, Here's to Life (Verve, 1992). Just to hear this lady sing and accompany herself on piano or hear her sing with orchestra or big band is heaven for me. Her voice, timing, and vocal phrasing are like her lush piano harmonies. Rich, sublime, subtle, and quietly suggestive while intense that it feels like the lid on a pot of boiling water is threatening to fly off. I took my now, wife (then, girlfriend) to hear her at the Blue Note in New York City on a magical night when Ron Carter substituted for her regular bassist, Charles Ables
, who was ill and passed away shortly after. The disc, Here's to Life, contains great songs like Bruno Martino's "Estate" (Summer, in Italian), Mandel's "A Time for Love," and magnificent orchestrations by Johnny Mandel. Here's to Life, the disc and the title song, bring me to tears almost upon every hearing. I was listening to my iPod while riding New York City public transportationas I often do which serves as a soundtrack as well as a great and necessary diversion from the chaos and strangeness of the everyday subway or bus ride. This particular day was the anniversary of my late mother's death. Born September 24, 1935, she passed away May 30, 2001. The blow of her passing has waned and the pain decreases with time. Usually, these commemorative thoughts don't even raise their heads. But this May day in 2009, I was on the B54 (a Brooklyn bus route) and these two songs served as the setup of an emotional one-two punch that left me on the canvas reeling. I'm actually welling with tears as I type. I would take the B54 bus from downtown Brooklyn as the final leg of whatever journey home. This particular day, as I listened to my iPod, the music dragged me to the memories of my mother. The first song that got to me was "A House is Not a Home" recorded by Ronald Isley and it's composer, Burt Bacharach
. The words and feeling of the recording made me think of home, which naturally made me think of my mother. Then, as that song ended came the knockout punch, Shirley Horn's version of "Here's to Life" as arranged by Johnny Mandel. This song began about three blocks before my stop so I knew if I didn't stand up immediately and get off this bus, I'd be a blubbering idiot and I preferred not to leave folks with that image of myself. After leaving the bus, I continued to listen to Shirley while the tears streamed in a steady flow on my half block walk home. I was about thirty feet from my house when I noticed my downstairs neighbor was standing on the brownstone stoop. She clearly noticed my blubbering and asked out of concern if I was okay. I tried to gather my composure bit couldn't. I actually sobbed harder and lost.
Now, most that know meor think they dothink of me as a quiet, mostly nice but sometimes gruff, honest and sincere but maybe not the warmest or fuzziest person that doesn't hesitate to speak his mind if he believes or thinks something. Some may think or term me in sensitive. This would only be because they really don't know me at all. To know me is to know that I cry when the wind blows and am one giant, emotional teddy bear. Our (former, since both families vacated that building) downstairs neighbors, the Jones family (Ervin, Nicole and Cydni) had been my wife's neighbors for her entire thirteen years and the six years I resided there. Over time, they became family to us and hopefully, vice-versa. The mother in Nicole led her to rest my head on her shoulder and comfort me through my tears. I'm sure seeing me in a broken state was unnerving for her. Even with my times of illness with kidney disease, I must have appeared like some pillar of strength because I was always up, moving, headed out the door with bass and suitcase to go make music in some distant part of the globe. I, again, made an attempt to gather myself and stop crying to explain why I was crying. I explained the significance of the day and date and the torrent of emotion that overtook me on my bus ride and walk home which culminated in an outpouring of tears. All of it really was an acknowledgment of how much I truly love and miss my mother and selfishly wish she were still here for me. She never met her two grandchildren or one great- grandson or my wife. There were questions I never asked. Recipes I wish I'd gotten or not lost over the years. There are thank yous I would say especially now that I'm a parent and truly know what she went through and why and what sacrifices and decisions were made. Nicole said some things that put the experience in a different light for me. She told me that maybe hearing these songs was my mother's way of communicating with me that day from the great beyond. This experience made me respect and appreciate Nicole Jones as a warm, caring nurturing mother and parent and also reaffirmed my belief in the spirit and power of music, both earthly and ethereally.