Quarter of seven.
I saw nothing unusual on my daily trip to market, but in the west there was a passenger jet slowly dissolving in the clouds as I watched from the sidewalk. I kind of wish I could be on a Concorde headed for a place in Europe. I know it’s not realistic. Out on River Road I hear a car drag racing; some maniac driver tempting fate… I just got off the phone with DHS about my food stamps: the people are very reasonable to talk with, but the letters they “generate” tend to be rather menacing and intimidating. The very word “reasonable” makes me want to digress on a little discussion, if it works out that way. I just wonder how reason obtains its quality of humaneness as opposed to being cold calculation. For sure, the French philosophes were more than just robots, purely technical people. Those like Voltaire had warmth and humanity as well as a wicked sense of humor. It seems to me that the rationality of the Enlightenment had as much to do with the heart as the head. It took the math and science of the last century to divest reason of its meaningfulness.
Quarter of eight.
It’s another overcast morning. My dog waits patiently for breakfast time. The neighborhood crows make the accustomed noises in their own language. We made it through the storm. A song by John Coltrane enters my head, called “After the Rain.” The version I heard was recorded by Mark Egan with Steve Khan and Danny Gottlieb for the disc Beyond Words. It is absolutely beautiful.
Quarter after eleven.
I feel kind of tired and a bit anxious in general. Maybe I shouldn’t have called my sister on the phone. She has inflexible opinions on everything… I’m watching the squirrels in my backyard while Aesop pouts by the glass door. What would make him really happy?
Nine forty PM.
By now I realize that I’d love to play nineties jazz fusion with my friend here locally. It was an ambition I left behind when that style went out by around 1996 and all jazz converted to acoustic instruments. If we can get it to take off in Eugene then maybe I’ll be spending less time writing and blogging, which is all good with me.
Quarter of eleven. Perhaps it’s me who has inflexible opinions as to how much is possible?:
With happy thoughts and a dash of pixie dust, anyone can fly—
I was at the store looking over the frozen foods when I heard “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears come on the radio. I listened along and then I realized it was the album version with the incredible trumpet solo by Lew Soloff. I mentioned it to Michelle, but she didn’t know how to respond. But for me it was a kind of inspiration, and in spite of everything else that goes badly, I feel that my life still has cosmic meaning and purpose, as guided by the “stars.” It is difficult having Saturn for my ruling planet, yet it motivates me in my perambulations east and west along Maxwell Road and elsewhere in the city. I shuffle on the sidewalks like an old bum, hearing music in my head and muttering things to myself, though I’m an intelligent old bum.
The BS&T song this morning makes me rethink my music projects, even if the issue of alcohol is one that will never go away. I just hope I’ll have the wisdom and strength to resist the temptation in the future to drink. It’s a gray and overcast day so far today, so maybe it won’t get as warm, and I can make my trip over to Bi Mart without any trouble.
I’ve figured out why I was stuck on the problem of society and the individual. It’s because society to my mind really means my family, and this is an alcoholic system. In choosing sobriety I’ve had to abandon the system, sort of like Lt Henry deserting the Italian Army in Hemingway. Did I need an altruistic motive for staying sober? Or is the validity of self preservation self evident? My brother used to say it was my brotherly duty to drink with him… Family politics is only so much nonsense.
Quarter of nine. I braved the rainy element and walked to the store where Melissa held down the fort. She said her little boy is two and a half years old and a real handful. He’s only quiet when he is sleeping. I said it was nice that she had a little family going, but inwardly I was thinking that it wasn’t for me… I expect Damien will be here at around noon with a buddy to rake leaves. The physical therapy people sent me a bill for over a hundred dollars. I’ll call them tomorrow and make sure they billed my insurance correctly. It could be an expensive month… A while ago I looked up John McLaughlin online: he is 78 years old and still performing and recording. I really like the chord textures in Birds of Fire, such as the augmented octave in the song “Sanctuary.” I didn’t realize the complexity of the mode until I sat with my bass and noodled around with it. It would be interesting to get a few guys together and mess with those scales and chords. Doing this by myself isn’t the same. I reckon a lot of musicians feel lonely through the pandemic. We don’t have a purpose when we can’t get together. The times are as tuneless as a Mahavishnu song. Out of context, the roots in the bass don’t make sense.
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.
I woke up with my mind on how I used to be a Jaco imitator in 1989. I always did a lot of alcohol, but not enough to impair myself. My favorite axe was a pewter Jazz Bass Special crafted in Japan. I put more mileage on that bass than on any other. The reason I idolized Jaco was probably his bipolar disorder, though at the time no one in Eugene seemed to know much about that. Years later I read his biography where his diagnosis was documented, along with his addictions to alcohol and cocaine. The music community is still a little unenlightened regarding bipolar, and if anything, they eschew the mentally ill rather than help us out. It’s unfortunate because musical talent and mental illness sometimes coincide. But I wouldn’t trade my circumstances today with those before Vraylar. I was too unstable. Speaking of medication, Dominic told me that many participants refuse it out of suspicion and fear of side effects. My gut reaction to this was to say how silly it was. But the law goes that they cannot be forced to take meds, and that sounds right. At the same time, however, they do themselves a disservice not to be medicated… Jaco was a great musician. The best compliment I ever read paid him was by Sting’s bassist about thirty years ago. She said, “Jaco was a musician who happened to play bass” as opposed to a mere bass player.
Four thirty. I’m a lot like my dad. I listened to two tracks from Steve Khan’s Crossings, which he recorded in the wake of his father’s death. This preoccupation with his dad was why I listened to it. The music is exquisite and theoretical, with Khan’s guitar chords sounding to the ear sometimes like random noise, yet I know that every note was thought about as it was played. Anthony Jackson’s bass work is no less calculated and complex in accompaniment. The overall effect, with Dennis Chambers on virtuoso drums, is a music of such difficulty that it racks my brain, but I can appreciate its beauty even without knowing fully the theory behind it. Khan uses some eerie sounding volume swells on his guitar, and his signal is chorused in stereo. Every chord is carefully chosen, impeccably tasteful. The album was released in 1993, a time when I enjoyed listening to jazz fusion. Hearing it again was to commemorate my own father’s passing twenty years ago. It was an act of projection. It had always impressed me that Crossings was done just after Khan lost his father. Returning to it now is a way of thinking about my dad…