Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For the latest instalment in the series, we’re taking a look at an audacious new tribute to the late jazz-fusion impresario Jaco Pastorius.
For those with even a passing interest in jazz music’s more contemporary landscape – one which evolved from the early jazz-rock fusions of the late ’60s – Jaco Pastorius’ name is ubiquitous. One of the few figures in his movement to achieve a breakout fame which went well beyond the relatively cult audience of the jazz scene alone, his nimble technicality and stylistically bold presentation were enough to make him a star in his own right. Despite a difficult, addiction-riddled life which saw him pass away in the late ’80s, Pastorius’ legacy is one secured not only by the many bassists who continue to hold him as a key inspiration but also by the slew of tribute projects produced in his honour, most notably a recent documentary film directed by Metallica’s Rob Trujillo. The latest of such releases in Pastorius’ memory is ‘Remembering Jaco’, an ambitious double LP collection from Multiquarium Big Band – a collective of reverent players who, as their name suggests, err towards the glossy brass stabs of big band jazz; a style that Pastorius himself had little to do with. The guest appearance of guitarist Biréli Lagrène lends the project a tone more in-keeping with Pastorius’ own sonic aesthetic; aged only nineteen, he performed live on stage with the fusion legend and, understandably, his own approach to performance was fundamentally informed by that experience. The meeting of minds which has birthed ‘Remembering Jaco’ represents the very same characteristic which allows it to stand as its own project, rather than one so overly in awe of the figure to which it pays tribute that it feels derivative. Indeed, this is a collection of pieces informed by a wholly different sonic palette than Pastorius’ own preferred soundscapes and, for that alone, it feels distinctive.
There was a time when, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a handful of bands attempted to boost the by-then flagging sales of the supposedly outdated vinyl LP format by including bonus content unavailable on CD – a format which, though less valued now, held significant sway at the time. As the music industry’s changing fortunes made themselves more apparent, the practice largely fell out of favour and, now that records are once more the preeminent physical format for many, few acts seem to feel the need to incentivise purchase of the LP format over CDs or digital downloads. It’s in that respect that the vinyl release of ‘Remember Jaco’ is unusual, then; where the CD version of the album is spread across just one disc, this LP edition boasts an abundance of exclusive bonus material which brings the total runtime up to a generous eighty minutes. For that alone, it’s evident that Multiquarium Big Band are significant advocates of the humble LP as the preferable format – a sentiment with which we at Vinyl Corner would naturally concur. To see such a generous wealth of exclusive material on the format is certainly unusual, however, and enough in itself to make this version of the album preferable by far. In addition to that, the two discs over which the music is spread are also highly impressive. Both are heavyweight slabs of black wax, pressed by the Czech Republic’s ever-popular GZ Media. Their usually solid quality control makes itself apparent across both discs, as we picked up on not a single notable issue across any of the four sides in the case of our copy. The four surfaces were also impressive from a visual perspective, boasting lustrous sheens free of the dirty marks which all too often appear on brand new releases.
If Multiquarium Big Band’s allegiances to vinyl as a format were not made sufficiently clear by the abundance of bonus tracks available on this version, then the remarkable packaging and presentation of this release should make such preferences clear. Although it is not entirely unusual to find vinyl releases packaged in handsome, heavy-duty box sets, such titles are generally archival releases from long-established major label acts which tend to sport painfully inflated price tags. ‘Remembering Jaco’ is neither of these things, yet it does indeed come presented in stunning box set packaging of the kind more commonly associated with a set of far larger proportions than this double LP set’s scope. The box is wrought from substantial cardstock which feels fantastic in hand and removing its lid reveals a pair of separate LP covers every bit up to the standards of the covers commonly found in the case of standalone single LP releases. Rounding off the package is an attractive fold-out insert with liner notes and credits. Despite having reviewed countless releases over the course of several years here at Vinyl Corner, we can easily count this amongst the handful of most impressively packaged titles to be featured in the series; that it has been launched at a retail price scarcely higher than a standard double LP is but further credit to French label Naive, who issued this set.
Those intrigued by Multiquarium Big Band’s lively take on Jaco Pastorius’ work will certainly find a luxuriant release here. Boasting both rich sonics and consistently clean playback, ‘Remembering Jaco’s auditory elements are only enhanced by the deeply unusual level of care with which the release has been presented.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!