JVC Jazz Festival – New York presents Seven Steps to Jaco

An evening of fusion (June 22) at the Beacon Theatre when the JVC Jazz Festival – New York presents Seven Steps to Jaco starring Steps Ahead (2005) featuring Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Steve Smith, Mike Stern and Richard Bona plus a dynamic tribute Portrait of Jaco: Remembering Jaco Pastorius featuring Steve Bailey, Jeff Berlin, Richard Bona, Oteil Burbridge, Matthew Garrison, Will Lee, Christian McBride, Felix Pastorius, Gerald Veasley with Don Alias, Randy Brecker, Hiram Bullock, Kenwood Dennard, Flux Quartet, Ira Sullivan, Othello Molineaux, Julius Pastorius and Lenny White.

Originally called Steps when vibes master Mike Mainieri formed it in 1978, Steps Ahead combines jazz, rock, R & B and fusion to create its trademark sound. Michael Brecker and Mainieri brought together a group of alumni to headline the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival in 2004; and it was so successful that they hit the road on a 2005 tour with former members Steve Smith and Mike Stern and newcomer Richard Bona. Celebrating 25 years of work, Mainieri has compiled a soon-to-be-released six-CD set of live performances – Steps Ahead: Six Pack – from the group’s inception the present.

Michael Brecker is an 11-time Grammy winner and the first to win both the “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance” and “Best Jazz Instrumental Solo” two years in a row. With a new CD scheduled for fall, he is no stranger to creating innovative groups. He formed Dreams in 1970 and he and his brother Randy (taking part in the tribute to Jaco) made waves with The Brecker Brothers three years later. Primarily recognized as an award-winning jazz vibraphonist, Mike Mainieri is equally talented as a producer, arranger and composer. Throughout his career, now spanning almost five decades, he has collaborated with some of the world’s most formidable jazz players, produced numerous albums and discovered a host of innovative, young talent. He got together with his Norwegian crew to produce Northern Lights, set for release in June and his solo CD of standards, Lush Life, is expected in July.

Drummer Steve Smith has also maintained an extensive touring and recording career, appearing with many jazz luminaries as well as with Journey for their 1996 reunion tour. One of the premier guitarists of his generation, the three-time Grammy nominee Mike Stern got his start as a guitar player with Blood, Sweat & Tears at the age of 22. Following a stint with Billy Cobham's powerhouse fusion band, he was recruited by Miles Davis and played a key role in his 1981 comeback band. He toured with Jaco’s Word of Mouth band from 1983 – 84 before returning for a second stint with Miles. His latest album, These Times, was released last year. The Cameroonian Richard Bona is a musical masterpiece when his striking falsetto voice rings out, often accompanied by his dynamic work on the bass as well as acoustic guitar, flute, keyboards and percussion. Since arriving in New York in 1995, he has been frequently tapped to perform with a bevy of stars including bandmate Stern.

Included in the all-star gala tribute to Jaco, produced by impresario Charles Carlini, are Pastorius colleagues and former bandmates trumpeter Randy Brecker, percussionist Don Alias, saxophonist Ira Sullivan, guitarist Hiram Bullock, bassist Will Lee, drummers Kenwood Dennard and Lenny White, steel pan virtuoso Othello Molineaux and pianist/accordionist/musical director Gil Goldstein. Featured bass players are Jeff Berlin, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Gerald Veasley, Christian McBride, Matthew Garrison, Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, and Jaco’s son Felix Pastorius.

For this special occasion at the Beacon, Goldstein has worked up fresh arrangements of such classic Jaco compositions as “Come On Come Over,” “Three Views Of A Secret,” “Continuum,” “Opus Pocus” and “Liberty City” that will also prominently feature the Flux String Quartet. “

“Jaco's compositions are far and above the music of any of his contemporaries,” said Goldstein. “I think they are some of the best songs that have been written in the later jazz age. I also think they are going to have a history of being covered and recovered, and I’m hoping that these new arrangements are going to offer a different view of his stuff.”

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