Daily Archives: September 27, 2013

“LET ME HEAR THAT MUSIC!”

It’s all true.

This morning, I was driving across Manhattan to see the Beloved. Predictably, I was stuck in congealing traffic.  I did what I often do (since the weather was fine and I wasn’t going anywhere fast) — put a new jazz CD in the player, opened my window, and turned up the sound.  I assure you, should you worry, that my aging car’s sound system can do no harm to my or anyone else’s eardrums.

As I inched forward, I saw a man on foot — what Chaucer might have described as a mendicant, someone in search of alms — going from car to car, peaceably. He was not intoxicated, untidy, or threatening. When he was several cars away, I reached into my trousers pocket to find a dollar to give him.  When he came to my car window, I offered him the dollar, and said, “Here you are, my man,” and he took the bill and thanked me.

But then something quite unexpected happened.  He heard the music (a hot rendition of LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME by Bryan Shaw’s Hot Shots — a glorious new Arbors CD featuring Dan Barrett, Evan Arntzen, Ehud Asherie, Brad Roth, John Dominquez, Jeff Hamilton) and his face changed — from casual to intent.

That’s Dixieland!” he cried.  “Let me hear that music!

I turned up the volume and we listened, together, happily, for another half-chorus before the drivers in back of me grew restive.  He was smiling.  So was I.

Music, surely, has charms.  At the end of his day, the dollar I gave him is faceless, without personality: the minute or so of hot jazz we shared might have a much more lasting — and salutary — effect.

Postscript: Since I abhor the names and styles and categories under which improvised music labors, I did not think it a useful expenditure of energy or love to be didactic, “No, my good man.  ‘Dixieland’ can be defined as . . . . . What we are listening to is small-band swing / contemporary traditional / Mainstream . . . .”  I leave that to others.

May your happiness increase!

ENERGY HEALING: THE BASIE METHOD

What’s the rush?  Where’s the fire?  To what are we racing?

I see people in gas station and grocery store lines who act as if they have the most important business to get to, and surely some of them do.  But they look furious, impatient.  They are shifting from foot to foot, checking their watches, astonished at those turtles in front of them who are blocking their clear path to the Egress.  Are they their own ambulances?

So much of our culture is based on Saving Time.  Doing Things Faster.  Being More Efficient.  Multi-tasking.  If you save three seconds here and two minutes there, it must be a great satisfaction.  But where do those moments go?  I dread the thought that the people racing around will have much more time to spend in some unhappy place, like the intensive care ward.

And occasionally the people whose pants seem to be afire are rude, heedless, self-destructive.  If you rush through a task, will it be done well?  Is the world a microwave oven?  Will the young man who roared out of the gas station this morning get home safely?  I pray that he does.

For years, I have been quoting my favorite-title-of-a-record-I-have-never-heard to people.  It was a Decca “Sepia Series” side (we know what that means) circa 1941-2.  The band?  Doctor Sausage and his Five Pork Chops. The composition?  TAKE IT EASY, GREASY (YOU STILL GOT A LONG WAY TO SLIDE).

Words to live by.

But the greasiness of that composition might seem repellent.  How about making a commitment to live your life in Count Basie time?  As fast as the tempo gets, Basie never seems to rush.  He’s never hurried.  He has a goal, but he knows that breathing steadily will get him and us there just the same.

And Lester Young knew that hurry was a truly bad idea, too.  Try taking it easy and see if your slide through life is less arduous.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, HOW I MISS YOU TONIGHT”: CHRIS TYLE’S SILVER LEAF JAZZ BAND

Here’s a beautiful performance by a group of players who truly know one way to create beautiful hot jazz . . . steady but rocking, sweet but intense.  The emotional temperature of the music rises, but the tempo doesn’t budge.  Each instrumental voice is clear, distinct, personal — combining to make a harmonious instrumental conversation.  It’s the sort of performance you can hear several times in a row and each time, happily, discover new delights.

The players?  Chris Tyle, cornet; Leon Oakley, cornet; John Gill, trombone; Mike Baird, clarinet; Steve Pistorius, piano; Clint Baker, banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

Chris not only plays beautifully but he has a knack for assembling the best players and making them sound — at a record date or a concert — as if they have been working and touring for years.  The performance (a rarely heard Twenties pop song) evokes King Oliver and his bands, but copies nothing.

Now, you’ll notice that this isn’t one of my videos of this band at a festival, in a club, or in a concert hall.  If this band did have such a gig, I would be there as quickly as my job / bank balance would allow.  Is any festival promoter or jazz booker out there listening?  The NRA sign says WE DO OUR PART . . . why not? The title of this song is its own commentary, but that absence could be repaired without much difficulty, I think.

May your happiness increase!