From Mr. Gone (1978).
Jaco Pastorius (drums, voice, timpani, bass), Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone), Joe Zawinul (keyboards, synthesizers). Just three Weather Report members. Jaco wrote the piece, a multi-layered studio creation. I didn’t realize Jaco was playing so much other stuff besides bass on this.
Mr. Gone is famous for getting badly panned by Downbeat (the quintessential jazz magazine) as a processed music sellout, and recieving a now notorious one star rating (out of five). I must have picked up on some of that info up peripherally in my quest to reacquaint myself with Weather Report, starting about a year ago, when I was buying most of their albums one by one, after sampling their tracks on Youtube. I resisted buying or even giving Mr. Gone a fair try, suspecting that I wouldn’t like it.
Then I heard Jaco talking about “River People” in the BBC documentary about him (embedded in my very second post on this blog). I just fished up the quote now at Weather Report’s annotated discography.
‘River People’ I wrote in the Everglades, where I was bass-fishing four years ago. It’s an older tune, about a day with the river people, like they get their feet right in the mud there; so the bass part: I sang the bass part (sings and claps time) ‘mm-maa, mm-maa, hmm; mm-maa, mm-maa mm-aa umm’, like a lot of people down in the mud at the river, yeah? And then these chords, the way they come in, it sounds like the sunrise – bang! – like this incredible light, and then the whole day passes, and at the end you start roaring, you start having a little fun, like you kind of party out at the end into this New Orleans feeling, y’know? I was in the Everglades fishing, but I was feeling a lot like I was in Louisiana when I wrote the song! It was weird.
Jaco’s description intrigued me, so I finally checked it out. I liked it and it kept growing on me. Eventually I got the whole album (a couple of months ago). There are one or two tracks on Mr. Gone that are arguably better, but this is still a fascinating wall of sound with a lot of pull. There’s an abrupt pivot in the middle but it still keeps the beat going, while changing the texture completely. This is one of Jaco’s best creations. Needless to say, the album has more than vindicated itself and invalidated the weird one star rating, though perhaps the reviewers can be forgiven somewhat for not knowing what to make of this in 1978.
Addendum: The Youtuber that put River People up is Thezone4422, and has quite an interesting selection on his/her channel. We like similar stuff, but the electronic mood music is pretty new to me and intriguing.
Love his description of how he wrote that song. I never would have gotten all of that just by listening. Starting in the Everglades and ending up in N’awlins. And all with a fishing pole at your side. Crazy nuts. Will show this to my husband who works in water quality–he should play it in the office for motivation and inspiration and to wake up his older colleagues who fall asleep at their desk. Great tune.
Again, you’re a gifted writer and always enjoy when you go on a bit.
Aw garsh! And you’re a gifted blog columnist and . . . food preparation person!
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