Ref: How Life Imitates the World Series (Penguin, 1983) by Thomas Boswell
Well, that's over.
$2.6 billion later, the U.S. presidential election is history. No more polls, no more red state / blue state electoral maps, no more trash-talking. Right on its heels, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) announced the results of their voting for the league MVPs, Cy Young and other annual awards, and then issued the list of 2013's Hall of Fame candidates, whichgaspincludes known users of PEDs... here comes the hand-wringing. The only front-page election news left in 2012 will be the Grammy nominations' clamorous weeks of attendant insults, praises, rants and double takes, as voting members of NARAS publicly second-guess or dismiss the messy-but-colorful politics of their peer-review version of democracy ... while privately acknowledging the talent and hard work that all the artists have gone through as they try to make a buck with recorded music.
The lesser page-two items between now and New Year's will just be the usual pot-stirring lists and predictions, speculations on everything from the December 21st deadline for the End of Mayan Civilization As We Know It to the breathless blow-by-blow accounts of each dare and double-dare in the Capitol Hill game of chicken, while the ship of state is sailed over the cliff into fiscal year 2013 ... you've heard it before.
This season's real October Surprise wasn't Hurricane Sandy (surprise is hardly the word), nor the release of Gary Golio's terrific Spirit Seeker (Clarion)a slender, beautifully illustrated volume about John Coltrane, ostensibly written for children, and a certain ASCAP Deems Taylor candidateit was that, despite being held to a scant six runs in the World Series, the toothless Detroit Tigers managed to play an extra inning before being mercifully swept by the San Francisco Giants.
You think I jest?
Yes, I jest. Gallows humor.
Politicians really ought to listen to more jazz and lighten up. It could help them understand Americans in a way that they obviously do not. For precisely the same reason, they should also watch more baseball. In the unlikely event they are unable to snag a last-minute luxury box from a lobbyist, they could do what the rest of us do and watch it on television. Or maybe even combine the two activitieswatch the local Mudville Nine broadcast with the sound muted, and listen to Dizzy Gillespie at the same time.
The defibrillator paddles of jazz and baseball could undoubtedly get those tickers ticking pretty hard, but in time would soothe their savage breasts as they deal with the harsher realities of Western Civilization. Leaning back and listening to Thelonious Monk play "Hackensack" might un-furrow their worried brows a little, give them a purposeful distraction as they ponder the intricacies of minor-league affiliations and what on earth educator/historian Jacques Barzun (whose own October Surprise was dying at age 104, for those of you keeping scorecards at home) really meant by his radical admonition to understand baseballthat other indigenous art form to which politicians pay such loving lip servicein their attempt to understand America.
They might gain a little perspective. After hearing the Count Basie Orchestra's silken collaboration with Ella Fitzgerald's scatting or Frank Sinatra's crooning, the Mitch McConnells and Harry Reids of the world might start to relax and listen to each other, conceivably learning to appreciate and even support someone else's viewpoint. Not to compromise with it, but to accommodate it. Statesmanship isn't so much a question of finding a middle ground as it is of listening to the other person's viewpoint well enough to actually understand itand in a representative democracy, accepting the right and duty of that elected official to voice it.
The Democrat and Republican leadership both understand this country's big problems fairly well and often get a lot right. But neither can be trusted without the balancing influence of the other, especially with the additional hedge of a vocal third party's nagging to help keep them in line. The yin and yang of what comes through a democracy's front door is a bitchno matter what it is, no matter how much you like it, too much of anything can make you sick. Which is the very practical reason that British politician/historian Sir John Acton, a 19th century champion of America's experiment in democracy, was led to write that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.