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"There was no pressure, he was just living life.  That's what was so motivating about him; he had such a zest for life itself, and such a passion for music.  An enthusiasm that was so infectious.  He was one of the most motivating and inspiring people I've ever met."  - Allyn Robinson on Jaco Pastorius

A Lasting Friendship

It was early 1972. Allyn Robinson was 21, Charlie Brent was 23, and Jaco Pastorius was 20-years-old.  The seminal Cochran album had just been released on Epic Records and Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders were riding high. 

For Allyn, the Cochran experience was already life-changing, but he had no idea of what was in store.  Allyn and Jaco played together in the Cochran band for nine months and formed a lasting friendship.  This was an incredible growth period for these youngsters, characterized by non-stop touring, high-intensity gigs, constant writing, arranging and rehearsals. 

They lived and breathed music.  With Charlie Brent as his mentor, Jaco went to school, learning everything he could from the master musician, writer and arranger.  Allyn and Jaco were rhythm mates and the groove was intense.  An eternal bond and lasting friendship was forged.

Inspired By Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders

As recounted by Bob Bobbing on the Portrait of Jaco The Early Years CD, he was with Jaco Pastorius the first night he heard the Wayne Cochran band in Miami.  He recalls Jaco's impression after hearing the first few instrumentals, which were Charlie Brent originals the band played before Wayne took the stage. 

Per Bob, "Jaco was totally impressed, and on the way home he made the comment, "it's time to go to work, he needed to start writing," he was genuinely inspired from hearing Wayne Cochran & The C. C. Riders. In listening to Allyn's Fillmore West concert, you get a great sense of the band that inspired Jaco, with the rhythm section anchored by Allyn on drums and Artie Goleniak on bass.

Click here to listen to Wayne Cochran & The C.C. Riders "Live at The Fillmore West, April 1, 1971.

The Audition

Cochran bass player Artie Goleniak was married with kids and needed to get off the road.  As fate would have it, Bob Bobbing told Bob Gable (Cochran saxophonist) that there was this young kid playing in a Wayne Cochran-type band called "Tommy Strand & The Upper Hand" in Miami.  So Allyn, Charlie, and Bob Gable went to the club to hear the band. 

Impressed with this skinny kid with great R&B chops playing these cool staccato lines, Jaco was invited to audition.  Jaco came in and played the book down cold.  At the end of the audition, Allyn recalls, "Charlie pulled out a new chart to rehearse and Jaco said, "Well, what do you want me to do with this?" [Charlie] "You just rehearsed with my book for an hour, this is a new tune."  [Jaco] "Well, I can't read." [Charlie] "What do you mean you can't read?"  [Jaco] "Well I came in last night and caught the show." He had memorized the show from the night before.

They made Jaco an offer and the show was on.

Charlie Brent's Influence

Charlie Brent, Cochran Music Director, was a highly talented writer, arranger, guitarist, and saxophonist.  He attended Loyola University School of Music, where he was instrumental in establishing the jazz program. 

Coming from New Orleans, Allyn and Charlie had this greasy funk groove that was the perfect nesting bed for Jaco.  In his nine months with the Cochran band, Jaco's development was intense, as a player, writer and arranger.  

As recounted by Allyn, "Jaco was rooming with Charlie, picking his brain on writing, arranging and all things music.  One day Jaco tells Charlie he wants to write a tune for the band.  Originally, most of the tunes Jaco wrote revolved around bass solos.  You know, he had his bass solo, and he said, "Well this is cool, I'll write a tune around it."  Charlie told him to write something for rehearsal.  We were rehearsing for gig near Baltimore and Jaco brings this chart, which later became Domingo.  

He brought it to rehearsal, and he put it out, but it was just a head chart and solos.  Charlie says, "Man, get out of here with that.  That's just a head chart.  If you're going to write something, write me an arrangement."  Determined, Jaco took the tune, and came back the next day with an elaborate, orchestrated horn arrangement.  To my knowledge, that was the first orchestrated and arranged tune that he had written."

Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer - By Ted Reed

As noted by Jaco himself, his first instrument was drums.  In fact, he played drums exclusively until he broke his arm around age 13 and was forced to switch to bass. 

As Allyn recalls, "With the many hours we spent on the tour bus, Jaco would often sit in front of me while I practiced conditioning exercises on the back of the seat, playing from Ted Reed's book, Syncopation.  Jaco would play along with my repetitive rhythms practicing his arpeggios and scales for hours on end." 

"I was playing in a band on drums - one that I'd started actually - and I got kicked out because I couldn't push on drums. But they asked me back if I was playing bass, so I went out and bought a bass and joined them again! I was 15, I didn't know where the notes were or anything, I just started grooving, y'know, and I've never been out of work since, with the bass!"  - Jaco Pastorius 1978 (Clive Williamson Interview)

Going Fretless

While Jaco did not invent the fretless bass guitar, he is widely credited with creating the fretless bass sound and, ultimately, changing the face of music with his lyrical and groundbreaking tone.  Clearly, Jaco had a sound in his head and literally took matters into his own hands by pulling the frets out of his 1962 Fender Jazz Bass while on the road with the Cochran band. 

