David Garfield welcomes seventeen master bass players on board to honor and revisit Jaco Pastorius’ masterpiece “Teen Town.”
“Bass players are my favorite people in the world.” So says L.A. keyboard ace and solo artist David Garfield, whose credits include Freddie Hubbard, Cher, Smokey Robinson, Dave Koz, the studio supergroups Los Lobotomys and Karizma, and his longtime role in George Benson’s band. “They provide both the harmonic and rhythmic foundation that lifts us up as keyboard players and enables us to take flight. They’re also some of the nicest, most thoughtful musicians I’ve met.” In tribute, Garfield has recorded a version of the Jaco Pastorius Weather Report bass anthem “Teen Town” [Heavy Weather, 1977, Columbia]. The funkified, multi-groove update is a smile-inducing treat, both in recalling the brilliance of the Pastorius composition and Garfield’s ultra-creative adaptation, and for the guessing game of which bassist is playing what. There are 17 bass heavies onboard — 13 taking on the fierce solo section, a handful playing the melodies, and at least half of them adding sonic goodies throughout. All-in-all, the six-minute track boasts a whopping 27 musicians, including Garfield on keyboards, drummers Steve Gadd, Abraham Laboriel Jr., Gary Novak, Jimmy Branly, and Khari Parker, percussionist Luis Conte, guitarists Michael Thompson and Soren Reiff, and saxophonist Steve Tavaglione.
The 17 featured thumpers represent a cross section of the instrument: session heavies Nathan East, Will Lee, Abraham Laboriel, Jimmy Johnson, Carlitos Del Puerto, John Peña, and Jimmy Earl. Jazz greats John Patitucci and Alphonso Johnson; L.A. first-callers Andre Berry [Brothers Johnson, David Sanborn, Rick Braun], Ernest Tibbs [Allan Holdsworth, Simon Phillips, Gladys Knight], and Sean McNabb [Quiet Riot, Dokken, Don Felder]; global upstarts Henrik Linder and Federico Malaman; and regional root royalty in Minneapolis’ Paul Peterson [Prince, Steve Miller, George Benson] and John King [Boom, Good 4 The Soul, Denise Thimes], from Garfield’s native St. Louis.
The impetus for the track is actually part of a multi-album series Garfield has been creating for several years, which he calls “Outside the Box.” He explains, “It started out as a notion to record with all of the amazing musicians I’ve had the privilege of knowing. As schedules allowed, I would bring in great rhythm sections and artists and do a few cover tracks with each.” The results have been critically acclaimed sides like Vox Outside the Box, Jammin’ Outside the Box, Jazz Outside the Box, Alex Ligertwood Outside the Box, and the upcoming Stretchin’ Outside the Box in 2020, which will include “Teen Town.” The song was released as a single in August, with a YouTube video posted in October that reveals much of who played what (see Connect).
As for the track’s spark and long development, Garfield recalls, “I got the idea to cover the song while on a long travel day with George Benson to Mozambique. I was sitting with Khari, our drummer, and I told him I wanted to do a hip-hop version of ‘Teen Town.’ When I got back to L.A., I went into the studio with Nathan East, who recorded a bass line below my scratch melody, and we cut to a click. Back when Los Lobotomys started, Nathan was the original bassist, and he had always wanted to cover Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm’ [Slave to the Rhythm, 1985, Island]. Remembering that, I told him, ‘Let’s use the groove for ‘Teen Town.’ I had Khari add drums next, and then I got the idea for the middle section to have a Latin feel, with solos from a bunch of different bass players. I sent all of them the files — with some key technical help from Jimmy Johnson — and I asked each one to contribute a four-bar solo.”
Garfield, who reveals more about the track below, concludes, “I first met Jaco in 1976 at a jam session, when I was a 19-year-old pianist with Freddie Hubbard. He was tearing it up and I was in awe. I followed his career and loved his solo records, his work with Joni Mitchell, and especially his output with Weather Report. Moreover, I saw the giant influence he had on the next few generations of bass players. He was a true revolutionary whom we lost too soon. I’m honored to be able to pay tribute to him and to all of my bass brothers with my revisit of ‘Teen Town.’”
The Back Story
No revisit of “Teen Town” would be complete without first focusing on the original and the man behind it. The song, which Jaco named for a Fort Lauderdale spot he frequented with his buddies, captured the essence of both his early nickname, the “Florida Flash” (through the tune’s lizard-like, darting bass), and “punk jazz,” which is how Jaco described his music (and which became the title of one of his compositions on Weather Report’s 1978 Columbia album Mr. Gone). Within the two-year span of Jaco’s landmark self-titled solo debut and Weather Report’s Heavy Weather, he cut Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee,” revealing the influence of bebop horn players; “Come On, Come Over,” echoing his early R&B bass heroes; and the harmonics-infused solo bass pieces “Portrait of Tracy” and “Continuum.” “Teen Town” was something else again, with Jaco on his trademark fretless 1962 Fender Jazz Bass unleashing what can be dually described as the melody and the bass line, due to its range, pocket, short phrases, and in-your-face intensity. Jaco also provides the sizzling drum track, returning to his first instrument.
Will Lee, who knew Pastorius in Florida and later in New York City (and who has performed “Teen Town” with the late guitar great Hiram Bullock), notes, “The original track is perfection. It’s got every earmark of Jaco in it, starting with his intense feel. That’s how he lived his life — everything he did had an urgency, almost like he knew his time was going to be short, and he had to lay it all down now. He was into jazz horn players, R&B bass greats, and the Latin and Caribbean sounds around him in Florida, and somewhere between the three was where he existed. I first saw him playing with [Florida trumpeter/saxophonist] Ira Sullivan around 1973, and he was using jazz licks and patterns, like cycles of 1-2-3-5, to mark time and construct his bass lines. He’d use them to find his way around the fingerboard and learn how to get in and out of the chord changes. I felt like I was watching someone who was in the process of figuring it all out in a very fast, urgent kind of way — and indeed, he was his fully formed self not too long after that. All these years later, Jaco still kicks every bass player’s butt. And as we aspire to reach his level, it’s a lot of fun being inspired by him.”
The Intro, Melody & Bridge
“Teen Town” 2019 begins with 16 bars of greasy groove bass in C major, courtesy of John King (with some quick peek-outs from Andre Berry). Following a four-bar intro at 0:45, where East’s foundation bass line begins, the melody enters at 0:57. Garfield notes, “At first I wanted a non-bass instrument for the melody, and I had Michael Thompson cut it on guitar. But then I decided I wanted Will Lee to have prominent role, because of both our long friendship and him knowing Jaco from the Miami scene. So I had him double Michael’s melody for the first 16 bars and then play the last eight himself.” Offers Lee, “I wanted to do something different, so I re-strung my Sadowsky [NYC Will Lee model] ADGC, and when I doubled Michael’s guitar melody, I included the twist he added to the end of one the phrases [1:17–1:20]. Then I kicked on my MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter for the rest of the melody [at 1:41].”
To read the full transcription and notes: CLICK HERE