Originally called Steps when vibes master Mike Mainieri formed it in 1978, Steps Ahead combines jazz, rock, R & B and fusion to create its trademark sound. Michael Brecker and Mainieri brought together a group of alumni to headline the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival in 2004; and it was so successful that they hit the road on a 2005 tour with former members Steve Smith and Mike Stern and newcomer Richard Bona. Celebrating 25 years of work, Mainieri has compiled a soon-to-be-released six-CD set of live performances - Steps Ahead: Six Pack - from the group's inception the present.
Michael Brecker is an 11-time Grammy winner and the first to win both the Best Jazz Instrumental Performance" and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo" two years in a row. With a new CD scheduled for fall, he is no stranger to creating innovative groups. He formed Dreams in 1970 and he and his brother Randy (taking part in the tribute to Jaco) made waves with The Brecker Brothers three years later. Primarily recognized as an award-winning jazz vibraphonist, MikeMainieri is equally talented as a producer, arranger and composer. Throughout his career, now spanning almost five decades, he has collaborated with some of the world's most formidable jazz players, produced numerous albums and discovered a host of innovative, young talent. He got together with his Norwegian crew to produce Northern Lights, set for release in June and his solo CD of standards, Lush Life, is expected in July.
Drummer Steve Smith has also maintained an extensive touring and recording career, appearing with many jazz luminaries as well as with Journey for their 1996 reunion tour. One of the premier guitarists of his generation, the three-time Grammy nominee Mike Stern got his start as a guitar player with Blood, Sweat & Tears at the age of 22. Following a stint with Billy Cobham's powerhouse fusion band, he was recruited by Miles Davis and played a key role in his 1981 comeback band. He toured with Jaco's Word of Mouth band from 1983 - 84 before returning for a second stint with Miles. His latest album, These Times, was released last year. T he Cameroonian Richard Bona is a musical masterpiece when his striking falsetto voice rings out, often accompanied by his dynamic work on the bass as well as acoustic guitar, flute, keyboards and percussion. Since arriving in New York in 1995, he has been frequently tapped to perform with a bevy of stars including bandmate Stern.
Included in the all-star gala tribute to Jaco, produced by impresario Charles Carlini, are Pastorius colleagues and former bandmates trumpeter Randy Brecker, percussionist Don Alias, saxophonist Ira Sullivan, guitarist Hiram Bullock, bassist Will Lee, drummers Kenwood Dennard and Lenny White, steel pan virtuoso Othello Molineaux and pianist/accordionist/musical director Gil Goldstein. Featured bass players are Jeff Berlin, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Gerald Veasley, Christian McBride, Matthew Garrison, Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, and Jaco's son Felix Pastorius.
For this special occasion at the Beacon, Goldstein has worked up fresh arrangements of such classic Jaco compositions as Come On Come Over," Three Views Of A Secret," Continuum," Opus Pocus" and Liberty City" that will also prominently feature the Flux String Quartet.
Jaco's compositions are far and above the music of any of his contemporaries," said Goldstein. I think they are some of the best songs that have been written in the later jazz age. I also think they are going to have a history of being covered and recovered, and I'm hoping that these new arrangements are going to offer a different view of his stuff."
Although Jaco Pastorius passed away nearly 18 years ago on September 21, 1987, his musical legacy remains as strong today as ever. Jazz artists around the world continue to cover his compositions or offer up personal tributes to the man on their recordings, all attesting to the indelible mark that Jaco made in his relatively short career. Born in Norristown, PA, on December 1, 1951, Pastorius grew up in Fort Lauderdale and as a teenager began playing around the South Florida music scene. Originally a drummer, he switched to electric bass at age 16 after injuring his wrist in a football game.
After performing in a series of local Florida bands, Pastorius was discovered" by Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Columby, who produced Jaco's landmark self-titled debut for Epic Records in late 1975. Jaco joined Weather Report, the premier fusion band of the ‘70s, in April of 1976 and appeared on the band's groundbreaking 1977 Columbia album, Heavy Weather. He remained with Weather Report for six years, appearing on a string of acclaimed recordings including 1978's Mr. Gone, 1979's Grammy Award-winning 8:30, and 1980's Night Passage. Pastorius' second recording as a leader, 1981's Word of Mouth on Warner Bros., introduced such ambitious Jaco compositions as Liberty City," John and Mary" and the adventurous title track along with a full big band arrangement of his most famous composition, Three Views of a Secret." Jaco's 1983 album, Invitation, documented his Word of Mouth Big Band on tour in Japan. He subsequently toured in a scaled-down sextet version of Word of Mouth and with the PDB trio-featuring guitarist Hiram Bullock and drummer Kenwood Dennard.
In the early, meteoric phase of his career, the charismatic Pastorius revolutionized the role of electric bass guitar. As the self-described world's greatest bass player," he inspired legions of bass players around the world to push the limits on their own musicality. As one bassist so rightly put it, There was bass before Jaco and there was bass after Jaco. He opened the door and we walked through."
Tickets for Steps Ahead and Remembering Jaco Pastorius are available at Beacon Theatre Box Office, 2124 Broadway; by phone at(212) 307-7171; or via Ticketmaster outlets and Ticketmaster.com. For information and a Festival brochure, call (212) 501-1390 or (212) 501-1393 for Group Sales weekdays from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. or write JVC Jazz Festival - New York, P.O. Box 1169, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023. For more information, visit the official JVC Jazz Festival - New York website at www.festivalproductions.net.
Additional support for the JVC Jazz Festival - New York is provided by NYC & Co, Macy's and media partners, The Village Voice, BET Jazz and Jazz 88/WBGO-FM.
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