I am reading a biography of Sonny Rollins called “Saxophone Colossus” which has rekindled my love and appreciation for Bebop and Hard Bop music.

The format I listen to music now is very different from LP and/or CD. I download my CDs and transfer the files to one of several iPod Classics. I listen with my eyes closed and bathe in the sound. My form of meditation and migraine relief.

To relax yesterday, I listened intently to another Sonny. Sonny Clark’s album “Cool Struttin'” from 1958 which I have listened to probably several dozen times since I first purchased it in the 1970’s.

I like to guess the players on music I listen to if I don’t already know in advance. I knew it was Sonny Clark on piano, because he was the leader whose album I had selected. I have many other albums by him, and this one was chosen at random. I immediately recognized Paul Chambers on bass and Philly-Joe Jones on drums. They were 2/3 of perhaps the greatest rhythm section of that era. I know all their recordings with Miles Davis and many others. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the trumpet and saxophone player. I wracked my brain and it upset my serenity that I didn’t recognize the players, so I googled it. Jackie Mclean on alto and Art Farmer on trumpet. These are both masterful artists that I am familiar with in other settings. Art Farmer is better known as a flugelhorn player and I was surprised at his tuning on this. I felt he was just under the pitch which was especially noticeable on the ensemble playing with Jackie who (to my ears) is always just the other side of the pitch. One was flat, and the other sharp. Seeing as I haven’t noticed it before on previous listens, I returned to my enjoyment and willingly suspended my analytical listening.

The early chapters of the book on Sonny Rollins fresh in my mind and the sounds of the music of Sonny Clark’s combo got me to thinking about how unstuck in time I am.

When I first encountered and became engaged to this style of music, I was twenty years of age. Hard bop music was already around twenty years old by then. I thought of these musicians as older than me and revered them as masters of the form that I sought to master. Rollins’ biography made me realize that the musicians I was worshipping were essentially around my age when they were making this fresh and compelling music. Why was this fact, which on some level I must have known, just becoming a reality to me now?

If I see a Hockey game or any other professional team sport, I don’t think of the men on the ice as younger than me… is it because I first encountered team sports from the perspective of a child? Something that a grown up does. If I encounter women’s team sports I do not have the same experience. I see them as dynamic women younger than me. Is this because Women’s professional organized sports has only fairly recently become a”thing”?

I’m starting to think that the way I store things in my brain is faulty. If I perceive musicians who are younger than me on recordings as older than me and conversely, Hockey players in real life who are younger than me as older than me do I have faulty perception? Do others experience this? When we picture notable people do we picture “Sun Records Elvis” or “Las Vegas Elvis”? We see Einstein with White hair. We tend to see people in their image “after achievement”. A Monolithic vision.

Another thing of which I am recently becoming acutely aware is the time line and perspective of history. Concurrent to the Sonny Rollins book I am also reading “Indiginous Continent” and “A People’s History of The United States” (and Trees by Hermann Hesse…doesn’t fit this essay). So many different perspectives of things I thought I knew. Things and people evolve.

Some things I could lecture on at length and am able to distinguish a time line. The career of each year of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, history of the guitar, the time lines of what we call “classical music and art” but includes Baroque, Renaissance, Romantic, etc. I would regularly blow the minds of students when discussing things in the past that never occured to them. On Mozart. Do you know what was here (the island of Montreal) when Mozart lived? The population of Canada was under 100,000 people and Montreal’s population could fit inside a hockey Arena except Hockey Arena’s didn’t exist at that time.

I think perhaps we all go through life placing things vaguely in “the past” as “chunks” without giving a thought about things we take for granted and were always there, so always will be. As we experience the deaths of loved ones and/or historic events it dawns on us that we are impermanent and situations change… pre-Covid….college days… when dad died….

Only age, experience and education is making me evolve my world view. Everything is in flux. I love this short video that illustrates transformation.

A post-script. Wayne Shorter transitioned from a living human being into the spirit world (as was his belief)yesterday. I have followed Wayne’s career from when he first came to prominence in the Jazz world (roughly a decade and a bit after Sonny Rollins). His music is a part of me. My fabric. I know he was young when he was with Art Blakey and then Miles, on his own and then with Weather Report. I never experienced him as “young”, middle-aged” or “old” just as “Wayne Shorter”. Now that he is no longer Wayne Shorter, but his recordings still exist, I can still think of him fondly and honour what he brought into my life.

All lessons still exist “out of time” and although our bodies will run “out of time” the spirit of art lives on.

One thought on “Musings Out Of Time

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