A report on current events: I’m still riding the crazy-busy wave, and still staying afloat. I went to bed at three and got up at seven to write my review of Shakespeare in Hollywood
for Friday’s Wall Street Journal (watch this space for details). Then I hailed a cab that dropped me off in Harlem, where I ate red beans and rice (Louis Armstrong’s favorite dish) with Leonard Garment and Loren Schoenberg, masterminds of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, which at present consists mainly of a frugally decorated office and a lot of good ideas. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Following up theory with practice, I returned to my own office, signed off on the Journal piece, then went to the Jazz Standard to hear Bud Shank’s quartet. As I listened to Shank cleave the air with his flame-thrower tone and remembered that he was born in 1926, I asked myself, How does he do it? Of course it’s possible to play alto saxophone like that when you’re that old (I heard Benny Carter play as well–though with less stamina–when he was a decade older), but it’s a long, long way from possible to probable. And did that faze Shank? Not in the slightest. He stood up in front of a world-class rhythm section that was lobbing musical hand grenades into the crowd and soloed like a man half his age, if that.
After performing Gerry Mulligan’s “Idol Gossip,” Shank announced a medley dedicated to another “fallen warrior,” Bill Evans. That set me to thinking. Yes, the titans of prewar jazz are gone now, and the surviving giants of the Forties and Fifties are dropping like flies, but it’s still possible to go to a New York nightclub and hear a man who played alto sax with Stan Kenton in 1950, left an indelible mark on the West Coast jazz scene–and then got even better. Back in the Fifties, Shank’s playing was smart, elegant, and sweetly lyrical. Now it’s ferocious. Midway through “Idol Gossip,” he sauntered away from center stage, planted himself in the bend of Bill Mays‘ piano, and tore off a half-dozen choruses without benefit of amplification, soaring effortlessly over Joe LaBarbera’s drums. Microphones? He don’t need no stinking microphones! So forget the good old days–they’re right now.
(If I’ve piqued your curiosity, go here to purchase Silver Storm, a 2000 sextet date also featuring Mays and LaBarbera.)
Anyway, that’s what I did yesterday, and now I’m back home again, running on fumes and adrenalin in order to give you something to read today. I have two more items to write, then I’m taking the phone off the hook and going to bed for as long as my brain permits. Tomorrow is–thank God–another day, with no appointments, no deadlines, nothing to contend with but (A) a birthday party in Brooklyn and (B) a hurricane.
Assuming that I haven’t been washed into the Hudson River by Friday, I’ll be having lunch that day with one of the celebrated bloggers who graces “Sites to See” (guess who?), then going to the press preview of Bill Irwin’s Harlequin Studies
at the Signature Theatre, about which more on Monday. The fun never stops around here….