March 17, 12:30; Home. I’m exhausted. A couple of 14-hour shifts in a row will do that. A regular shift today almost feels like a day off. Which means I’m working too much. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which introduces the strong possibility of another long day. On the plus side, my vacation starts tomorrow. I won’t get off early, but at least there’s a 12-day break behind this watch.
My Chicago trip was scuttled by my car repair. So there will be a lot of home-based musical activity, and hopefully a reunion with my golf clubs. I was looking forward to getting back on the road, even if I had no real plan for once I got there. I was just looking forward to going back “home,” as my co-workers semi-jokingly call Chicago for me. I am looking forward to being there full-time.
The CD player in my car didn’t work yesterday. This turned out to be a fortunate break, as I wound up listening to seven or eight albums from my Bandcamp wishlist. While most of what I heard was pretty average, I was stunned by the jazz I heard from a European jazz band called Rymden, featuring Bugge Wesseltoft on keyboards. The band’s name translates to “space,” which is completely appropriate. An out of this world sound for the 21st century in jazz.
14:35; The Car. It’s Jazz Sunday, which usually makes for a more pleasant day on patrol. Luckily, my trainee is on board with my music tastes. It certainly won’t hurt his final evaluation. (I kid. Mostly.)
My unintentional emphasis seems to be on female band leaders today. So I have discs from the likes of Mary Halvorson, Yazz Ahmed, and Yuhan Su.
There are many more female bandleaders (not just singers) around now than there were when I first got into jazz in the 80’s, which is marvelous. I hope to learn about all of them.
23:45; Home. Any time I feel as though I’m rushing to retire from my day job, I will keep in mind shifts like tonight’s. And then I know I’m doing the right thing.
The funny thing is, the watch wasn’t that bad, all things being equal. There’s just something about days like St. Patrick’s Day (or Mardis Gras, or the Fourth of July, or New Year’s Eve) that brings out the stupid in far too many people. I didn’t talk to a dozen people today. But three-quarters of them were dealing in one way or another with the effects of excessive drinking. It’s just tiresome, and I’ve been enduring it for far too long.
Policing has been my career, but it has never truly felt like my place. So many of my co-workers are living their dreams. They’re doing what they’ve always wanted to do. I’m not. I needed a job. I went through the process, and they hired me (for which I will always be grateful). I’ve put on the badge and done the job for almost 24 years now. But I’ve never truly been 100 percent “one of them.” There are other things I want to do. There are other people I’d rather be among. I’m growing tired of a life lived by being the square peg trying to fit into the round hole.
That’s where music comes in. That’s where I fit. It could be argued that doing what I’ve had to do all these years just might enable me to do what I want to do. That’s what I’m looking for, anyway.
March 18, 14:12; Vacation. My brain is amazing. This is my first day of vacation. I knew I could sleep in. My brain knew this, as well. It also knew that my crew switches over from afternoon watch (15:00 to 23:00) to days (07:00 to 15:00) today. So while there was no reason for me to stir this morning, my brain woke me up at 05:50, ready for the day watch.
Screw you, brain.
My first day off is usually a bit of a “do nothing” day. It’s a chance to recharge my batteries a bit before I start to accomplish things. That’s what sleeping in was for. Now I’m all out of whack. Up for 90 minutes, then I finally doze back off. For the rest of the morning. And the first part of the afternoon. Oy vey …
So today I will clean and “administrate” a bit, then have a beer with a friend later this evening. That will have to do. I’m still a little grumbly about not being in Chicago, but the weather seems nice, and it’s supposed to get warmer. My golf clubs just might come out of mothballs.
22:18; Daughter’s Workplace. Pulling up to where my teenage girl is working at her first job, I get a quick glimpse of her hard at work, closing the place for the evening. It’s one of my proudest moments. I’m sure there will be many more.
A day that seemed lost was saved by a spring cleaning purge. For months I have stared at my primary closet, bursting at the seams with clothing I no longer wear. I’ve sworn time and again I would make space for new clothing, and rid myself of much old stuff. Mission accomplished.
A charity clothier will soon receive four suits, several dress shirts, slacks, summer shirts, and polos that have been merely taking up valuable (and limited) space.
I enjoy a good spring purge. It offers a sense of renewal, a fresh start. I reorganized my work closet as well. With this task completed (and my coffee table nearly clean as well), I can really focus on music exploration.
I’m looking forward to further adventures in unfamiliar music. For the past couple of days, I’ve been hanging with my old friends in King Crimson.
As I declared in my book, few bands mean more to me than the 80’s incarnation of this group. Without them, I’m probably not writing these words, let alone the ones in the book.
The On (and Off) the Road box set offers deeper insight into one of my all-time favorites. What a joy it is to follow this band in concert as they develop and hone their sound. It is the earliest days of Adrian Belew as a front man, and plants the seeds that became the man I have seen in concert so many times, including 10 days ago.
A follower reached out to me privately to say how much less he enjoys the new Crimson without Adrian as lead vocalist. He even went so far as to say Robert Fripp should not call the new band King Crimson. While I understood what he meant, I wasn’t ready to go that far.
