Thursday, August 9, 2007

Musical Devolution via MRI

Before undergoing a MRI this morning I was asked by the technician what genre of music I preferred to have piped into the headset. The question took me completely off guard, so I just blurted “jazz.” I am not a jazz aficionado, so I don't know why I said that. And I immediately had second thoughts. What if he meant ‘cool’ jazz or ‘soft’ jazz or some other innocuous and boring strain that doesn’t even deserve to be in the category? Jazz is an admittedly broad classification. By some definitions, it includes Kenny G and The Bad Plus; Thelonious Monk and the Crusaders. I sure as hell couldn’t take Kenny G. while lying confined in a dark tunnel! I should have said "zydeco" or "salsa" or "I'll just listen to the machine pounding and whirring, thanks."

Then the music started. It was Milt Jackson on the vibraphone, with some nice bass lines and an excellent piano. A straight-ahead 1950’s jazz trio.

This brought back some memories that had faded almost completely away. I used to love jazz. I subscribed to Down Beat magazine. I had records by the Modern Jazz Quartet, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and of course Dave Brubeck. I idolized Joe Morello and Max Roach. Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton and Bill Evans. Yusef Latiff, Herbie Hancock. I saw Sun Ra and Joe Williams back-to-back at the Chicago Jazz festival; I saw Art Blakey one new year’s eve in Boston; I saw Lou Donaldson play a set in some dive in Dayton, Ohio. (Gilley's, I think it was. Not to be confused with the famous Texas honky-tonk.) I got to meet Quincy Jones and Billy Taylor at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in about 1968.

I really do not like nostalgia. I think nostalgia should be listed in the DSM-IV as a mental illness. Nostalgia is for old people. I am very glad my musical tastes have changed. But how had I forgotten all these great musicians and what they meant to me when I was young?

It really was kind of fun to listen to Milt Jackson (even though it had more or less been forced on me) and to think about all those jazz records and tapes and concerts. So, thank you, Modern Medicine. You don’t get earphones and your choice of musical genre with X-rays or barium enemas.

5 comments:

Jim H. said...

I just looked up Gilly's in Dayton. It's still there, but the description I found calls it "upscale" and says the stage is "spacious." Well, the place must have moved or remodeled, because I remember a cramped, smoky, tiny joint under a freeway on-ramp. The stage was dominated by a Hammond B3 organ, with not much room left for anything else.

Bleeet said...

Dude, you contain multitudes. I would have said old school punk rock, but that's me.

Jim H. said...

And I forgot Roland Kirk, later known as Rashaan Roland Kirk. He played saxophone, sometimes two at once. He won the Down Beat reader's poll every year in the 'miscellaneous' category for his work on such instruments as the stritch and the manzello. Roland Kirk! The Joe Pepitone of jazz.

Christopher Tassava said...

I linked over from Bleeet's blog the other day, and I've been reading through the backlog of great posts here, but this one begs for comment. I guess I'm not a jazz aficionado, either, but I sure like it. I backed into jazz after going, sight unseen, to a club in Chicago, hearing a great local act, and saying (after sobering up the next morning), "How can I hear that kind of great music again?" My collection, such as it is, includes most of the acts you list (with the Bad Plus being my current favorite). Great stuff, and much more restful than the stuff Bleeet plays at work...

Jim H. said...

Mr. Tassava:

First, welcome. Glad you like some of this stuff.

Second, they let Bleeet play music at work? I hope they do not allow him to have sharp objects or (shudder) to sing.

Third, Chicago. Man, I like Chicago. My sister and her husband lived there for many years but just moved to a little town in South Carolina. I do not know how they will manage that transition, I just know I couldn't do it and I'm mad that I won't have a place to crash in Chicago any more.