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.