Gone are the days when I hit the trails with boisterous teammates, and only rarely do I jog with running companions otherwise known, somewhat euphemistically, as friends. And as for musical accompaniment? Or not to think. There is a tradeoff involved. Moving fast is surprisingly difficult while sputter forth spondees between gasps for air. Some verses, though, causes me to drag my feet more than others. But speed and prosody Quiet Jam - Various - The Conceptual High Volume Silence (CD) go hand in hand, or rather foot over foot.
Still too slow, sadly, to win my town the race. I reserve John Keats for long runs on secluded trails, when I can take my time with the great odes. I should clarify that both to avoid attention and the psych ward, I generally mutter rather than Quiet Jam - Various - The Conceptual High Volume Silence (CD) the words. Only rarely do other people notice the impromptu plein air reading they are unwittingly attending. Yet at times I do unleash my inner scop in all his stentorian glory.
A savage place! Such lines demand to be read with the same intensity as woman wailing for her demon lover. You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head!
The performance slightly mitigated my terror, though, unlike Lear, I taxed the elements with plenty of unkindness. In calmer climes, my recitals are more private affairs. A little Richard Lovelace gets me into the questing spirit and out the door: …a new mistress now I chase, The first foe in the field; And with a stronger faith embrace, A sword, a horse, a shield. Returning home, I usually cover a roughly meter stretch reserved exclusively for Emily Dickinson poems.
More impressive, in my view, than the beer mile. Speaking of beer, I wish I had some poetry memorized in college, especially during that transition from the shorter distances and weaker fields of high school cross country. The vain travail Quiet Jam - Various - The Conceptual High Volume Silence (CD) wearied me so sore, I am of them that farthest cometh behind. That head-thumping fall might explain why these days I forget poetry as quickly as I memorize it. That pleasure was tempered by the melancholy realization that I myself would awake some day to find that the lines, like the swans, had flown away.
A brief interpretive water stop: Having a poem by heart lets one explore its construction in a looser, less dutiful way than close-reading. And off we go again….
Many of the poems I have floating around my head in various states of repair are amorous, memorable instances of courtly and not-so-courtly love.
These naturally come to mind when passing, being passed, or crossing paths with other runners. During one run, I stumbled upon two ardent lovers in flagrante delicto within what they thought was a secluded grove. These encounters are just as embarrassing for the discovered as the discoverer. The pair looked to be doing a perfectly fine job, but annoyed by being thus importuned, I grumbled A.
That could just be the bitterness of middle-age talking. Image Credit: Quiet Jam - Various - The Conceptual High Volume Silence (CD). His ability to live on the edge of utter disaster while dishing up exhilaratingly lyrical, fantastically complex solos night after night became the stuff of legend. The undisputed master of Bebop, which was at one time the hippest, fastest, most complex version of jazz one could hear.
Playing it well means that one must invite and then master a certain kind of aesthetic risk. A jazz musician is, in a sense, a kind of acrobat. We listen, whether we realize it or not, for how well they can handle themselves as they maneuver high up on the thinnest of wires, balancing order with chaos, with the whole band cooking behind them and the crowd watching as they try to claim a freedom both emotional and aesthetic that exists for, maybe, a few minutes at a time, night after night, until they drop.
For an impressively long stretch of time, Parker was the finest — and most precarious — acrobat in town. Everybody, it seems, wanted to either play with him or play like him. The young Miles Davisbarely out of his teens and never one to run with the herd, dropped out of his first year at Julliard to be his sideman, making a brilliant series of recordings as a full-fledged member of his band. The story of Charlie Parker, however, is pretty much always going to be entwined with the legend and for good reason.
I submit that the kind of place Parker holds within jazz tradition is a little like what you would get if you mixed Beethoven with Jimi Hendrix. He was a game changer. After him, the deluge.
This might sound a bit hyperbolic, but there were few musicians at the time who could match the mercurial exuberance of his playing with the intricate technical understanding he brought to the saxophone every time he raised it to his lips. It should go without saying that Charlie Parker played the blues as few have before or since. Finally somebody found him, cleaned him up, and shoved him out into the performance without anything much in the way of a rehearsal.
He played every single song in the proper key, of course, while adding a few of his own, piling chords and harmonic interventions with improvisational flights of fancy, utterly stunning everyone who tried to follow along.
Even better, Crouch has been one of the precious few public intellectuals to valorize jazz and insist and demonstrate how jazz can be seen as not only one of the pure products of America gone crazy but also its historic pulse, its backbeat, a trope that swings.
No true record of American music would be complete without it. And quite a world it is — Kansas City jazz at the time, still essentially based in blues and Quiet Jam - Various - The Conceptual High Volume Silence (CD), shines through as intensely competitive and made up largely on the fly, hashed out in cutting contests while serenading the revelry of amoral politicians, gangsters, and anybody who had the requisite scratch and wanted to live his own particular version of the high life.
Crouch helps the reader get to know musicians like the flamboyant and tenacious bandleader Billy Eckstineas well as Erroll Garner and Chu Berryeach of who deserve a rediscovery in their own right and whose contributions to American music are deeply underrated, aside from specialists.
Some puffed cigars with their vaginas; some had sex with animals. It offered refuge and an open chance to strut your stuff for anyone who was willing to shed the inhibitions of the segregated, hostile, and haughtily dismissive world outside the club and the touring circuit. We know that his father, Charles Parker Sr. After playing stimulant-filled, all-night jam sessions, honing his skills and getting his first experience of the nightlife, another form of self-indulgence, everyday struggles might have seemed intolerably unsatisfying to someone as ambitious and self-centered as Parker was.
There are hints of young Parker coming and going, never explaining himself, out all night doing god-knows-what with god-knows-who. The excuses pile up, bills go unpaid, months of dread pass by. We feel for her; we know how this particular story is going to end. Parker was a gifted mimic since childhood and, Crouch explains, when he went to the movies he could do a medley of imitations of the actors, mannerisms and all, to the delight of his friends.
As a boy, Parker would wait in front of the local library for his mother and read books about religion and science fiction, stories of exotic places in the imagination.
Everything he did seems tinged with a kind of manic energy as a means for some kind of escape. The narrative leaves off at the point before Parker makes it big in New York, on the cusp of realizing his artistic breakthrough.
We learn the tricks of the hobo trade, as any black musician heading north to find gigs pays dues amid circumstances that would make Tom Joad break into a cold sweat.
We hear of how to keep box car doors from slamming shut, in order to keep from suffocating or freezing to death, and how to slake your thirst with the morning dew collected from the back of a leaf. Once Parker made it to the Big Apple, there was only more struggle ahead.
We read of Parker walking endlessly through the freezing streets trying to keep warm with his paper-thin suit fraying at the edges, his shoes almost flapping, on the hunt for a pot of chili and a place to crash for the night.
Sometimes I worry that jazz has been ruined for the 21st century by caricatures of zoot suits and hirsute beatniks snapping away over black coffee, or has been relegated to the pathetic limbo of aural wallpaper at cocktail parties.
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