22 September 2010
Time, Place & Occassion: Jazz
I was 21 when I was promoted to sergeant in the army. I remember going to the main NCO club on Ft Bragg and celebrating with their Wednesday night special. A NY strip steak, salad, baked potato and a martini for $7.95 or thereabouts. I sipped a Beefeater martini and looked out the window at the PX across the street. I felt pretty damned good.
After the second martini I felt even better and that's when I heard Dave Brubeck's, Take Five. I don't remember hearing anything on the sound system before or after it. I've mentioned before how my father's love of Jazz permeated my soul and lay dormant for years. It was that moment in the Ft Bragg NCO club that Take Five connected to something in me. It could've been the gin but what ever it was, it changed my listening habits forever.
I bought a beautiful reel to reel from an army buddy and hooked it up to my stereo. I bought tape and listened to everything I could borrowing a lot from the old man when I came home on leave. Monk was hard to get but I connected to Ahmad Jamal immediately. I felt grown up listening to Jamal. And he went pretty well with a cigarette and a drink. I'd watch the smoke rise in front of a lamp and looked in my glass where the oil from the olive slid across the gin like heat vapors rising in a desert. I would wonder where I would be in 10, 20 maybe even 30 years.
Never thought I'd still be listening to Jamal 30 years later. I thought the world's advancements would certainly improve music. Right. Up there are some of my favorites. You know about Jamal. Paul Desmond was Brubeck's sax player. When asked how he developed his sound he said, "I had the vague idea I wanted to sound like a dry martini." 'From The Hot Afternoon' is a Brazil inspired collection that seems to fly with the first cut, Outubro (October). I would add that it's a pretty damned good choice for seduction. All you have to do is leave it on and everything else has a good chance of coming off.
'Kind of Blue' by Miles is a major contrast to Desmond. I can't handle Miles before 5PM. I just can't. But I loved listening to him while looking out my window on Lake Shore Drive and watching brake lights as cars enter the turn just north of my apartment window. I recently found where Ivy Style dug into Miles and his love of Ivy apparel here. Great stuff and very enlightening.
Bill Evans sat at the piano for 'Kind of Blue.' Evan's, 'Portrait in Jazz' reminds me of Johnny Walker Red with soda. Smooth, dry and lively. It works well in the background with a party but it's perfect to listen to alone. I love Evans on a long road trip. He makes driving through Darien, GA sophisticated.
Wes Montgomery was a self taught guitarist who, if Evans is dry, Wes is as humid as Panama in November. The Verve CD, Jazz Masters 14, is a good introduction not only to Wes but to Jazz. It's accessible, fun and Goin out of My Head (1965) is magical while sipping a rye Manhattan and flipping through an old Princeton yearbook from the same year.
I remember asking my father about Brubeck's 'Time Out' when I was home on leave. We sat at the kitchen table after dinner and smoked H. Upman coronas. Looking past my father I could see an egret land in the salt marsh behind our house. The old man blew a smoke ring and told me it was nothing more than playing with time - but - what I was hearing wasn't very easy to do.
A lotta years later I'm still hearing it and wearing it.