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@ K. 1995: the following mimicks K.’s original art homage

Generally looked fabulous no matter what his wardrobe suggested

When I was a kid the radio was playing a Bob Crosby show in my mother’s room. A trumpet wail got my attention. That note wasn’t just bent; it was smeared. I was long short of puberty, but I felt that sound in organs I didn’t even have yet.
Steve Allen made me miss a lot of sleep in the ‘fifties by saving Count Basie or Erroll Garner for five minutes before his 1 AM sign-off. Then of course I had to read at least a couple of science fiction stories before dousing the light.

Skinny me would race off to school year after year: without breakfast; but with — a Milky Way of freckles, a Jughead cowlick (on the “wrong” side), and ears like a cross between Dumbo’s and Reggie Miller’s. I was a mess.
Enough girls thought I was cute to bewilder and enrage the more normal looking guys. That’s OK: I didn’t understand it either.

The ninth grade found us bused to New York, compelled to visit the Frick and Metropolitan Museums. The school was very sorry but we could go on to MOMA only if we had parental permission to find our own way home. The bus would already have returned.

Brancusi, Bird in Space
Brancusi, Bird in Space

In a heart beat. Sure I’d put up with all that and MOMA too: I could finally make my first pilgrimage to Birdland! Lester Young was playing. I could stay out all night.
But something happened. Almost like the Cosby show’s trumpet.

I figured I owed at least five minutes of pretense at MOMA: but then I walked into this really hip building. The clock didn’t even have numbers on the face! The interior space funneled me to a special exhibit. I stood in front of the first piece and burst into laughter. There was this amazing hunk of perfectly finished wood, shaped like a bullet, blunt point down. A strip of iron was hammered around the top. A cartoon grin with perfect edges was cut deep into the “face.” Once I had my breath I looked at the card: Constantin Brancusi, The Chief.

Constantin Brancusi, The Chief

I was in love. It was like listening to Joe Williams sing Roll ’em, Pete while Basie tattooed pure joy. By the time I glanced at the card, I was already noticing the masterpiece above.
College applications frequently ask why one wishes to attend. I observed to Columbia College that being near Birdland and the Modern would suit me fine. Living in New York I even discovered a love for the Met: not to mention Basin Street, the Vanguard, Minton’s …

In the summer between my sophomore and junior years, a pal and I ran a little gallery in the Village: Mexican crafts and original pre-Columbian art. I’ve occasionally dealt a little art since then too. These decades later I work from Sebring, Florida. My business web site maintains a show of paintings done of and for the area.

If asked, I’m likely to say that I myself don’t paint, never have. The arrival of my alumni magazine today reminds me of a funny exception.

Dixieland is a style of jazz that unsophisticated listeners may naturally respond to first. I certainly did. As the bass player in The Gig says, “Those Dixieland changes go down like baby food.” So unsophisticated was I that the band I collected first was The Firehouse Five Plus Two.
Everyone’s heard of Louis Armstrong. I hope you’ve heard the old old recordings. Then you’ll know why. But check out Kid Ory if you haven’t already. I still have those Creole lyrics in my head despite still not having a clue to their meaning. (I frequently prefer music where I have no skill in the verbal part of the language. I was an adult before I started fumbling with the technical side of music: in my mid-forties, before really trying.)

But by the time I was eleven or so even Kid Ory was gathering dust while I played Columbia’s recording of Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert till the needle started picking up the numbers from the other side.

Repurchased, the same thing happened again.

With the largest delivery route for Rockville Centre’s only newspaper, I had a drawer full of cash to buy records with. Much as I continued to love Benny, and Harry James, and Gene Krupa, I soon discovered Duke Ellington. Now there was a band with whole sections which could smear the sound!

Age fifteen, my first trip to Birdland: the law required a draft card to get in, but Mr. Goodstein, the owner, set up a special seat for me, one the waiters were told could get only soft drinks.

A night to remember, not too long after — Carnegie Hall, midnight: Count Basie & Band, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Columbus …

Though an affair like that is more like an all star game than an NBA finals. And Carnegie Hall is the wrong venue. Maybe the amps were set wrong. To me, jazz is chamber music. Even Basie should blare in a small room. Jammed. For none but cognoscenti.

This, second or third of K.’s original Chat files, 1995, spread in multiple directions. Additional modules on art or music got placed among my personal stories, under Themes: Music&Art.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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