Two poets remember Jaco Pastorius

March 21st, 2023

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Chris Hakkens, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Hakkens, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jaco Pastorius with Weather Report; 1980

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Understanding Jaco

That one song still holds the power to haunt.
I peeled apart its soulful layers searching for

the truth or an obscure meaning, as if trying to
conjure up the face of a loved one long gone.

An ode to an intangible is what captivated me.
I replayed the melody and saw your hands fondling

the bass at that South Street club, like fresh thoughts
of trysts with an old love interest who once rocked your world.

But I went back to a time when the demons began to tantalize you.
I wanted to understand such a confusing and elusive song.

Like you, the bass-playing wonder who after years of saying
“no” turned to “yeses” that paved your undoing.

As you traveled down dark streets and indiscriminately
picked your battles, you abandoned reason and the roles

of leader, teacher, friend and muse.
I now listen to “Three Views of a Secret” for its pure beauty,

as if wandering through a magnificent art gallery and
ignoring the placards. An anthem from a legend who couldn’t

shield himself from the music world’s harsher angles.
A brilliant legacy. But you left the stage too soon.

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by Amy Barone

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Jimmy Green And The Artifacts Open For Jaco Pastorius At The Lone Star Cafe

He came back downstairs from the roof as we set up.
He was a little wild in the eyes. I didn’t know
About his problems then. I was playing
Second bass and he said to me, “Two basses,
That’s like having tits on a bull! Let me sit in
And we’ll have a three-bass orchestra!”
I was only there for a couple of extra parts
The regular bass didn’t know, but Jaco
Didn’t know that. “Ask Jimmy, man.
It’s up to him.” “The Art-i-facts,” Jaco said,
Rolling the syllables. “Dig that name.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

I saw him later when he’d been upstairs again.
A little wilder in the eyes. When he heard we were blues
He grinned and rolled his eyes at me. Fuck it,
I wasn’t playing on this one anyway. I handed him
My bass, and he jacked the song, finding harmonics
That fit the blues every which way and I don’t know how.

It was my last gig there anyway. So when Jaco started singing
“Fannie Mae, baby won’t you please come home?”
Without a mike, I joined him on it. The last time
I ever played the Lone Star. It was shaped funny,
Most of the audience was in an upper balcony
Or around the corner. We were singing to the windows.
When he gave me back my bass
There was something in his eyes when he looked at me
I’ll never forget. Something wrong, but right as well.

The next time I saw him he asked me for a dollar.
His eyes were down and whatever he was thinking about
Didn’t please him. “Remember me, Jaco?” I said.
“Remember the three-bass orchestra?”
He remembered and laughed. “I’m going to do one man,
For real, soon as I get back from Italy.”
I didn’t believe he had a tour lined up in Italy,
But he did. He did two tours of Italy that year,
Sick as he was. Made a couple of records too.
Whatever was right in him never quite went away.

I bought him a couple of Heinekens at the Sawdust Tavern,
A fish sandwich at McDonald’s. I thought of him
The other day, when my mortgage loan closed.
The loan was being sold to Fannie Mae,
The mortgage agency. I’d do it again.
The eyes are the windows, yes?
Baby won’t you please come home.

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by Mark Fogarty

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Amy Barone’s poetry collection, Defying Extinction, was published by Broadstone Books in 2022. New York Quarterly Books published her book, We Became Summer. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing). Barone belongs to the Poetry Society of America. She lives in NYC.

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Mark Fogarty is a poet, musician and journalist. He curates The Jaco Pastorius Gig List on Facebook

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Listen to the 1981 recording of Jaco Pastorius (bass, synthesizer and piano) performing “Three Views of a Secret,” with Bob Mintzer (clarinet, saxophone); Toots Thielemans (harmonica); Michael Brecker (saxophone); and Jack DeJohnette (drums).  [Rhino/Warner]

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