint, just a real question.:)
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I gotta admit I've not heard anything by Vic. But I do know that what Jaco did hadn't been done before. He was unique.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This is just a standing joke around here and is a sarcastic dig at John Turner who is a good sport and likes people making humorous digs at his expense! ;)

    This actually says more about the fact that JT is "larger than life" and a true TB "character" than it does about Jaco!! :D
  4. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Jaco truly revolutionized the electric bass. As great a player as he is, the same can't be said about Victor, or anyone else who's alive today, IMO. Don't get me wrong, there were cats who did revolutionary things with the electric bass before Jaco...James Jamerson, Joe Osborne, Larry Graham, just to name a few...but nobody else previously or since changed so dramatically how the electric bass as an instrument was perceived by musicians and non-musicians alike. Jaco elevated the electric bass to a tool with which is created great music , not just bass lines. Jaco was the first to demonstrate that the bass could play any role within a composition, not just a support role.

    Speaking of composition, with the obvious exception of Mingus, he was probably the greatest bass-player-as-composer ever. And Mingus didn't feature the bass as solo voice as effectively as Jaco, IMO.

    Victor's tunes are cool, but nothing that rivals "Three Views of A Secret", or "Continuum", or "Portrait of Tracy" or....

    Lastly, if it were not for Jaco, we wouldn't have the vast choices of incredible gear as we do today. He shone the spotlight on the electric bass in such a way that huge numbers of cats now wanted to play bass, instead of being religated to the bass chair because they were the second best guitar player. They demanded better gear with which to be heard, effects designed specifically for bass, multitudes of choices that the markets have responded to, much to our benefit.
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    For me, McCartney and Sting possibly take the bass-player-as-composer award (different genre, though) - but, yeah, Jaco was a great composer.

    EDIT: Actually... I'm not sure I'd put McCartney and Sting in the bass-player-as-composer category. More the composer-as-bass-player category maybe.
  6. SCH


    May 3, 2002
    San Antonio, Texas
    No disrespect intended here, but it seems to me that one of the dynamics involved in being "larger than life," is not being alive anymore. Once someone with phenomenal gifts (like Jaco) dies they tend to become immortalized by those in awe of their talents. The same thing happened with Elvis (who, incidently, is way more popular and has made way more money dead than alive). Stevie Ray Vaughan is another who comes to mind. I hate to say it, but pioneers seem to become larger than life when life is no more for them.
  7. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    While it might simply be a case of semantics, I don't consider either Sting, or McCartney composers. Great songwriters, yes. Composers? Not even a little bit.

    I mean, McCartney did that one piece, but...I think he needs to stick to 3 minute pop
    songs. He's tough to beat in that arena.

    I have a feeling they'd say the same thing, too.

    Sting can now be added to the list of great commercial jingle writers since I can't hear his latest song without picturing a Jag. :)
  8. SCH said it more eloquently, but I agree, though I do appreciate Jaco's playing.......

    it's because he's dead, and died somewhat mysteriously......sorry!

    He was a great player, but I think even he would be amazed by and greatly respect Victor L. Wooten. No reason to pit them against each other as others have done, though.

  9. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    YEah, I agree to a certain extent (Tupac has been way more prolific dead than alive), but Jaco was pretty universally thought of as the "greatest" even when he was alive. He singlehandedly changed the way the instrument's possibilities were viewed.
  10. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Respectfully, Mark, that's just not true. I see from your profile that you were six years old when Jaco first hit the scene, and eleven or twelve when his career was already on the "decline". Jaco was already "larger than life" while at the peak of his career. It's hard to over-emphasize the affect Jaco had on me and other bass players of my generation. I was 17 when I first heard him, and have witnessed first hand how he totally and completely changed bass playing forever. If you're not directly influenced by Jaco's playing, then I'd bet your influences were influenced, dig? I'm not comparing Jaco to Victor Wooten...shouldn't be done anyway. But Vic was heavily influenced by Jaco, too.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I'm no expert on either of these guys, but I've done a fair amount of listening to both.

    Victor Wooten's playing frightens me - I could never concieve of doing most of the things that he does. I can't help to get the feeling though from what I've heard that his goal is to come up with the fanciest fastest hardest stuff in the world to play, and that as humble as he seems - he really wants to shock people with what he can do (or what the bass can do). I got tired of his stuff real easily. I don't actually enjoy the music he does, just kinda listen and go, "DAMN! THAT'S F...ING AWESOME!!!!"

    Jaco, on the other hand, as lacking in humility as he was, seemed to be much more musical. His stuff had to actually grow on me, I wasn't immediately blown away as with Wooten. His playing seems to come from a deeper, less calculated place. His music sticks to my bones, Wootens doesn't.

