I fell into conversation with a musician at a gig last week — we were both early and he did me the great courtesy of taking me seriously as I set up my video camera. “Why do you listen to this music?” he asked.
I gave him my usual and true answer: it was possible for me to hear and listen to Louis Armstrong from my childhood on. He looked sternly at me and said, “That‘s not an answer.”
I was shocked and thought: how dare you, Sir, suggest that my earliest experiences of the music were in some ways not sufficient rationale for my joy in it now?
But I gathered myself and said, after a pause, “This music makes me feel even more how fortunate we are to be alive.” He paused, too, then said, almost with reverence, “That’s an answer.”
Here is a physical embodiment of that answer: a performance that makes me feel so joyous, music that balances all the unseemly race to false happiness we find in the world, music that says, “It will be all right. Beauty is possible. Here we are to spread joy.”
Bassist, composer, and bandleader Jon Burr has a weekly gig — something I hadn’t known of — in the lounge of the Hotel Edison on Fridays, approximately 4 to 6 PM. The Edison is between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, between 46th and 47th Street. I was accustomed to enter the hotel from the south side, 211 West 46th, but the music is most easily accessed from the north.
For this Friday, Jon was in tandem (and that cliche is true) with guitarist Howard Alden, and the ever-resourceful trumpeter Menno Daams — in New York City with his wife Ineke on a visit from the Netherlands — combined to become the essential Count Basie band (no piano, no tuxedos needed) for SHINY STOCKINGS. They are my heroes and they need no armor.
If you don’t feel better after this performance, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk.
Thank you so much, Jon, Howard, and Menno. You brought a new kind of love to us!
May your happiness increase!