Back before he turned everyone's idea of bass playing inside out, Jaco Pastorius spent five years on the bandstand with the Peter Graves Orchestra at Bachelors III, a swanky spot in his hometown of Ft. Lauderdale. Nearly three decades after the future star's departure in 1975, and 16 years after his brutal murder, Graves got the guys back together, christened them in their former colleague's name, and invited the most prominent bass guitarists of the early 21st century down to join them in a project dedicated to Pastorius' legacy. Throughout these polished performances, the bass parts testify to how profoundly Pastorius altered that instrument's role. Bottom line (so to speak): he gave them the option of playing from a soloist mentality and blowing all over the beat, as fast and free as any saxophonist, as long as he or she had chops and didn't subvert the groove. The guest bassists on this collection absorbed this lesson long ago. Each can scatter quick licks, some of them even faster than Pastorius himself. So why does a vague disenchantment haunt these performances? Perhaps it's because these players, great as they are, are still emulating more than discovering. Some imitate even the nuances of the Pastorius tone and phrasing, as does Richard Bona on "Punk Jazz" -- which, of course, may be a form of tribute in this context. On an opposite extreme, the light-speed, staccato hailstorm unleashed by Victor Wooten on "Teen Town" is fundamentally unmusical, focusing on the player more than the material being played -- which is, come to think of it, the real revelation here. Pastorius' tunes reflect a compositional maturity that wasn't always evident in the more improvisational context of Weather Report, and his arrangements -- notably an idiosyncratic treatment of "Killing Me Softly" and the marimba-flavored exotica of "Opus Pocus" -- suggest that had he had more time, he would have written history with his pen as much as his performance. One complaint: the samples of Pastorius' voice, chopped into microbits that carry no meaningful content and seem intended to function as objects of postmodern reflection, if not reverence. All these interruptions accomplish is to remind you that some artists speak most eloquently without words.
AllMusic Review by Robert L. Doerschuk