THE THINGS YOU MISS

I am not nostalgic for my adolescence.  If you offered me time-travel back to my seventeenth year, I would rapidly although politely turn down the offer.

But the experience of encountering music in days beyond recall (before the computer, before the internet) is something I miss because of its communal nature.

I grew up in suburbia, and found perhaps a half-dozen people my age (all male) who were interested in jazz.  And when I had gotten my driver’s license, it was not difficult to go to someone’s house with a new record or a particular track one wanted to share or to hear.  Someone had bought a new Lester Young record from Sam Goody; someone had picked up a hot 78 at the Salvation Army; someone had a 12″ 78 of Whiteman and Bix; someone had tapes of everything Bing recorded between 1926. Another friend had a new rare record which he wouldn’t let out of his sight, but would make a cassette copy of it.

I heard new music, new old music, in the company of other people.  We sat on the bed or the floor, getting up to change a record or to put the needle back, saying energetically, “Did you hear THAT?!” and looking to the other person for shared joys, empathy, understanding.

I have more jazz friends in 2014 than I ever would have dreamed possible in 1974.  They are very dear to me.  Through YouTube and videos, we share music internationally.  I can send someone an mp3 of an exciting track, or get one in my email. I just came back from a jazz party in England where there was so much music I occasionally felt perforated by hot music. I do not lack for sounds; if I turn ninety degrees from this computer, there are boxes of tapes and a wall of CDs.

But the human connection — two or three people in a room, perhaps drinking soda and eating supermarket potato chips, getting into a delighted frenzy about three Jo Jones accents after Tommy Ladnier’s particularly declamatory phrase* — is nearly gone.  In the last decade, I’ve been part of perhaps four or five such listening sessions, and I miss them.  I don’t mean a formal “collectors’ group,” with everyone guessing the soloist or the like or showing off that their N- copy is more shiny than your V+; I mean friends getting together to share their musical joys.  Yes, there’s Facebook, but it isn’t quite the same.

I have had a few musical sessions at my house, where I’ve probably overwhelmed my visitors with jazz — in my eagerness to play everything delightful I could think of — and, oddly enough, have been part of a few sessions on wheels, where my driving host played music from his iPod, which is always gratifying. But it’s a rare pleasure.

That’s our century: we have an intense intimacy or faux-intimacy with constant accessibility through the internet.  Physically, we exist at immense distances, too busy to be in the same room to rejoice over the things and heroes we love.

Of course, it could just be me. But somehow I doubt it.

*I am referring specifically to WEARY BLUES from the Spirituals to Swing concerts, with Ladnier, Jo, Sidney Bechet, Dan Minor, James P. Johnson, and Walter Page. Hear it here (amidst a 49-track playlist; such are the ways of YouTube):

May your happiness increase! 

9 responses to “THE THINGS YOU MISS

  1. DiBenedetto, Joe

    You missed a great festival in New Orleans. Duke played magnificently. The cold weather forced some bands inside, so sometimes the scheduled band picked up new players who sat it. It made for great improvisation. Hope to see you there next year or at one of the Manhattan venues. Did you hear that Radegast is being torn down to make room for high rise. We are losing another great venue for jazz, especially the young bands who regularly play there.

  2. Oh I do so agree! This also was the stuff of my youth-that and browsing in record shops now a thing of the past as well. That’s probably why I have recently gone back to going through op-shops where it is still possible to find LPs in good condition for a small amount. My favourite near where I live-well ok 30 minutes drive away- is called a Seagull centre-the last stage before the tip/garbage dump whatever you call it where you are. Often the LPs are in terrible condition and if that’s true then I reject them but sometimes they just have grime of the years on them and with a good wash their music is revealed once again. I don’t bother with 78’s anymore as I don’t play the ones that I have and anyway the ones I do come across are mostly just garbage and not worth the effort. Somehow the email jazz groups are never even vaguely the same-‘did you hear that!?’ is simply not possible and the magic is totally gone. Thanks for reminding me of the golden days of shared jazz.

  3. It’s the people as well as the records! But I share your collecting pleasures still, to be sure.

  4. When does Duke NOT play magnificently? I heard and saw him in Whitley Bay a week before the Stomp, so I can testify as well!

  5. Barbara Bengels

    While you were involved with jazz I was having similar experiences with (dare I say it?) folk music, meeting with friends after school to sing, play guitars, share new old songs we had just learned and listen to folk artists from many countries singing in different languages. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t translate what they were singing; we felt the passion in our hearts. I too miss those days.

  6. It is reassuring, though, that SOME people are still around to have lunch with.

  7. One of the best things about DJ’ing swing dance events is the time spent hanging out with other DJs sharing music we’ve “found,” either through our own collection of recordings or live recordings on YouTube. It’s so great to SEE (in person) other people get as excited about this music as you are.🙂

  8. I really connected with this post, my dear NM. I am always near music-that’s the way I prefer it to be. I have lost 2 of my beloved “jazz buddies,” that listened and enjoyed with me. One of the two, my sister Francene was a great piano player,. We would listen to the music, then we’d play some of the music..She, on the piano, and myself on the guitar. My other jazz buddy couldn’t play an instrument, so we listened, for hours. We did a lot of smiling,,The music was that good.( I still have a perpetual grin on my face when I am listening to music) I feel a great void in my life listening to the music alone. But somewhere there are a couple of gals that are listening to the best of the best,..sharing their musical joys, waiting for me to join them.
    These are some of the things I miss..

    Thank you so much, NM. Sending lots of love, Auntie

  9. Thank you Michael – your words speak to my heart.
    My gratitude for folks I share love of jazz with online, and
    Local friends I can meet for coffee, talk and attend live concerts at
    small clubs, museums and UCLA.
    Great post!

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