Jan 1 2013
Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping that 2013 treats you all well.
I wasn’t really sure what to post here.
I didn’t want it to just be a review post. It seemed right that it should be something different, something special. I decided, instead, to write something blog-y. I suspect this will make some of you cringe (that is, if my use of the word ‘blog-y’ hasn’t done so, already).
I caught a cold yesterday. A bad one. Bad for me, at least. I get little colds now and then, but nothing notable… the kind of thing where I resist any attempts to care for me or “tend to my cold” (guh, I hate that phrase, makes it sound like a job). But yesterday, waves of chills came crashing down upon me, a giant plume of fuzziness spread out in my head, my stomach rumbled of nausea, and I got one of those sourceless headaches that seem to clamp down upon my temples indiscriminately. And if that weren’t signs enough, I drank two large mugs of hot broth last night. I hate broth. Hate. But when presented to me, my body sent craving signals to my brain, and much to my own horror, I found myself drinking not one, but two mugs of the god-awful stuff.
I’m still feeling it today.
Sitting here, drinking my morning coffee, it has me thinking back to another time from my past when I had one of these indisputable common colds. I was living in Denver. Life was pretty good, with its perfections and its flaws as each life possesses. Anyways, it was a cold October day. Clouds painted in every color of grey cloaked the Rocky Mountains to the west, and what little sunlight got through illuminated the snowy peaks and foothills in a heavenly glow. If it weren’t for the sneezes that began wracking my frame and the chills the descended upon me, I probably would’ve stopped to admire the pretty scene. I was at some coffee shop on Capitol Hill when the cold struck. I can’t remember which coffee shop, which is a shame, because I had lots of fun times in Denver at many such places.
Anyways, I knew what was what, and that I should head home before the cold really started punching me in the face. I lived nearby, so it wasn’t going to be a hike or anything. However, I swung by the post office first. On my way out that morning, there had been a slip in my mailbox stating that I had to come by the post office and pick up a package. I picked it up on the way home.
It was CDs. I was my first package of BMG mail order CDs. This was around 1996 (approximately). BMG was still doing mail order only stuff (I don’t think they established an on-line presence until around 2002). I finally took them up on one of their little mailing offers, which I probably yanked out of a Downbeat magazine. Anyways, the CDs came that day.
To this day, I struggle to remember which CDs arrived that day. I do remember, quite vividly, how excited I was opening the package up, this wonderful music I’d gifted myself, and that it had arrived on a day to cheer me up when bad health was the only thing in sight. Also, I had recently quit my job and was using my savings to take time off to write my first novel, thus there was nothing in my budget for buying new music… free CDs were exactly what the doctor ordered (assuming that Jazz CDs were actually something a medical doctor could specialize in). I flipped through the CDs. There were probably six in total. As best as I can remember, here’s those six CDs:
I’m absolutely certain of the Frisell, Tyner, and Gordon selections. I did get a Mingus, but it may have been Ah Hum instead of Three Or Four Shades Of Blues. I want to say the sixth selection was either Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz or Horace Silver’s Song For My Father. I’m pretty sure I got a Coltrane in the batch, but it might’ve been Giant Steps instead of Blue Trane. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m growing sure that it was Giant Steps.
The Bill Frisell album was the only modern recording I picked up then. I was right in the middle of a decade long buying binge of 50s & 60s Jazz, but Frisell was a local guy who I’d been turned on to several years earlier by my best buddy Zachariah, and his music really connected with me. I had already picked up most of Frisell’s recordings up to that point, enjoying both his ambient drone on the ECM label and his voodoo-Jazz and bluegrass-Jazz sounds on Nonesuch. His 1996 recording Quartet, however, took it to a new level. It remains one of my favorite albums of all time. Right out the gate, Frisell makes a huge statement that his creative development has reached a new plateau with the song “Tales From the Far Side.”
The entire album consists of this spooky style of Jazz. Between Frisell’s guitars and effects, the happy sighs of Ron Miles’s trumpet, the strangely melodic voicings for Curtis Fowlkes trombone, and the inventive use of violin and tuba by Eyvind Kang, I was hypnotically transfixed by this album. It sent me to different places. And with the cold weather outside and gloomy skies and shadowy Rocky Mountain range in full view from the windows of my fourth floor Denver apartment on Washington Ave. & 12th, this music made everything alright.
A year later, I saw the same quartet perform at the Boulder Theater in support of the Quartet album. It was a magical night. But that’s a post for another day.
Okay, I think that’s it. This post was surprisingly focused considering my head feels like it’s a fishbowl full of dirty water.
I want to send a belated happy holidays wishes to everyone and again wish everyone a happy new year. Especially those of you who gotta ride solo through the holiday season. As I’ve mentioned before, I know how bittersweet that can be, so I have good thoughts for those of you in particular. Also, here’s to a better year for my friend Cicily Janus, who could really use some positive momentum and good tiding in 2013.
I should probably stop now. I feel myself getting especially sappy. If I keep typing, I’ll probably start wishing the best for all the cats abandoned at shelters and caught homeless in bad weather all of my love, which, of course, they know they have, those sweet kitties.