Mark: For the record, I first met Jaco in Miami. We’re the same age, and I was going to school at the University of Miami, and Jaco lived in northern Fort Lauderdale. We had met through the same band called Baker’s Dozen, which was led by Ira Sullivan and Vince Lawrence. Ira is a very gifted and talented instrumentalist who I had been in a band with at that time, and he also had another band with this young guy named Jaco. And I remember Ira telling me, you’ve got hear this young bass player. So we met through Baker’s Dozen which is a group that was more or less made up of all of the session players in the Miami area, and I was fortunate to be asked to play for that. Jaco would come into the band playing his songs, so obviously we didn’t play at the same time…actually there were three bass players for that band. So that was actually my first meeting with him, and we became friends. So I was watching him in different bands, and just being in and around his presence was a great learning experience for me. I probably learned just as much from watching and listening to him as I did when I studied with him and one on one.
One summer Jaco came to the university as adjunct faculty to teach bass in the summer sessions, and I studied with him during that time, and as much as I learned from watching him, that was even more intense than seeing him live. We started from the basics, and worked on specific things…two octave major scales, different ways to finger them, etc. He was so much more advanced, and had so much down on the instrument. He explored the Root-5th-10th, the 10th being the 3rd up an octave, and then going up diatonically with those same intervals. Then he would do the same thing with the minor scale. We worked on a lot of diatonic exercises, which I still use, as well as working with the melodic-minor scale, an incredibly colorful and useful scale for improvising. We also worked on playing Charlie Parker melodies and tunes where I would play the groove and Jaco would solo, then we’d switch and I’d play the solo. I remember leaving those lessons so inspired, and so wanting to practice, that I would just practice 10/12 hours a day because of his energy…he was “that” strong. And you have to remember, you’re in the presence of an innovator—no one was really doing what he was doing at that time. On electric bass you had guys like Chuck Rainey, and on electric and acoustic you had Stanley Clarke, and that’s who I was listening to before I met Jaco. So when I heard Jaco, I went wow, this is different. Here we have someone who first, took the frets off his instrument, first I had heard of that, and on top of that, no one was playing harmonics like he was, or composing quite like he was. I’ve never heard anybody that had such a strong groove; he had “soul” inside everything he played. There are a lot of players out there now that have incredible technique, and I admire the amount of work it takes to get there. But to me, what set Jaco apart was not only did he have the groove and the musicality, he was a virtuoso on the instrument, “and” he had his own sound. And that’s what really clicked for me…he had all that going on at once.
Jake: I believe not long after that you became a member of Pat Metheny’s newest ensemble. What are some of your thoughts regarding your growth as a player being involved in that project?