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Friday, February 17, 2012

Aging Jazzers Catching Up After All These Years.

A few weeks ago, a jazz bassist friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook saying he'd like to catch up. We'd not talked in at least three decades, and it wasn't because we'd had some weird falling out over music or bad behavior on either or both of our parts.

Over the years, my friend, Joe, has become a jazz musician of some prominence in the Free Jazz wing of the art form (also called creative music by insiders). He's lived and played in New York City for a long time. He told me much of his work now happened in Europe, and was about to leave for such a trip a few days after we talked. He's had the great fortune of playing with many luminaries in the Free Jazz world. Joe is a strong player of a challenging instrument; very creative with a distinctive musical voice, and a fearless heart when it comes to exploring sonic possibilities. He's a prolific composer as well. I was fortunate to play with him for the 2 years I did.

So we chatted about our current playing - where and with whom. Joe, was well-acquainted with the music scene in Northampton, as he'd been a part of the UMass Jazz Program in it's golden years. He told me about Cary, the guitar player we worked with in the the late 70's, in a joint project called Quartette, and that he was living and working in Chicago these days. I told him, John, the very talented vibraphonist and composer of the group, was living and working in Hartford. We also talked much of family. He's married and has kids who've blessed him with grand-kids. In that, our lives were similar. We talked as men who've been graced by how life has turned out, including the storms and struggles we'd weathered through on our differing journeys.

I was struck by the warmth and affection of our conversation after all these years. Not only had we had the shared experience of making creative music together, but we shared the experience of being fathers and grandfathers now in our "mature" years. Ours was a connection of shared values. We'd traveled some decades, faced many challenges, and could still relate at a heart level.

Joe has always been real, refreshingly so. he really is himself, take it or leave it (not arrogantly so). He has an authentic love for his work and the people he's given himself to. There's a certain simplicity to his ways, but underneath a depth and wisdom coming from life pursuing one's heart commitments, and paying the price to do what one loves and believes in. He's always been a humble man, gentle and approachable. The fierceness he expresses comes through his music.

Our phone conversation left me warmed and happy; old friends and creative explorers reconnecting after all these years. We went separate ways since our collaboration, but sharing music for the time we did marked both of us, leaving room for catching up as men should before they grow old - if you get what I mean.
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