I’ve been on a Bill Evans kick of late. Call me “crazy” but I just find his music an island of hope and reason in a world fraught with daily “craziness.” And, it is wonderfully low-tech in today’s frantic environment that requires seemingly constant and needless stimulation, created by bots and provocateurs. His music is so…human.
Simultaneous to my kick on Evans is my renewed interest in the writings of the late jazz critic Gene Lees, whose award-winning career included that of biographer, songwriter/lyricist, and editor of Down Beat. His 1988 collection of essays on jazz – Meet Me at Jim and Andy’s – is loaded with remarkable insight laced with knowledge, charm, and appropriate sentimentality (his piece on Woody Herman, for whom Lees gave the full biography treatment in 1995, is noteworthy in that regard). A standout piece worth reading is the tragic story of the trombonist Frank Rosolino, who suffered greatly from depression and whose desperation was so intense that he ultimately shot his two sons before killing himself.
In Lees’ essay “The Poet: Bill Evans,” he writes of his discovery of the great pianist in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, when he noticed, “among a stack of records awaiting assignment for review a gold-covered Riverside album titled Everybody Digs Bill Evans…I took the album home and, sometime after dinner, probably about nine o’clock, put it on the phonograph. At 4 a.m. I was still listening, though by now I
In the midst of the Ken Burns’ film The Vietnam War (so far, sensational), I am reminded of my own experience with the war, which, as an 18-year- old in 1972, left me, fortunately, untouched physically but engaged in other ways. My big brother was in the very first draft lottery, and the image of our family sitting around our TV set, anxiously awaiting the results of the lottery and the impact it could have on my brother and so many of his friends, is burned in my memory. (Miraculously, he drew #355!)
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area meant I had a front row seat during Cal’s Free Speech Movement, San Francisco State (where my brother attended and provided our family with daily reports about the turmoil there), Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley’s People’s Park, and ongoing events associated with the civil rights movement. It was a powder keg time with Vietnam at the centerpiece, and we all grew up pretty quickly.
Music, of course, was a key component of the Vietnam generation, and San Francisco was loaded with
This truly foreign language
absorbs me into its differences,
rosetta stone hidden
in a cave of similarities
certain words share
with those of spanish