Friday, December 07, 2012

Take Five

When I was young and growing up in the Jazzless oasis of Chelmsford Massachusetts, I rarely heard a single note of America's greatest artistic achievement. I remember being fascinated with a program filler called Meet The Manager on the now defunct UHF channel 56. It featured a single black and white shot with the besuited manager talking about station related issues. I came to realize that it was the background music that had grabbed my attention. One day, as if he were attuned to my wishes, the manager spoke directly to me and identified that music. It was Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". That began my journey. It was hard to find a kindred soul in that town. My best friend's mother spoke about the genre with sneering disgust. "You know what Jazz mean's don't you?" she spat. My friend whispered in my ear with alarum. "Semen!" It was in the box of used records in the high school media center that I found a worn copy of Brubeck's masterpiece. That stolen vinyl disc became my precious possession. I still have it. My friend Chris's father heard of my obsession and gifted me a handful of 45's from his college days. My scope had been expanded to include Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz and Vince Guaraldi. In my freshman year of college another transformation awaited me. The RA of my dorm was a tall black barry saxophonist. I spotted his axe and blurted out details of my passion. I listed the heros that formed its coterie as he listened patiently. I still remember his smile as he said. "Yeah, those cats are cool, let me turn you on to some others." He pulled out the biggest, most aromatic spliff I had ever seen in my young life and began spinning discs. That night we listed to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and on and on until the wee hours expanded again and filled the dawn. I never looked back. That is until today as I hear the Brubeck repertoire, and remember the thrill of my gateway experience.

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