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Jaco Incorporated Strikes Back

Let me begin this column by turning it over to a letter by Stephen M. Carlisle that was posted at the official Jaco Pastorius website and that we can only assume is in the mail to us:

This office represents Jaco Pastorius Inc. I have been forwarded the article written by Jeff Stratton, entitled "Jaco Incorporated". This article is so replete with errors of fact and outright false information that it sets a new standard for shoddy journalism, so shoddy in fact that Mr. Stratton is unable to correctly state the actual date of the death of Jaco Pastorius. (For his information, he died on September 21st, not the 19th.) Mr. Stratton ignores easily discoverable facts, including those contained in public records, and makes completely false assertion of facts with absolutely no citation of factual support provided, underscoring the reckless disregard for the truth displayed throughout the article. New Times needs to immediately retract the following false statements and publish a correction no less prominently than the original story, including all Internet versions.

1) "Mary and John, his older children were entitled to all income from Pastorius' work before 1978". This statement is false. A one-half share of Jaco's first two music publishing companies was awarded to Jaco's first wife Tracy in the divorce settlement finalized in 1979. Thus the right to receive this income belonged to Tracy Lee, not to Jaco, and therefore not to his Estate. This is a matter of public record which your writer obviously chose to ignore. All of the other worldwide income (which properly excludes the previously mentioned one-half share awarded to Tracy Lee in 1979) that JPI collects, along with the expenses it incurs, is accounted for properly and in a timely fashion. Distributions from this income made by JPI (and by its predecessor, the Estate) have always been equal, at 25% to each heir/shareholder, in accordance with the law. To state otherwise, as Mr. Stratton does, is false.

2) "Currently they [Felix and Julius] get $500 a month, plus another $2,500 each year." This statement is false. The actual figure is several times the stated amount. Mr. Stratton unquestioning acceptance of whomever provided that information to him is another example of his reckless disregard for the truth, utilized to prop up his assertion of JPI's income as "modest". No attempt was made to verify this figure before publication, either with the CFO of JPI, Rory Pastorius, or this office.

3) "And with Mary, John and their Uncle Rory forming a three person majority on the JPI board, they get their way." This statement is false. Gregory Pastorius is the fifth director of JPI, not Rory Pastorius. He was elected to this position by a unanimous vote of all the shareholders on May 27, 2006. In fact all votes of shareholders and the board of directors of JPI at corporate meetings have been unanimous, as evidenced by the minutes of the meetings, which were signed by all shareholders/ board members, and are contained in the corporate records.

4) "But it's Bobbing, holding no official position in JPI, who actually seems to be the man calling the shots." This statement is false, and quite frankly, preposterous. As the attorney for JPI, virtually every licensing request relating to Jaco comes across my desk. The majority are routine requests which are handled by myself and Rory as VP of Operations and Finance. Non-routine requests trigger a canvassing of the Board for their input. I do not consult with Bob Bobbing on such matters, nor would I have any reason to do so. I would estimate that I have not spoken to Bob Bobbing for over a year.

5) As yet another example of Mr. Stratton's reckless disregard for the truth he makes it appear as if Mary and Julius' exchange of e-mail was contemporaneous, when in fact the e-mails were separated by over a month in time and addressed entirely different subjects.

Finally to include a quote from Mr. Rutherford that "It's been 19 years and they've done nothing." highlights Mr. Stratton's preconceived agenda to paint a false and negative portrait of the Pastorius family and JPI, and thus reveals the motive for his constant reckless disregard for the truth.

The truth is this. Jaco died leaving $659.21 in cash and his copyrights. That's it. The family doesn't even know where his bass is. The claim of Broward General Hospital against his Estate was $29,731.65. A New York co-op claimed another $24,577.91 in damages and started garnishing Jaco's royalties. Only through perseverance and a lot of hard work has the Pastorius family, (including Tracy Lee, Gregory Pastorius and Ingrid Pastorius) been able to make Jaco's legacy rise again to where it is now. I don't know why New Times wants to tear this accomplishment down by hurling false accusations. All of the above facts are contained in the Court file, which are public records.  

New Times needs to immediately retract the false statements and publish a correction no less prominently than the original story, including all Internet versions. PLEASE GOVERN YOUR ACTIONS ACCORDINGLY.

