In New Orleans, traditionally, the band plays a mournful hymn on the way to the cemetery, FLEE AS A BIRD TO THE MOUNTAIN, and once the dear departed is buried, the band swings out OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE — because the troubles of this life are over.
We will miss Sir Charles Thompson, who died on June 16, but rather than write more mournful words, as I did here about twelve hours ago, I present an alternative.
I think of one of my favorite pieces of literature, William Maxwell’s “The old man at the railroad crossing,” which is also the title of his collection of improvisations — this one about that same friendly but cryptic figure, who says just one word to each person he meets. That word is my title for this post.
One way of rejoicing is to celebrate the person who has moved our of our temporal realm by evoking him in the art that (s)he did so beautifully. No finer example than this:
Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums — recorded at the San Diego Jazz Fest on November 28, 2014. These four musicians deeply understand who Sir Charles is and what he did so generously for decades — lifting our hearts.
To me, it sometimes seems that we have only two choices in life: weeping or swinging. I leave it to you.
May your happiness increase!