At the end of a calendar year, many people take stock of where they’ve been and where they will be going. I hope my readers will forgive me if I offer a brief JAZZ LIVES version.
Since the spring of 2004, I have been having the time of my life. Not only have I been able to hear more live music than ever before; I have been able to travel to hear it; I have been able to document it in words and pictures and videos. A year ago, at the start of 2012, I decided — with the heedless enthusiasm and joy of someone one-third my age, “I am going to follow every impulse I can. My life is finite. The lives of the people I revere are also finite. Not only do I want to extend myself to the utmost; I feel I must do it.”
And I set out on this path, or these paths. If you were to look at my kitchen calendar or my datebook or the notebooks I write when / where / who played / what did it sound like, you would see that I have been busy. Jazz parties in Connecticut, Chautauqua, San Diego, Monterey, Sacramento, Atlanta, Whitley Bay. Club gigs in New York and California. And I might have left some things out.
I flew so often and slept so little that by the last third of 2012, I was at the bottom edge of my energy, and I felt it. The Blessed Milton J. Hinton used to have a joking expression: FUMP, which was his synonym for the excrement of whales . . . nothing could be lower than that, because it rested on the ocean floor. I felt like fump, I assure you. But I am coming back to my ordinarily resilient self, so do not worry. (The combination of being with the Beloved, sleep, acupuncture by Marcia Salter, antibiotics, and homeopathy is wondrous.)
JAZZ LIVES is not a profit-making proposition. Had I a financial advisor, (s)he would say, “You cannot continue to do this. You will have no money,” and 2012 would prove him / her right. But that, too, is not entirely important.
What is important — to me — is that I have gained new friends. Some of them I have been able to meet. And if I called 2012 THE YEAR OF THE HUGS, I think it would be accurate. I have been hugged in cyber-space, on the telephone, by mail. And in person. And although (as they say at the Academy Awards) I accept this award for myself, it is really because I realized that my role in life is to attempt to spread joy through music.
I am so indebted to the real creators — the musicians — who so generously and good-humoredly allow and encourage me to help their notes and phrases be heard by audiences who will never be able to see and hear them live. JAZZ LIVES both spreads and receives love, and I am proud of this.
So 2012 has been a year where I have been able to accomplish things I never thought possible. I send love and thanks to everyone who has ever clicked on a page, even if it was searching “dressed as a girl by my mother,” which still comes up in Search Engine Terms.
And I hope no one will mind if I close this love letter to all the musicians in the house, all the viewers and all the readers — with the lesson from Mezz Mezzrow’s autobiography. The lesson took place in 1929, but it never grows old.
I used to sit huddled up on my [subway] seat, shrinking into a corner, my head shoved down between my knees and my arms wrapped tight around it, to keep from screaming.
One day, just as the train pulled into 110th Street, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and when I worked up enough courage to raise my head, there was a nice-looking old colored man with a thick crop of snow-white hair, looking down at me with the kindest, most sympathetic expression I ever saw. “Son,” he said to me real soft, “if you can’t make money, make friends,” and with that he stepped out on the platform and drifted away. He saved my life that day.
Make friends. Spread joy. Swing out.
May your happiness increase.