From The Desk Of Ra Ra Riot’s Mathieu Santos: Jaco Pastorius’ “Live And Outrageous”

Long before Ra Ra Riot performed a single note of its dancetronic third album, Beta Love (Barsuk), the band talked at great length about the need for a change. The viscerally charged chamber-pop outfit had maintained a steady course after the tragic 2007 drowning death of beloved drummer John Pike, blossomed on its 2008 Barsuk full-length debut, The Rhumb Line, and flourished with a variety of subsequent beatkeepers, but everyone felt the inevitable tug of creative evolution after 2010 sophomore album The Orchard. The roles of violinist Rebecca Zeller and guitarist Milo Bonacci changed the most dramatically; with the dominance of the synthesizer on Beta Love, Bonacci was forced to radically reimagine/rewrite his guitar contributions and take on more expansive sonic duties, while Zeller was freed up to explore new approaches with her instrument and the spare strings the band utilized. Bassist Mathieu Santos will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Ra Ra Riot feature.


Santos: As a young bass player, I was often asked if I was “into Jaco,” but alas, I never was. I admittedly knew nothing about this musician, but had perhaps profiled him as a face-painting, long-haired, over-playing hippie who was adored by fans of music I hated. So I, a stubborn and mostly (at the time) punk-loving bassist, took my time getting “into Jaco.” Years passed, wasted, before the day that I, on a whim, decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about, and I purchased a copy of Jaco’s first album. Then everything changed! I didn’t know a bass guitar could sing like that. I didn’t know you could be play so many goddamn notes and not only be in a pocket, but somehow deepen that pocket. I didn’t know you were allowed to do stuff like that. His playing was so playful, so pure and so unabashedly personal—I had never heard his music before, and yet I felt such a strong connection to his playing, like he was telling me all about himself and how he hears and feels the world. I know it sounds funny, but it’s true. Anyway, discovering Jaco certainly helped me grow a lot as a musician, and I think it’s probably because underneath his audacious musicality and virtuosity, he was simply responding to simple things, like groove and feel. He was just using really bright colors and was having a blast doing it! His heartbreaking story aside, Jaco’s music still just makes me smile. This DVD is from a stripped-down big band performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1982. The band is cooking and having fun, which is what music is all about. Check out the opening track, “The Chicken,” and “Mr. Fonebone.”