    If Victor was beaten to death I think he'd be a lot more famous. Unfortunately I hear he's a much nicer guy than Jaco though.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's right - Jaco was a legend in the late 1970s and every bass player wanted to see him and couldn't believe what he was doing. If you were a bass player in the late 70s/early 80s then Jaco was universally a "hot topic".

    So I knew that with any other bass players I met then (no internet then it was all word of mouth) - the conversation would soon get round to Jaco and I used to trade recorded cassettes with other bass players of albums that Jaco was on - no MP3s then either!! ;)
  13. Any comparisons or talk of Victor always talk about frightening speed. He may be able to play bebop soloes at the speed of light (ala Mark O'CXonnor's New Nashville Cats album), but Jaco could play ONE note with such soul and intensity that he touched you deep down inside. That is the difference, IMO.
  14. Jaco was the first to really do something phenomenal with the Bass guitar that started to turn peoples heads. Just like Hendrix, he may not have been the best, but he was the first, and seniority does count for something in this world.
  15. hujo


    Apr 18, 2001
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Incidentally, Jaco used a 5-string at the end. There was a picture of it somewhere around here...
  16. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    This is one of those questions.......would guitar playing be at the level it is now without Hendrix...No! Every player is a link in the chain to where we are now in art.........you need those links.......and Jaco was a HUGE link;)
  17. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Jaco is larger than life because his life story has many down to earth parallells with many cultural myths (and icons) to whom we attribute a larger than life quality.

    If we take a look at greek mythology, all heroes have Two distinctive traits: a noble birth and a tragic, untimely death. Also, Jaco's lifestyle paralelled the myth of the tortured, tormented artistic genius, Like Beethoven and Charlie Parker, with their excesses. Jaco's status borrows a bit from Charlie Parker's since his solo album's first track is Parker's "Donna Lee"*, whose interpretation on bass in the 70s was as revolutionary as Charlie Parker's in the 30s. Like Parker, Jaco was peerless in his craft. Like Parker, he became unstable and lost everything due to his excesses. Like Parker, he was hospitalized. Like Parker, he died too young.

    So there you have it. Jaco was the latter half of the 20th Century's Charlie Parker.

    Was that reaching a teeny bit too much?

    *Some say Miles wrote Donna Lee, I know...
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    From dictionary.com


    n : a composer of words or music for popular songs

    Yeah, I think it might be semantics;)
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Agreed. It's just kind of sad that more people don't see how huge the links that lead to Jaco are. I think this is one of the main things that annoys people who are tired of Jaco worship (not that I'm one or that there's anything wrong with that).

    Most people don't "hear" Jaco's influences (there were many) and see what he was doing as original.

    It's the need to push him up by diminishing the work of others that doesn't fly with me.

    You'd think Jaco was the first electric bassist to play the head on a song. He wasn't... yet some clearly think he was.

    As far as composing goes IMO sometimes the hardest thing to come up with is a simple song. As far as the impact as a composer on bassist and non-bassist, I'd give the nod to Sir Paul.

    As far as playing basslines go, I wouldn't call a large part of Jamerson's work "basslines", they were much, much more than that.

    Jaco's fame came from a combination of desire, skill, self-promotion that he backed up, much like Ali and for better or worse, his antics, also much like Ali. Here's a guy who had the balls to say "I'm the world's greatest bassplayer"... that gets attention.

    This isn't an anti-Jaco post, it's a pro "the other important bassists before him" post. Knowing what I do of Jaco, he'd be the first to give props.

    Sometimes this stuff borders on religion:D
  20. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Songwriting is composing. It doesn't have to be classical, and it doesn't have to be in 4 movements for the writer to count as a composer... Schumann wrote short songs (loads of 'em) - do these not qualify him as a composer? And Bach wrote hunders of chorales, do these not qualify him as a composer? I really don't think you're giving McCartney & Sting the credit they deserve. Forget "jingles" - listen to a whole Sting album, or Beatles album. There's a hell of a lot more than just what's currently on the Jag commercial.

    You make it sound like popular songwriting is trivial compared with classical works...

    Ok, so a symphony is maybe 4 movements, each 10-15 minutes long, roughly - you got 40 mins to an hour of music.

    And Sting does an album - 9, 10, 11 or so songs, average length between 4 and 6 minutes, and you got 50 or so minutes of music.

    The 2 works are of a different form - so what?

    Composing is composing. Whether it's a 3 minute song, a Bach chorale, a symphony, or Wagner's bloody Ring Cycle - it's composing.

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