I have been a jazz fan long enough to see my favorite music transform itself through the innovations of the 1960s, struggle through the late 1970s and early 80s, and emerge with a new freshness in the twenty-first century. Like many jazz fans, I have a tendency to worry excessively about where the music is going (jazz musicians, I am happy to say, seem to be too busy creating the future to worry about such things). I have read numerous speculations on jazz’s future, including what I believe to be premature reports of its death. In this posting, I would like to share my own thoughts on the evolution of jazz, thoughts that grew out of a remarkable jazz performance by the Ron Miles Trio at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, along with a BBC interview with the great modern novelist, Virginia Woolf that I recently discovered.
The Ron Miles Trio consists of Mr. Miles on trumpet, Brian Blade on drums, and one of my favorite guitarists, Bill Frisell. In addition to an evening of joyful, innovative jazz (something the Outpost serves up with gratifying regularity), the performance led me to question some of the accepted wisdom on the current state of jazz music, as well as the way it or any art form progresses. In particular, it led me to sharpen my understanding of the tension between the steady evolution of an art form, and the revolutionary changes that sometimes punctuate that evolution. Continue reading →
One of my favorite scenes in the Odyssey occurs in the moments before Odysseus slaughters the suitors who have overrun his palace, consumed his wealth, and bedeviled his wife and son. It is a moment of stillness when the King takes his bow into his hands, a bow that the suitors had tried and failed to string, a bow he and he alone is able to string, to draw, and to shoot.
Over the years, I have often thought of this scene and my own relation to certain possessions: the guitars I have owned for decades, the woodworking tools I inherited from my father, the chef’s knives that were my first purchase when I set up my first kitchen – tools I believe I hold with a relationship as unique, as personal, as intimate as the relationship between Odysseus and his bow. Recently, the depth of this attachment was brought to my mind when, at a holiday party, the adult son of a family friend, bored with the conversation, asked if he could entertain himself by “looking at” my guitars. He was clearly offended by my refusal, just as I was surprised by the strength of my reaction to the thought of these instruments being casually handled by a bored party guest.
Was I simply being selfish? Was I justifiably protective of instruments that are both delicate and costly? Or did my feelings touch on something as noble as Odysseus’ relationship to the bow that bent only to his hands?
As 2012 comes to an end, I find myself in a wonderful mood, and feeling enormous gratitude for all life has given me. I found a lovely entry in a friend’s blog that expresses these feelings, and also recognizes the debt we owe countless unnamed, unrecognized people who came before us and made this life possible. It is called “Civilization.” Enjoy!
May all of you have a wonderful New Year’s Celebration, and a joyous and prosperous 2013. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my reflections through this website.
Although I am not religious, I have found that my appreciation of the teachings, life, and importance of Jesus of Nazareth has grown over the years. Indeed, reflecting on those teachings has become something of a Christmas tradition for me, and I would like to share some of those reflections in this posting.
In particular, I would like to share some thoughts I have had on the relationship between Jesus’ teachings and modern empirical science. Rather than accepting the common view of science as antithetical to Jesus’ teachings, I have come to believe that his teachings introduced something new into human thinking, something that is critical to our very ability to practice science.
Dave Brubeck died last Wednesday. Although the last few years have seen the loss of so many jazz greats of the 1950s and 60s, I found this to be especially sad because of the unique influence Mr. Brubeck and his quartet had on my musical growth, and – I say this without hyperbole – on the larger course of my life. You see, when I was 11 or 12 – I forget the exact age – I heard Take Five on the radio, and it was like nothing I had ever experienced: strange, wonderful, haunting – it seemed to penetrate deeply into my adolescent being, and awaken feelings that were completely new for me. As soon as I could, I saved up my allowance and purchased his album, Time Out, playing it over and over again on my Magnavox portable stereo, a nondescript beige suitcase that unfolded into a miraculous machine that would soon teleport me into worlds I had never dreamed existed.