Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reflections: Some Random, Unfocussed Thoughts

Three weeks into it now, the pain of which I wrote below has finally begun to dissipate. For the past couple of days I've been able to walk pretty much anywhere I needed to go, with only a bearable level of discomfort resulting from the effort. I've been able to sleep on my back, as well as on my right side, which has been a great boon to the level and duration of the rest I've been able to get at night. So things are looking up.
The strange thing about it, though, is that there is almost a let-down setting in. It's like the feeling one has after an adventure has run it's course, or something really fun has ended. When one is fighting a lot of pain, 24/7, one is never bored. One may be frustrated, and even a little bit frightened, but one is not depressed. In moments of crisis there is no room for depression. And, at least for me, self-pity does not have the clout necessary to wrest consciousness away from the struggle to endure, to keep going, to do the possible.
But I'm now left intellectually flat. Nothing much has greatly interested me since the pain abated.

I wanted to note the passing of two pretty good jazz musicians during this holiday season: first, the alto sax maestro, Frank Morgan--of all the Charlie Parker clones perhaps the most talented, next to Cannonball Adderley; then piano player, Oscar Peterson, a true giant of the keyboard.
I don't like to embed YouTube clips on this blog much, because it makes it take too long to refresh the screen on this old Dell wood-burner I use at home. But I'm sure that you can find clips on both of these men, and I urge you to take the time to do so.

When I first started listening to a lot of jazz in the mid-'80s, I thought that jazz musicians had to be black to be great. It wasn't until about ten years into it that I bought many albums by white musicians. I had some: Stan Getz, Bennie Goodman, and a couple of others--but not many. Then I started to explore a bit more. Among the white jazzmen I discovered was the pianist, Bill Evans. I knew that he was okay to admire, because Miles Davis used him on Kind of Blue--'nuff said. I also had an old vinyl album featuring baritone sax player, Gerry Mulligan. I met him through Miles Davis, also, on The Birth of the Cool. The vinyl album, on which Mulligan was the leader, included a bunch of cuts featuring Chet Baker on trumpet. I was hooked. I'm not too sure that it's cool to be a Chet Baker fan, but frig that: I'm a Chet Baker fan. This startling confession is something that I plan to write about sometime in the future, when I'm not so mentally blah.

Your assignment, kids, is to get on YouTube and find some Frank Morgan; some Oscar Peterson; some Bill Evans; and some Chet Baker. Check it out. Report back. God speed.

Final note: I'm also reading, due to a second-hand recommendation, a crime novel by Charles Willeford. I'd never heard of him, although I do occasionally dip into the genre. The novel I got from the library in order to check the guy out is Miami Blues. I've read about the first third, and I'm not that impressed. James M. Cain, he's not. Even Elmore Leonard, he's not. Jim Thompson? Maybe. Has anybody read this guy? What'd you think?


jb said...

I had reflected on Oscar Peterson this past summer when Madscribe had posted on Ella Fitzgerald at RT (8/11/07). I had the great good fortune to see Ella perform live at Ravinia back in 1982. Lawn tickets of course and thankfully fine weather. The thing is the most riveting moment for me was before she came out. The Oscar Peterson Trio opened and everyone out on the lawn was still picnicking. Oscar starting playing his composition "Cakewalk" and I was transfixed. but then I was aware that others were missing it and I wanted to shout at everyone else on the lawn to pay attention.

Rodak said...

I envy you having seen him play live (Ella, too!). I don't think that the word "genius" is hyperbolic as applied to Oscar Peterson.
Thanks for sharing that memory.

jb said...

So often in communication we miss and misinterpret. I think that my experience with the genius of Oscar Peterson really illustrates that for me. I was aware of his genius and simultaneously aware that others were missing it. Which leads me to the realization that expressions of genius are more frequent than I have the capacity to realize.

Rodak said...

I'm sure that's true of all of us. Your use of the word "capacity" sums it up, I think. Our intellect and our sensibility are really only able to "process" fully that which they've been prepared for.
It works in reverse,too. We often we overrate things for various reasons, our enthusiam for which we need to "unlearn" later.

jb said...


I think today I prefer sincere enthusiasm for mediocrity to an elitist hauteur directed toward naive endeavors but when the wind blows northwesterly...all bets are off. This applies only to art.
BTW Here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Rodak said...

Have a prosperous and Happy New Year, JB.