Birds to Jaco

Francesco Suppa

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Birds to Jaco Review

by Thom Jurek

This convoluted memorial to late bassist Jaco Pastorius has all the hallmarks of being a great record. Problem is, Italian trumpet maestro and composer Francesco Suppa cannot seem to make up his mind which Muse's path he wants to run down. With the aid of 13 of his closest musical associates, Suppa uses a band that mirrors Pastorius' own Word of Mouth and tries in some small fashion to pay tribute with originals and by using some of the bass player's own set material -- Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" and the traditional "When the Saints Go Marching In," as well as Pastorius' stunning composition "Portrait of Tracy" -- which the band plays sympathetically and passionately. The trouble is in Suppa's compositions that are meant, in some way, to capture something of Pastorius' essence. While they are sophisticated musically, and complex conceptually, they are emotionally stilted and executionally restrained to the point of mere formalism. The quirky, mischievous fire that fell like a waterfall from all of Pastorius' best music is absent here, replaced by a museum-piece sense of emotional commitment. The long, distant brass section, holding its improvisations close to the vest and never straying far from the chromatic scheme of a particular tune, makes for an exhausting, nearly bloodless listening experience. Great idea, too bad the plans were dried out by overly careful attention to detail.

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