When your last name is Pastorius and you play the bass, it only stands to reason that people will draw some immediate conclusions.
In the case of David Pastorius, they’d probably be wrong.
David, the nephew of the late, great bassist Jaco Pastorius, may share the same last name and instrument of choice as his uncle, but that’s where the similarities end.
In fact, David’s interest in bass or music wasn’t shaped or influenced by his uncle. Outside of knowing Jaco was a famous musician and seeing him at family gatherings a couple of times, David didn’t make the connection with Jaco and the bass.
“I’d listened to music, but I didn’t even know what a bass looked like. [I thought there were] guitars with four strings and others had six strings. You know, kind of like one of them guys.”
It all clicked when a bassist friend of David’s played the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” for him, and David liked what he heard.
“I was like, ‘Wow, what instrument is that?’ He said ‘It’s a bass, you idiot. Your uncle played one.’ I thought it sounded cool, so I decided I’d like to start learning how to play that too.”
When asked of his musical influences, David is quick to rattle off a bunch, including Mike Patton, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantomas, and Danny Elfman, a person David singles out for his great compositions.
As bass players go, David’s roots match his edgier, more progressive rock sound.
“I mean, obviously, now I listen to Jaco and, yeah, he’s definitely an influence now. But originally it was guys like Flea, Robert Trujillo, Les Claypool, Steve Harris… more from the rock element.”
David’s first album, the self titled David Pastorius and Local 518 was released on the P-Vine label in Japan in 2007, with great success there. It is on this album that many listeners got their first glimpse of David’s unique approach to bass – and particularly his slap style – which he’s clearly advanced since, gaining him recognition wherever he plays.
The follow-up to the first release is Sense of Urgency. After a couple of listens, it is clear this is a big leap from the first one, from the compositions to the performance. David credits this with having both a plan as well as more experience in recording an album.
“For the first one, we just kind of went in and went for it. Whatever happened, happened (laughs). For Sense of Urgency, there were tunes that we were already playing out live. So, the first album is more jam-based and I think this album’s more focused.”
And so it must be a thrill for David to have one his early influences, Robert Trujillo, weigh in on Sense of Urgency, saying “Excellente! David is rippin’ it up. The sky is the limit. I love it.”
David wrote or co-wrote all of the music on Sense of Urgency. He says that his writing often times starts on the bass, but on some of the tracks, they came using a unique instrument.
“My daughter Hannah has a little tiny toy acoustic guitar, and it actually tunes up. I wrote four tunes on that little piece of junk guitar (laughs).”
David just wrapped up a series of clinics for Hartke in New York, with more on the way. Back in his home state of Florida, David can be found performing with Local 518 and his other band, “Elephant Gun”, and promoting Sense of Urgency. He’s planning a return trip to New York in early 2010, to perform and lead more clinics for Hartke.
No Treble contributor Evan Kepner contributed to this article and interview.