Thursday, May 28, 2009

His Brush With Fame

During the early 80s, I was in a working band. Regular gigs at most of the NYC clubs that were popular at the time, S.N.A.F.U., Trax, The Bitter End, Kenny's Castaways, and Great Gildersleeves, were commonplace. And for reasons I still can't understand, the late, great jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, ended up at more than one of our gigs. He wasn't searching us out. We didn't play jazz and if we did, he wouldn't be searching US out. But yet, on more than one occasion, we found ourselves in the same place at the same time. One place was Dr. B's, a short-lived club on Greene Street in Soho, where he and the great percussionist Don Alias had a semi-regular residency, and so did we. If not at Dr. B's, then we'd see him hanging out at Kenny's Castaways, where we played just as often.

What made these implausible meetings even more curious and a bit exciting for me, was that at the start of my band's rehearsal every week, my bass player and I would warm up playing Jaco's tune "Teen Town," from Weather Report's "Heavy Weather" album.

It was a Jaco original that he played both bass and drums on, and man, did it kick ass in both departments.

Here comes the sad but true part of the story. In between our two sets at Kenny's Castaways one evening, Jaco got up onstage, picked up Richie's bass, and just started playing. I don't remember what, but it was Jaco, so it wasn't just anything. We were all in shock. Richie, my bass player, tells me to "Get up there. Here's your chance to play with Jaco. Go play 'Teen Town.'"

I just couldn't. It didn't seem right. But after repeated choruses of "Pussy," and the fact that it WAS our gig and our equipment, I relented. I ran up, grabbed my sticks and started playing the very distinct opening hi-hat riff to "Teen Town." I sounded good. Really. Jaco turned around, made a "What's that horrible smell?" face. You know, that same face you make driving through Secaucus. He put down the bass, and hopped off the stage and out onto Bleecker Street.

I played with Jaco for 10 seconds.

Here is a live version of "Teen Town" from 1977 featuring the classic Weather Report line-up of Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuna, Manolo Badrena, and of course, the late master, Jaco Pastorius.



Chris Swartout said...

Love the picture of you behind the kit!!

Great story. I've forwarded it to a few friends who I am trying to make regular visitors to the site.

I've got burnwood bookmarked and it is also is on my google reader so I never miss a post!

My old boss at Sgt. Peppers records and Head shop was a Jaco freak! If only I had his email address.


Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Chris. I love that you read the blog. Really means alot.

cmealha said...

I thought it was my fault!

Sal Nunziato said...

No, Carl, Not that night.

cmealha said...

I'm not a jazz guy but I knew some of the Weather Report stuff and I knew of Jaco as he was one of those guys that popped in on various albums. My favorite all-time bass solo is Jaco on Ian Hunter's All American Alien Boy. It just makes me happy every time I hear it.

steve simels said...

I can't believe we never met, back in the day. I lived across the street from Kenny's, and my own band was one of the house groups there, i.e. we'd play whenever there was a cancellation, above and beyond our own gigs.

And I was there one July 4th when Jaco went on stage and grabbed somebody's bass and started playing, oblivious to everything else going on. This was toward the end, of course...

FD13NYC said...

Hey Sal, I'm pretty sure it was July 4th. Jaco went on stage and played America The Beautiful with the amp on 11. What I really remember was people outside Kenny's looming and peering in the windows and doorway to see who was making that BIG sound.

I guess it made us feel a little like celebrities, that we kind of knew Jaco and he graced our stage that night. Fun times indeed!!

geno said...

Beside those pythons (and the de rigueur terry cloth wrist bands, I'm bettin') are those drumsticks 2 ft. long? (Look out Bun E.!) And you have definitely been practicing the Buddy Rich Facial Excercises!

But with all that, when the conversation drifts around to great bass players of the late 20th Century and the name Pastorius is mentioned, you Sal, can lean back and say:

"JACO? OH, YEAH...I PLAYED WITH HIM. With that indifferent attitude of cool we all want to have.

THEN. after the loooong silence ensues, you'll say, "Here comes the sad but true part of the story."

Sal Nunziato said...

Hey Frank,
I really don't think we played on July 4th. We did play on July 3rd at JPs on First Avenue to exactly 3 people once, but I'm pretty sure never on the 4th itself.

FD13NYC said...

Hey Sal, I'm pretty sure we played on July 4th at Kenny's. We did 3 sets that Jaco night. Steve Simels even remembers being there. Oh well, no matter, all in the past.

Great weekend mix as usual. Oh, and that song My Junk is really good too!

Sal Nunziato said...

Sorry Frank, but if you read Simels comment, he doesn't remember being there for us. He just remembers being there one 4th Of July.

FD13NYC said...

Sal, I'm not trying to argue with you about this. All I'm saying is that I can remember with my re-fried brain and all that the July 4th gig was the Jaco gig. One of the many many gigs we did that stood out, not for the gig but for the Jaco thing. Steve wasn't there for us, he probably was just there. Let's not go around with this, let it be. Have a good weekend!

cmealha said...

I'm surprised and impressed that both of you can argue about the date. It was the 80's, right?

Sal Nunziato said...

OK FRANK. I'll let it be that on my blog, you didn't want to argue, you just wanted to "let it be...." with the last word, of course.