Caution: Read this whole review before deciding whether to buy this CD. "The project 'Around Jaco’.... has a density of its own.... " Thus states the promotional material accompanying this album. It’s true, where Jaco worked with full jazz orchestras, bassist Frederic Monino has found harmonic fulfillment with an accordion. Lionel Suarez does a fine job of giving the soloists on this CD a foundation on which to build their solos.
The album almost starts well with a quartet version of "Continuum," this critic’s favorite Pastorius composition. "Almost starts well," because the quartet consists of Monino (fine Jaco facsimile), drummer Stephane Huchard (probably the star of the album) and harmonica player Oliver Ker Ourio with accordionist Suarez. Ker Ourio and Suarez comprise the particular problem. Whenever they play together, the similarity of timbre is most distracting. On "Round Trip/Broadway Blues," soprano sax virtuoso Francois Jeanneau and guitarist Louis Winsberg show a fine grasp of the composer’s approach. However, the approach is harmolodics and the composer is Ornette Coleman.
Although Jaco did play this piece on Pat Metheny’s "Bright Size Life" album, this and the next cut, the title cut from that album, have a tenuous connection to a tribute to Jaco, whose approach was not similar to Ornette’s in any way. (Although, it would have been interesting to hear Jaco and Coleman together.) All the rest of the compositions are Jaco’s, so they can be assessed on their own terms. The harmonica/accordion problem rears its ugly (yes, ugly) head on "Punk Jazz." It makes one long for Zawinul-esque synths to fill in.
The only real problems from here on is concern choices of tunes. The selections are the most obvious of Pastorius’ oeuvre. Perhaps that is the reason for the early bows to Pat Metheny. Nothing remotely negative can be said about the quality of playing on this album, so any niggling and nit-picking herein should be taken with whatever size grain of salt one has where Jaco or tribute albums in general are concerned. The playing really is quite excellent.