Thursday, June 09, 2005

Right brained and left winged

The day my best friend, Sandy and I made our usual stop at the local record store on Webster Street in Alameda and found an albums with drummer Louis Belson on the cover was a turning point in our lives. Two 16 year old rebels, right brained and left winged, we were not in the mainstream of the Encinal High School class of 1956.
The City of Alameda, something of an appendage to Oakland, was a strange mixture of Navy and military support families on one side of town, and upper middle class on the other. Encinal High was where the poorer kids attended school. Lower income is today's term.
When Sandy and I found jazz, we found a way of life. Our peers were doing the bop to Elvis, but we were watching swing dancers at the Ali Baba Ballroom moving to the sounds of Count Basie. Mostly, we like to sit at a table drinking cokes during a Sunday afternoon jam session at the Blackhawk Club in San Francisco. An aspiring Johnny Mathis would sing and who ever was the star attraction would take the stage. We became, in those years, jazz snobs, turning our noses up at any other musical form and missing out on the musical revolution going on around us.
Sandy and I hung out with jazz musicians and radio disk jockeys too old for us. We sat in the Fillmore in San Francisco's mission district and turned a jaded ear while the likes of B.B. King and even Louis Armstrong played on stage. The jazz musicians beside us knew better. Now I do also.
By the time we graduated from high school and went out into the real world, jazz was beginning to take a back seat in the music world that had previously used it to score movies, enhance cocktail parties, created festivals and even built night clubs to showcase it. The great Miles Davis tried to melt into the new with his "fusion" innovations. Sand, jazz, and I went in separate directions.
In my late 30s, as a divorced woman, I went through a Country Western faze, dancing in big bars, wearing boots and jeans. I must admit it was a good time even though my friends had no idea who Chet Baker or Anita O'Day were. The Eagles and that melodic story telling style turned me on in the 80s. I was a long way from jazz.
A few years ago, my friend and night club owner, Big Mac Daddy, taught me to listen to the blues. I love the simple rowdiness of it all. But, there are so many variations, I am confused between the Chicago, Texas, Delta, West Coast, and Road House styles. I'm a lover of the down home, front porch, dirt yard style that seems to have faded when the blues blended with rock and roll.
The heroes of jazz are mostly dead now. Their time has come and gone. Young jazz musicians today do their own creations and play mostly to their self. Maybe they don't know the standards that were the heart of jazz in the 40s and 50s.
Still, I collect the CDs of Stan Kenton and Stan Getz. Still, I listen to June Christy and Chris Conner in hushed reverence. Once in a while I hear from Sandy and she tells me she likes Sting now. It makes me sad to hear her say that. Forever right brained and left winged, I can't let go of the music that lifted me from the mundane. I may not have become a writer with jazz.
Maybe it's all over. But, wait! Who is this trumpet player called Chris Botti?


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