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Jaco Pastorius

No other bassist lived such a controversial life or elicited such a bipolar response as Jaco Pastorius. Listeners love him or hate him, alternately calling him the greatest bass player who ever lived (as Jaco often called himself) or claiming that he was not really a jazz player at all. Regardless of how he is categorized, one fact is indisputable -- Jaco changed the way fretless electric bass is performed. He brought the instrument to the forefront, setting new standards for technique and range of tone on the instrument. As a sideman, Pastorius displayed a deft sense of melody and taste, recording classic albums with a range of artists including Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock. He also served as an integral member of bands including Weather Report and Word of Mouth. His self-titled debut (1976) sent many aspiring bassists home to regroup; the album starts with a blistering version of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" and never lets up. Unfortunately, Jaco's partying ways and trash-talking proved to be his demise -- he was beaten to death after trying to force his way into a nightclub in 1987.