OK, back to me again. We do need to correct the record on some of these issues, but I want to make one thing very clear. We might not be in this situation if Carlisle (as well as Rory and Gregory Pastorius) had bothered to return Jeff Stratton's phone calls when he was gathering information for this story. After the fact, it's very convenient for Carlisle to sound outraged about some details that we missed, but his overblown letter doesn't begin to address the main point of Stratton's story. More on that later.

Let's go through his complaints. The editor of this paper (that's me) will own up to screwing up the date of Jaco's death after Stratton had originally written the correct one. The fact that Jaco died nine days after his beating on the morning of the 12th somehow got translated during the editing process to the 19th, rather than the 21st. We've fixed it.

Second, Stratton spoke to Mary and John Pastorius (and, again, tried to get Mr. Carlisle's help) to understand the complex royalties situation that exists among the four surviving Pastorius children. John Pastorius assured Stratton several times that Tracy Lee, his mother, has signed over her interests in the Jaco copyrights to her two children. The important part of what Stratton wrote is still true: that the first two children, John and Mary, benefit to a greater degree from their father's work than the twins, Felix and Julius. Carlisle can make it out to be a major crime that we didn't delve further into the history of litigation over Jaco's estate, but that wasn't the focus of this story.

Third, we were told by both Mary Pastorius and Ingrid Pastorius (who agree on little else) that the twins are currently receiving $550 a month (not $500, which was a typo that appeared only in the Internet version of the story). However, we did neglect to ask about a previously reported $2,500 lump annual sum, and repeating it was a mistake. While we believe the $550 number still to be correct, we have now learned that the annual lump sum has gone up considerably — even tripled in some years. However, we stand by our estimation that JPI's fortunes are "modest" when the child of a jazz superstar of Jaco's stature is receiving $550 a month.

According to the state's most recently available incorporation records, Rory Pastorius has been the fifth member of the JPI board since at least 1999. That he was superseded in May by Gregory is something we will correct in the story. Corporate records, meanwhile, may show that votes in JPI meetings have been unanimous (we didn't say they weren't), but that hardly takes away from the stunning insight of how JPI works as described in the e-mail by Julius, which clearly indicates a young person who has been intimidated to toe the line by older family members.

Nearly everyone Stratton interviewed for this story remarked that Bob Bobbing appeared to be running the Jaco Pastorius official industry. Stratton was actually quite fair to Bobbing, noting the remarkable role he played in Jaco's early musical career. But in fact, the article could have reflected even more pointedly how much Bobbing is seen today as a bully by many in the larger Pastorius circle. Carlisle may approve license requests as the JPI attorney, but this article went well beyond the simple legal questions of Jaco's legacy, and our statement that Bobbing seems to be in control is in no way incorrect. Ask the larger community of Jaco faithful — they'll tell you they expect to see no new releases of Jaco's archived recordings unless Bobbing decides to make it happen.

Julius' e-mail was a direct response to Mary's message, and the passage of time between the two is hardly relevant. Again, Carlisle gives the impression that he's more interested in bringing up distracting irrelevancies than addressing the main points of Stratton's article.

Which are: that an unassuming fan, Robert Rutherford, has been attempting to persuade Oakland Park to name a park after his hero, Jaco Pastorius, but that his efforts have only made clear the deep divisions in the Pastorius family, which are exacerbated by Bob Bobbing. Rutherford's assertion that JPI has done nothing to uphold Jaco's legacy in 19 years is his opinion, and not an unfair one, considering what he's attempting to do, and was echoed in the quote by Bobby Thomas: "The guy affected the whole planet, and his sorry-ass town hasn't done anything."  

Carlisle may find it impressive that after 19 years, Jaco's heirs have managed to pay off a few debts, erect a decent website, and approve a double-disc archive release. But for some Jaco fans, this is a disappointing legacy, and the crippling feud between family factions helps explain why more hasn't been accomplished.

UPDATE: Rory Pastorius called to help explain the JPI documents on file with the state. Although he’s been listed as an officer of the corporation for years, he was a director only from 2005 to 2006. Rory also insists that he didn’t get a call from New Times, but Stratton maintains that he did attempt to reach him by phone and e-mail.


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