From my response to his statement:
“Since Robert 1) Founded the group; 2) formed said group 11 years before Ade joined; and 3) Sees Crimson not as a band, but as ‘a way of doing things,’ I begrudgingly allow him to maintain the band name.”
The “begrudgingly” part was a tad facetious. It’s Fripp’s band. He can do what he wants with it.
I did, however, notice a small lack of joy in myself when listening to the new band around the same time I received the note. Perhaps it was fortunate my follower reached out to me, because I experienced a bit of a revelation, and I needed to get it off my chest.
The rest of my response:
“An interesting thing happened while I listened to King Crimson’s 2016 Vienna gig today: I got bored. I think I finally see the difference between KC and Ade’s gigs. When Ade plays, he has a sense of infectious joy that radiates throughout the room. Everyone on the bandstand and in the audience is having FUN!
“Crimson’s players are extraordinary, but I don’t think they enjoy what they do as much. They’re so SERIOUS about it!
“I don’t think those guys enjoy the music as much as they enjoy knowing they can play it.”
I could be wrong. But that’s not the feeling I get. The new Crimson reminds me of a chamber orchestra happy to get through nearly three hours of complex music. Their smiles strike me more as relief than joy.
But the fans (more than a couple of whom will crucify me for my above audacity) love them. So that’s the way it is.
The days of my favorite Crim are gone, and they’re not coming back. But that won’t stop me from expressing my love for them. I was even motivated to pull Tony Levin’s fantastic book of photos off my shelf.
Nothing like having a quality visual aid to go along with transformative music.
March 20, 10:40; Late Lunch. Woke up with a headache. Again. I’m sure there’s a connection to my blood pressure. Call the doc. Again. Let’s hope they return a call this time.
Yesterday was about movies. Who can resist $5 Tuesday? Saw Captain Marvel (which included a rather touching tribute to Stan Lee) and the Apollo 11 documentary, which had me swelling with pride. I’m convinced that one of the reasons Americans are so divided is because we no longer have a manned space program. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we push all the other bullshit aside and come together for a common cause. And if you’re about to hit me with a conspiracy theory, all I can say is this: what you can do to yourself may seem anatomically impossible, but I want you to try hard all the same.
11:45; Home. It’s tournament time! I don’t watch a ton of college baskets all throughout the season, but I very much enjoy watching the NCAA tournament. It’s been a while since I filled out my last bracket, but that’s ok. I don’t need it to enjoy these games.
Spending just a little more time with King Crimson — this time from Asbury Park, NJ, in 1982 — before I dive headlong into new material. Lots and lots to write about in the near future.
16:12; Writing Mode. Finished the first review of the day while listening to the next album to go under the keyboard, as it were. There is so much great music out there, I can only hope to encourage a few people to explore it. It just might make this endless writing quest worthwhile.
I’m reminded of my young trainee, who will be without my tutelage while I’m on vacation. Every now and then, he’ll ask how he handled a call, or if there was anything he could do better the next time. My teaching method is to point things out should I see something wrong, and say little to nothing about anything else. He understands, but often jokes like the millennial he is, “Validate me, boss! Validate me!” It’s funny, but I also understand where he’s coming from. We all want to know when we’re getting it right.
My biggest moment of late came a couple of weeks ago at Adrian Belew’s show. He is the centerpiece of my book in many ways, and his approval of what I wrote in general — and about him in particular — certainly carries a lot of weight. I saw him briefly after the show after initially thinking I wouldn’t get the chance, because he was trying to rest his voice.
I was the second to last person to see him that evening. While he signed the CD of the person in front of me, he looked up and saw a familiar face. “Hi, Ced!” was how I was greeted. I couldn’t help but beam a little. My hero knows me! When my turn came, I told him I’d given Julie Slick, his bassist, a copy of my book for him. As he signed my CD and a couple of LPs I brought with me, he said, “I appreciate that. You did a really good job. You’re a great writer, and I’m glad to be part of (the book).” Or something like that. And then my musical idol of 30-plus years stood up, reached across the table, and hugged me.
I could hear myself saying, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” But I must admit: the room was spinning a little, and I had left my body briefly. It was validation. True validation. And my hero had just given it to me. I have no words that truly describe what I was feeling. I don’t think I need any.
I’ll go to my grave with that moment.
22:41; Bedtime. I’m giving a day back to the company tomorrow, but only because they’re paying me overtime. A window has opened for a make-up trip to Chicago, and the possibility of Montreal looms.
Picked up my guitar for the first time in ages, and learned Adrian’s chords for “The Sheltering Sky,” which are deceptively easy. The hard part is getting my left hand back in playing shape. That will definitely take more than the hour or so I gave it tonight. But I’ll get there.
For now, a little reading and sleep. I hope.
March 22, 07:00; Breakfast. Apparently, I forgot about our new “overtime in conjunction with vacation” policy. I’m dressed and halfway to the park when I get a phone call telling me I’m not allowed to work this shift. I can work this afternoon, if I want. But I have other things to do. I’m gonna take it as a sign that I need to keep resting, and away from the office.
