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Metallica rocker Robert Trujillo: It’s all about the bass

This Oct. 25, 2011 file photo shows Metallica's bassist Robert Trujillo performing on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
This Oct. 25, 2011 file photo shows Metallica's bassist Robert Trujillo performing on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. AP

Metallica’s Robert Trujillo felt a calling — to bring the life of legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius to the big screen.

Trujillo, 51, has spent the better part of six years producing the documentary Jaco, which will kick off the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock.

“Jaco was definitely my biggest influence,” Trujillo said from Los Angeles before his trip. “He has so many layers and trying to condense them into a film under two hours was a real challenge.”

Growing up in Culver City, California, Trujillo was exposed to various genres of music.

“There were a lot of different styles in the house. Motown, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, jazz and my dad played flamenco guitar,” recounts the rocker. “Soon I realized that bass was what was really grooving me.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Pastorius moved with his family at age 7 to Oakland Park, where he soon developed a talent for bass guitar, eventually teaching a course on it at the University of Miami in the early ’70s. At the school he hooked up with fellow teacher Pat Metheny; the two later recorded together. Soon Pastorius began to develop a large following in the jazz funk community and joined the NYC-based alt-jazz band Weather Report. A show by the group in 1979 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium changed Trujillo’s life.

“I witnessed something I had never witnessed before — the bass was at the forefront,” Trujillo says of the electrifying concert. “And Jaco had this incredible stage presence. He just controlled the audience in a really captivating way. What also blew me away was how diverse the audience was — there were punk rockers, an alternative community, a heavy metal contingent. It was amazing to see.”

Despite his wide-ranging, innate talent, mental-health issues plagued Pastorius, who was thought to be bipolar and often ended up in dire situations. On Sept. 21, 1987, 10 days after engaging in a bar fight with a bouncer at the Midnight Bottle Club in Wilton Manors, Pastorius succumbed to his injuries. He was 35.

Trujillo never forgets his first encounter with Jaco — at a guitar show in Los Angeles in 1985.

“It was held in a hotel that was like the equivalent to a Holiday Inn Express,” Trujillo remembers. “I heard this really loud sound, literally shaking the windows like an earthquake. I went into the room and there was Jaco playing the bass. I basically just sat down five feet in front of him, looked him right in the eye. The room started filling up. I was kind of mesmerized.”

Trujillo wasn’t sure what to expect when all the reverberation stopped.

“There were rumors about him at the time, and they weren’t that great. Crazy rumors. But he still had that power. After [his performance], he got up without saying a word and walked out of the room, leaving us all kind of hanging. It was a beautiful thing.”

Tickets/info: Trujillo and director Paul Marchand will join members of the Pastorius family for the red-carpet screening of “Jaco” at Hard Rock Live in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complex. $10 includes a pre-screening cocktail party at 8:30 p.m. www.fliff.com

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