Click on the video, below to enjoy Allyn's radio interview (audio only) with Robert Sturcken in January 2012, where he reminisces about his time with Jaco and brings the famous fret-pulling episode to life!

As recounted by Allyn, who was in the hotel room with Charlie Brent when Jaco pulled the frets out, the scene was somewhat disconcerting at the time, but also a classic and seminal moment in the history of music.

Jaco Discusses His Fretless Bass - An Interview with Clive Williamson - October 1978

CliveDo you get that incredible singing bass sound on an ordinary guitar, or are there some special attachments that you use?

Jaco"I don't use anything special... I've actually got less on it! I have a fretless bass, so it's virtually like I'm playing a wood bass, you know In other words, the strings go into the wood on the neck and then - being that it's a bass guitar - it gets that bright, direct sound. So I'm the first guy to be using a fretless, is actually what it boils down to, and then more, because I'm the first to really get down and play it, because other guys cannot play it in tune, y'know? I've been playing the bass guitar for almost 12 years and I've been playing fretless for about nine, so I've got quite a bit of mileage in my hands already. I play in tune like a cello player, and it's just legitimate vibrato. There are no tricks... it's just all in the hands! I just have a standard 1962 - I think it is - Fender Jazz bass, that I took the frets out of."

Portrait of Jaco, The Early Years 1968-1978

For readers who want to dig a little deeper on Jaco's time with the Cochran band, we highly recommend the 2-CD Set Portrait of Jaco, The Early Years 1968-1978.  Allyn plays drums on five tracks from this collection, including rare recordings of Jaco's Amelia and Charlie Brent's Rice Pudding.  It's a "must-have" for any Jaco fan and an excellent introduction to Allyn's playing.

The following excerpt from the Allmusic review says it all... 
"Simply put, there is nothing remotely like Portrait of Jaco on the market. This two-CD package is an aural biography, told by Pastorius himself, his father, and the people he came up with and played with throughout his life.  Prepared by Bob Bobbing, in full cooperation with the Pastorius family, this is one of the most emotionally moving and aesthetically revealing documents of its kind. It feels honest, errs on the side of too much information, rather than not enough, and unabashedly celebrates the development of a genius in the making."  - Thom Jurek, Allmusic

Click here to read Thom's full article.

Peter Erskine on Allyn's Playing with Jaco

In 1971, Allyn recorded a landmark album for Epic Records at Columbia Studios in San Francisco, "Cochran," a highly influential album as noted in this recent quote from drum legend Peter Erskine:

"I was listening to Allyn's drumming back in 1972 on the album "Cochran" and it had a big influence on me ... Allyn was Jaco's rhythm mate in the Wayne Cochran band (the band Jaco toured with pretty much up until the time he joined Weather Report) "Allyn was my first connection to New Orleans drumming aside from some Earl Palmer recordings, but there was something about Allyn's beat that must have gotten inside of my own beat for this is one of the only explanations of why and how Jaco decided to recommend me so strongly to Weather Report after only one hearing, i.e., he heard and sensed a rhythm comfort zone (in addition to the jazz chops I had) ... and that comfort zone came directly from Allyn's influence on me." - Drumming Legend Peter Erskine

This influence can he heard on The Chicken from Jaco's The Birthday Concert CD, in which Peter lays down an unbelievable soul-funk beat very reminiscent of Allyn's playing on Somebody's Been Cutting on My Groove, from the Cochran album.  A rock-solid pocket combined with that greasy New Orleans funk provided Jaco the quintessential groove wonderland.

Allyn's Reflection

"A lot of what Jaco brought to music we take for granted now, but in the early '70s, nobody played that way.  The way bass players play today is post-Jaco. 

During our time together, he was discovering himself.  There was no pressure, he was just living life.  That's what was so motivating about him; he had such a zest for life itself, and such a passion for music.  An enthusiasm that was so infectious.  He was one of the most motivating and inspiring people I've ever met.

After his time with Cochran, Jaco carried around a gig tape recorded on cassette which had various live performances and rehearsals.  I think the gig tape represented a special time in Jaco's musical journey and he cherished the music and the memories it brought back.  I was always honored that Jaco would play the gig tape for musicians throughout his life and say, "Check this out, this is what real music sounds like."  And for all of his stratospheric musical accomplishments and the level of musicianship he was surrounded with, it speaks volumes for his time with the Cochran band and how special that period was, for all of us.

We were so lucky to have Jaco with us for as long as we did.  The world is a far better place for it and music, as we know it, was changed forever.  But more than anything else, Jaco was a dear friend and I miss him a lot." 
- Allyn Robinson - 2012

Click here to listen to Allyn's new recording of the Jaco classic, "Amelia!"

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The Official Jaco Pastorius Web Site

Allyn discusses Jaco
with Robert Sturcken

Click the button to listen to Allyn's new
recording of the Jaco classic, "Amelia!"