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!