I had a backpack full of Steven Wilson for my daily cruise. Guess I’m headed in a different direction.
14:56; Lunchtime. The day started out with people aiming to annoy me. Or so it seemed. A trip to my happy place, aka Planet Score Records, got things going back in the right direction.
I came home with a few of the records recommended by Nate Chinen in his fantastic book (which I’m only halfway through), and a couple of other selections from Bandcamp.
The most interesting thus far is from Nils Petter Molevaer, a jazz trumpeter steeped in electronics. The album I got, Solid Ether, is very much of its year, 2000. But this is a very good thing. It’s nice to hear what else was being done with the “drum and bass” or “jungle” sound that was hot at the time.
In addition to FutureJazz, I also picked up another album from Devin Townsend. My pal Thomas swears by him. For me, it’s been hot and miss, albeit more hit. I told Joe and Tim at the store that Devin is on probation with me. His new album is out next week. I’ve already ordered a copy.
March 23, 20:00; Home, Chill and Basketball. I’m absorbing the last of the jazz CDs I bought yesterday. The overall listening experience has been … adequate.
As I imagined, Nils Petter Molvaer really hit home with me. Hedvig Mollestad didn’t completely blow me away, but I didn’t hate it either. Jim Black’s Axis No Axis was a bit more of a challenge. More avant-garde than I usually explore. There is definitely some adjustment needed to absorb this kind of music. The Claudia Quintet is more palatable, more grounded. After a rough-ish start, I’ve really begun to get into it. I’m sure I’ll give all these discs another whirl in time.
The avant-garde side of Jazz and I have never really gotten along. I’ve found so much of it to be atonal and abstract, which may or may not be part of the point. I love John Coltrane, but when his music slid into the “free-form” style, I lost interest. I often tell people new to a certain kind of music to grab hold of an element they can relate to (e.g. the beat, the bass line, the basic melody), and hold on. Put the rest of the music around that, and let it all come together. But even that can be difficult in the case of free jazz.
Still, Nate Chinen seems to have found a home within that sound. And few things in the world frustrate me more than not being to understand something people I admire get. And so, I keep trying.
Keith Jarrett can wander toward the avant-garde at times, but I think that’s mainly because he’s improvising so much. But his music sinks deeper into my consciousness the more I listen to it. So I’m willing to try with this other stuff. After all, it took years before I could truly understand Bitches Brew. But once it clicked, an entire new world opened up where Miles Davis was concerned.
And now I have shifted gears to take in Devin Townsend’s Ki, called “the softest heavy music you will ever hear” by his label. So far, they’re right. It sounds like hell could be unleashed at any second on a couple of tunes. But it doesn’t … quite … happen. Still, it’s very cool to hear the music being pushed to the brink in this fashion.
It’s not all music for me. I’ve decided to watch all 20 Marvel movies before Avengers: Endgame comes out next month. I’m through Phase One.
March 24, 00:30; Late Night. Spent a little over two hours transcribing the first 30 minutes of a 90-minute interview with Markus Reuter. I’ve always had enormous respect for Anil Prasad and the work he does on his Innerviews web site. But I didn’t grasp until this evening just how truly labor-intensive his work is. And Anil’s interviews go on for much longer than mine did! To say nothing of the fact that I haven’t addressed the introduction to the interview. My respect level for Anil has increased exponentially.
I interviewed 20 or so people for my book. But I had no intention of transcribing entire conversations. I was looking for soundbites, of which I found plenty. This is different. In my book, it was my job to carry the narrative. This time, I’m letting the subjects do it. I’m finding great joy in asking open-ended questions and just letting the artist talk.
The good news is, it’s a marvelous conversation thus far. And I’m really enjoying doing the work. It feels like home to me. This is how I would love to spend my future. That being said, I’m going to need plenty of time to do it. Which leads me to the (personal) bad news: There’s no way I can do one of these every other month, like I hoped. Not with my day job’s work schedule. I might be able to do four of these this year. Things may change, but that’s the feeling I get. I still want to do a lot of interviews, but I sense others will get a 10-question email they can respond to, and I can just post. The time will come, I hope, when I can do more.
For now, I’ll just focus on the next hour of this particular chat.
March 24, 22:28; B.B.’s Jazz, Blues, and Soups. It’s been a very busy day. I had brunch with friends, ran a few errands, solved a family mystery of a missing cell phone, read a bit, and listened a bit more. I also got my daughter to and from work.
I completely forgot about Oz Noy being in town tonight. Luckily, I was reminded this morning, and managed to score a ticket. Alas, the floor was sold out for the late set, and my position is in the balcony.
While I was familiar with his name, I had never heard Oz Noy — a guitarist — play before. Just one of those artists I hadn’t gotten around to yet. On the other hand, I’m VERY familiar with his rhythm section of Jimmy Haslip on bass and Dave Weckl on drums. I’ve heard both of them play in various bands since the mid-80s. So I had nothing to lose.
So far, it’s well worth the ticket price.
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