An event that happened 35 years ago still has me pondering the meaning of being human versus animal. According to ancient wisdom, humans have a rational faculty that allows them to participate in the divine and rise above animal instinct. But the distinction gets hazier when you move from philosophy to modern anthropology and consider evolution and the continuity of the whole animal kingdom. Then what happens to human specialness and the diviner part called reason? Can we still set ourselves apart? Here, my logic tends to break down.
Yesterday afternoon there was a hailstorm and this morning, the stones are still around to whiten rooftops and litter the lawns of the neighborhood. It’s cold. A while ago I remembered an album by Weather Report titled Night Passage. I bought the cassette as a special order from a small business named Face the Music on 13th Street, up on campus when I was a student. I also remember that the clerk was quite judgmental of Jaco for his chemical dependency, but I was undeterred and really enjoyed the tape. I wanted to play the bass in his style, like a lot of players did. Later on, I grabbed Word of Mouth from the same hole in the wall. I went through a phase of jazz fusion until the genre itself kind of fizzled. I wonder what happened to it?
It should be a mellow kind of day— interrupted suddenly when Aesop barks at someone in the street. I entertain the hope of jamming with other musicians again now that I’ve heard from Mark, the drummer who lives in the Friendly neighborhood. We’ll have to work around my transportation issues for a while, but I really want to make this thing happen. Inspiration can’t come from hanging out by yourself. Nothing can be made from nothing. Until we get together, I might try to pick out a few lines by Jaco: no amplifier; just playing dry, me and the fretboard. I was never very good at music theory, and always had to rely on my ears and my instinct. For this reason, I was better suited to rock than jazz.
Nine thirty five. The weather is again very cloudy and glum. A good day to put on my thinking cap and ponder what’s really important to my life. A good day for mind over matter and making progress. To put aside inhibition and intimidation and try a little harder.
Ten thirty five. Unplugged, I figured out most of “Teen Town” by Jaco. I feel like I’ve accomplished something I wouldn’t have tried before, a great feeling. It came to me more easily than I’d expected. Like something that was meant to be.
Ten thirty. I put my vote in my mailbox and raised the flag. I don’t care anymore what religious people think. The supernatural is impossible; just a figment of the imagination. If you go out and test it, then the biblical stuff falls every time. I’m thinking like an empiricist. I’m done with playing children’s games. America needs to grow up and out of its superstition… The rain has been coming and going. I feel hungry. I don’t know if my brother will call me back, but I’m sort of hoping he won’t.
Eleven thirty. Home again from the store. I bought Aesop’s bacon strips and something for me. I voted for Sanders even though he dropped out. I skipped over most of the other votes…
In my head I’ve been going over a couple of jazz songs and noting similarities in chord progression. I wonder if jazz is in the cards for me? There must still be some musicians doing jazz in Eugene. Maybe Ron is into it. Going to eat now…
One o’clock. Played some Jaco and Mark Egan on my bass and it sounded good. The bass doesn’t respond as well to playing it hard. It has a very clean tone and seems suited for jazz. I think I’ll read for a while now. Victor Hugo gives me food for thought.
Three o’clock. I made it through the worst of the Waterloo part of the book. I felt like I was getting old while I sat here reading. Nor is there any reversing the process of aging. The progress of life can move forward or stop, but can’t go backwards. I would do some caffeine for power, but then I couldn’t sleep at night. At the same time, there’s this rediscovery of jazz fusion that feels like something new to me… No, I think jazz these days is on the wane. Dunno. I need to meet with more musicians and see what’s up locally. I feel tired.
Quarter of eight.
It looks like a cloudless day, and perfect for the holiday. I don’t feel very inspired to write this morning. Maybe after I’ve been to the store I’ll have something to report. My imagination is rather limited, probably due to the medication. Thoughts flit by, but not long enough to gather momentum. How about Jaco soloing on “Third Stone from the Sun?” … I watched him doing two versions of his bass solo on YouTube. What he did with harmonics was incredible. No wonder I went through a phase of idolizing Jaco when I was in college. It’s just the human being he was that people didn’t like. If we could put his personality aside and just look at his genius, then we could appreciate something amazing. He influenced my playing a great deal when I was young. I even sort of lost my identity in his for a couple of years. I think a lot of bass players did. There were many Jaco clones on the radio around 1989, two years after his death. The way he put dynamic feeling into his playing was special. Now I realize that my identity is separate from that of Jaco. In fact, I have no more idols to emulate. Why pretend to be someone else? It’s enough to be myself, though I’m still learning who that person is. Everyone has their own voice. It just takes some practice to excavate it and trumpet it forth. It is not only advisable, it is necessary.