New Year’s Resolution

My blogging buddy Kunal of random rants ruminations ramblings will get a kick out of this:

I had a dream, a couple nights ago, about Priyanka–likely because I saw a news report about Nick Jonas–and the dream included my wife. Don’t get so excited; it’s probably not what you think. We were sitting at a counter, or table, with Bibi on my immediate right, between myself and Priya, and we were joking about how it wasn’t gonna happen with me and the world’s most famous Indian actress. Later on, I think we were all cooking together, probably a combination of Indian dishes and a good ole American hamburger.

On those rare occasions when I recall my dreams involving another woman, it almost always involves conversation and physical contact limited to a friendly hug. Even in my dreams I behave myself. As much as I like to see myself as devoted to my wife, I guess I really am that boring. The best way I can explain my motivation is that each day I try to not be an asshole.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to the recollections of one of my co-workers as he explained the age old phenomenon of the Generation Gap, more specifically how the children of each younger generation think they are smarter and more evolved than their parents. I followed his argument along its well-worn path, “It’s the same as when we were 19, and our parents were assholes, and didn’t know anything…” You all know how the story ends, we grow up, making the same mistakes that our parents tried in vain to warn us against. Realizing the error of our ways, we come to appreciate and seek out their wisdom.

The thing is, sometimes your parents really are assholes. Before my friend could finish his story, my mind raced ahead to this unfortunate conclusion, the reality that our own growth and shift in perception doesn’t instantly imbue our parents with wisdom and virtue. Following this logic, if my parents are assholes, maybe I’m an asshole too.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that our parents teach us two things, what to do, and what not to do. We are what we do day-to-day. This is probably an oversimplification, but breaking the chain by choosing to not be an asshole is a tangible goal.

So, there you have it–my New Year’s resolution to strive to replace the insufferable asshole with the wise and virtuous individual in the story with the happy ending.

Happy New Year to all of my friends and family!


WRVR Jazz NY – The Crusaders & Randy Crawford

The evolution of the band from Houston, that began as The Jazz Crusaders, culminated in a series of classic albums in the late 70’s that featured the talents of pianist Joe Sample, saxophonist Wilton Felder, drummer Stix Hooper, and trombonist Wayne Henderson, along with Robert “Pops” Popwell on electric bass and Larry Carlton on guitar. The group created a unique sound that combined elements of jazz, R&B, funk, and rock, and was the archetype of what made WRVR great.

The following track Sweet ‘n Sour is from The Crusaders 1976 album Free as the Wind which I believe is their finest work. It swings and rocks with funky solos traded by versatile musicians.

While Free as the Wind is solid start to finish, The Crusaders are best known for their biggest hit Street Life which featured vocalist Randy Crawford. Crawford reminds me of fellow Georgia native Gladys Knight with her ability to equally testify with a gritty edge, or caress a silky smooth ballad. This performance is a tour de force.

Crawford was an impressive solo artist and produced several albums of beautiful ballads and up-tempo performances. I find it puzzling that she only gained moderate success in the States. However, like other artists who came before, she was greatly appreciated in Europe, with five Top 20 hits and six Top 10 albums in the U.K.. Randy Crawford did enjoy considerable airplay on WRVR, and Now We May Begin, from the album of the same name, is one of my favorites.

WRVR Jazz NY – Betty Carter – part 2

Since Betty Carter mentored so many young musicians and influenced generations of vocalists, one post to recognize her place in jazz history is not enough. I wanted to find a performance to best showcase her incredible improvisational skills. After giving her a good listen after many years, the best word I can find to describe her sound is hypnotic. I also better understand why she detested the nickname Betty Bop, because, like Monk, her genius lies as much in her restraint as it does in her scatting prowess.

I finally settled on this classic live performance of What’s New. Carter’s singing is totally in sync with the musicians and devoid of ego. Betty is high, she’s low, on the beat, behind the beat–it’s all great. Listen and let me know what you think?

Since you were such an intent and patient listener, here’s an encore medley from the same concert. Some good up-tempo songs are included to display the scatting skills alluded to earlier.

WRVR Jazz NY – Betty Carter

I’m not sure who little girls–or big girls, for that matter–look up to as role models these days, but if I was a girl, or young, I would aspire to be like Betty Carter. Carter, influenced by great bop soloists, most notably, Dizzy Gillespie, expanded the range of the jazz vocalist with her unique phrasing and bold scatting style. Her inner strength, and sense of self, enabled her to develop her talent with little support or encouragement from her immediate family, and to carve her niche in a musical genre that struggled to find a larger audience.

Carter is an underrated artist, who was admired by the jazz greats she performed with over the years, not only the aforementioned Gillespie, but also Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus and Wes Montgomery. Her pairing with Ray Charles produced many memorable performances–you may be familiar with their rendition of the seasonal favorite, Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

Betty Carter later held her own, assembling and leading a series of small jazz ensembles, and creating her record label, Bet-Car Records. WRVR recognized Carter’s contributions to jazz, and I best remember her beautiful interpretation of our featured song, Moonlight In Vermont.

WRVR Jazz NY – Dexter Gordon

Not everyone was thrilled with the purchase of WRVR by Sonderling Broadcasting, moving the station from Riverside Church to Woodside, Queens. Jazz purists criticized the new crossover format and mourned the loss of a neighborhood treasure best known for traditional jazz and historic civil rights broadcasts.

Overlooked by those critics was the exposure of jazz legends to the larger New York audience drawn to the more eclectic and trendy playlist. For many young listeners, WRVR was where they received their first taste of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and our featured artist, Dexter Gordon.

Long Tall Dexter was an impressive figure, both in sight and sound. As a pioneer of the tenor hard bop style, Gordon could be identified by his full bodied tone, sense of swing, and signature phrases sprinkled throughout his solos. This early low-tech sampling drew from popular songs, nursery rhymes, wedding marches, Christmas Carols or whatever suited Dexter’s mood, and somehow always fit right into the groove without being pretentious.

Gordon, who’s sound evolved as an ex-pat in Paris and Copenhagen, influenced the tenor giants that followed, such as Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins, and he, in turn, learned from these young innovators and continued to grow as an artist. Dexter’s 1976 album Homecoming, recorded live at the Village Vanguard in NYC, well represents Gordon’s mature, yet contemporary style, and was in heavy rotation on WRVR. This was the station’s gift to the airwaves, and what is still missed by its fans nearly 40 years later.

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