Jan 26 2019
When I put together a particular year’s Best Of list, I tend to address the write-ups in the order in which they’ll publish. That means the Album of the Year write-up is the last one up and the last one out, and when I’m done writing it, there’s a palpable sense of relief, because, lemme tell ya, that Best Of list is a beast. This year, however, as I hit the schedule button on Rhapsody, I encountered something quite different. I time traveled.
Bobby Previte isn’t new to me, not even close. Over the decades since I first discovered his music, a new album or project of his would cross my path, and it was always a nice experience, like catching up with an old acquaintance. But his 2018 recording Rhapsody, the Bird is the Worm Album of the Year, was something different. This is a recording that hit me in a way like nothing of his had since the very first time I discovered his music.
This is not the first time nor will it be even remotely close to the last time that I shall reference Jerry’s Record Exchange, one of Denver’s finest music stores during its time, and the owner John Loquidis, who was so gracious with his time hipping me to cool jazz, both old-school and new. At the time I began frequenting the Capitol Hill neighborhood store, I was already deep into a jazz addiction, almost exclusively old school, and equipped with the tools to keep getting deeper into the addiction. But new school jazz was a different beast, and it was nice getting advice and guidance.
John steered me in the direction of Bobby Previte’s 1988 release Claude’s Late Morning. This was a solid suggestion, because I was already familiar with Previte via his association with Wayne Horvitz, and both Wayne and all-time favorite Bill Frisell appeared on this Previte session. And so it accompanied me home.
I recall not being so much into some of the electronic fusion adventures that Horvitz and Frisell would undertake back then. But what would always turn me into a fan, however, was how both musicians could muddy up the electric shininess, give it some rough edges, and reveal a beauty within that decay. Previte’s Claude’s Late Morning applied that touch with a masterful stroke. God, I fell for that album. The frenetic tempos that were like watching the clockwork mechanics of an intricate, yet massive machination. The suddenly emergent melodic reveries, either bursting out like rays of sunlight or gentle sighs at the end of a lovely day. The folksy, cheerful “First Song For Kate” was probably the first track to really sink into me, but, later, and ever since, it was the album’s title-track that got its hooks in me and never let go. It’s a chipper tune, at times, but there’s a shadow that hangs over those moments, and becomes darker for a mournful tone that is heavy as hell, but strangely hopeful, too. Those passages are so beautiful that it makes a state of mourning seem like a comforting place to be.
We never really expect many of the changes that occur in our lives, but they’re experienced with an immediacy that doesn’t leave a lot of room for analysis and the change is simply accepted as it happens. These changes don’t necessarily have to be momentous in any particular way… just that things happened and now they are one way where before they were not.
When I finished writing up Rhapsody for the Album of the Year post, my mind drifted back twenty years to a day in Jerry’s Record Exchange, when I scooped up Claude’s Late Morning, and shortly thereafter, became addicted to it. Back then, life seemed so big and the future vast enough to embrace it. And, now, in the present day, it begins to feel that way all over again. These past years, I listen to Claude’s Late Morning only occasionally. That’s how these things go. But it will always be more than a casual listen for me, and now, after Rhapsody, and all that it means to me as a recording, I can hear the music clear as day in my head, and when I hit the play button on the CD, it’s as if it was only yesterday since last I heard it. And through it all, I feel the passing of time like an emerging sun slowly warming my face, my arms, my heart.
There’s no profound statement I’m looking to make here, only an observation of how music becomes stamped on our timeline and behaves as a marker for comparison, and that it serves a role much more enjoyable than the parade of conflicts and plot twists and upheavals and the slow erosion of change that document our time on this planet.
Standing in Jerry’s that day, never once did I have a thought that one day I’d be living in Kentucky (still weird how that happened) and have a decent little jazz blog and freelance gig and find myself actually writing about a new Bobby Previte recording that would knock me over like Claude’s Late Morning was about to way back then. And yet, here I am… and feeling like I’m back in Denver once again.
I am standing in both places at once, and all I hear is music.