Many of us have made plans, whether vague and silent or specific and detailed, about what should happen to our STUFF (thank you, George Carlin) after we are no longer around to enjoy it.

But this post isn’t to urge people to make such plans. I would like readers to consider the idea of spontaneous philantropies while the giver and the recipient are both alive and sentient.  

Suppose you know that a jazz friend has never heard an unusual or rare record. You could make a bequest of that disc in your will . . . or you could give it to your friend NOW. If that’s too painfully a precursor of your own death, you could invite your friend over to hear it. You could send a copy now — before other responsibilities get in the way of this impulse.

If you know that your niece is playing saxophone in the school band, why not make sure she has AFTERNOON OF A BASIE-ITE, Ben Webster with Strings, and Buddy Tate records to enjoy? Again, NOW. A fledgling singer has never heard Mildred Bailey or Jimmy Rushing? You’re beginning to see a pattern.

These generosities make a number of happy results possible. Who doesn’t love getting a gift that, in its essence, says, “The person who gave this to me knows me so well and loves me”? So your gesture becomes an offering of affection and joy. In addition, acts like these are quiet ways of letting the music reverberate through the universe: jazz proselytizing, if you will.

A good deal of my musical happiness has been the direct result of the active generosity of many people, living and dead, friends and collectors who said, “You HAVE to hear this!”  Marc Caparone, Ricky Ricccardi, Manfred Selchow, Stu Zimny, David Weiner, Rob Rothberg, Bill Gallagher, David Goldin, Butch Smith, John L. Fell, Joe Boughton, Hal Smith, Wayne Jones, Bob Erdos, Bill Coverdale, Roy Bower, Bert Whyatt, Derek Coller, and two dozen others. Without them, my musical range would have been much more narrow. I remember the giver as much as I do the gift.

Much of my work on this blog is my own attempt to give gifts of music old and new. “Wait, you have never heard HAVEN’T NAMED IT YET?” “You never heard Lips Page or Tricky Sam Nanton play the blues?”

It’s a paradox, but giving precious artifacts away to someone who will appreciate them does not diminish your ownership; it intensifies your pleasure.

I am skirting the practical details of sharing; I don’t mean to suggest that you simply burn CDs, because that deprives the original artists of royalties or income. But I do urge people to open their treasure troves and share the music.

So rather than thinking about the next record or CD you absolutely must possess, why not turn the impulse on its head and think, “Who in my life would be thrilled to listen to what I so enjoy? Who deserves a gift of music, and how might I make this possible?”

In return, you will hear their pleasure and gratitude and be warmed by it. Such acts are love embodied, and the energy behind them is never wasted.

P. S.  If you’re reading this and thinking, “All that is very nice, but I have no rare jazz records to share with other people,” there are always chances to make generosity take shape without spending money. Consider the Ethel Waters principle:

If you say to someone today, “I love you,” “Thanks for everything,” “I’m grateful to you,” “I’m so sorry,” “Can you forgive me?” “What can I do for you?” or “It’s been a long time since we spoke,” those words have the ringing beauty of a Bix solo or a Lester Young chorus.

May your happiness increase!

8 responses to “DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD

  1. But but but…this IS jazz we’re talking about, isn’t it? None of us in jazz – musicians, critics, collectors, anyone – really matters while we’re alive. Look at the news! The best thing a jazz great can do to boost hi/r public image is die. In fact, it’s just about the only thing.

  2. Paul, I think you might be aiming for something that isn’t what I was writing about. My post was encouraging people to be generous with music, to share it . . . what you do in your Facebook postings of “prehistoric platters.” I also take issue with your statement that “None of us in jazz . . . really matters while we’re alive.” If that’s satire, that’s your choice; if you really believe that, I don’t know what I might say to you.

  3. My Dear Nephew,

    Every word in this blog touched me…way down deep. It brought tears..You are a perfect example of the “giver.” Your video’s bring me so much joy, not to mention the oh so special to me, gifts, I have received from you over the past few years. I wouldn’t have cared what was in that package,,I always knew it was sent with much love, or it would never have hit the postal service. The coffee press is still making great coffee. How special was that to me,,,You can’t imagine. I agree with every word youwrote in this blog, and try my darndest to live up to those standards. How great the world would be if people would live according to this philosophy of life!!

    With much love and gratitude, Auntie

  4. What a lovely, thoughtful blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it and your suggestions. And I would like to thank you for the gift(s) you send each day – being your blog of course! Thanks again!

  5. Amen! You are a treasure, dear Michael!

  6. Yep, I was being satirical. Look at CNN – a perfect jazz-free zone except for the crawl, and even there, the rule is obits only. As for my FB platter postings, I’ll keep them going, but honestly, I’m not going to open many ears. Reception is either warm or zero – usually in proportion to how respected the genre is already.

  7. Remember Johnny Milton — tbn with the Paradise Lost Stompers? He always used to say, “Fit audience, though few.” Keep propelling that music out in to the world: you never know its effect.

  8. the aphorism:

    ‘you don’t really know a thing till you can teach it’

    could be extended to

    ‘you can’t fully appreciate a thing till you share it’

    paradoxical yet often true.

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