Ben Sidran: Talking Jazz (An Oral History)

They say that if you want to understand why an instrumentalist plays the way he or she plays, listen to them speak. That makes total sense when hearing Wayne Shorter or Ornette Coleman being interviewed. And now, courtesy of Ben Sidran, there’s never been a better chance to hear other examples of this. Sidran is […]

Ben Sidran: Talking Jazz (An Oral History)

Tell Mama No

Mama wore red to deny my blues

My Mama wore red to deny my blues

Blues born of whiteness that defines the rules


We had the talk, my Mama and I

Said we had the talk, my Mama and I

Son, you need to learn the game, if you don’t wanna die


Kneel before Jesus, then you kneel upon me

Lawd! you kneel before Jesus, how can you kneel upon me?

Crushing weight of centuries, prone limb of the hanging tree


But times have changed, things can never stay the same

Yes, things done changed, they can never stay the same—NO!

Though the oceans flow with blood, ancient drums call out my name



Old rugged cross, a void, an inflated tear,

raised fist, a defiant stare


WBGO – Books on Racial Injustice

This is worth sharing. The words of James Baldwin have echoed across the decades as of late. The WBGO selection includes the following jazz inspired works:

Notes and Tones by Arthur R. Taylor (Da Capo Press)

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela Davis (Vintage Books)

Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever by Salim Washington and Farah Griffin (Thomas Dunne Books)

To Be, or Not…to Bop: Memoirs of Dizzy Gillespie by Dizzy Gillespie (Univ. of Minnesota Press)

Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams by Tammy Kernodle (Northeastern Univ. Press)

Black Music by Amiri Baraka (Akashic Books)

If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday by Farah Griffin (One World)

The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings by James Baldwin (Vintage International)



Here’s the link to the WBGO article:

WBGO Suggested Reading

From the publisher’s site, notes on Baldwin’s collection:


Life may seem to have a plan, but for the most part it’s pretty random. We’re thrown together on this big old rock, then try to connect in a variety of ways. Our reach has expanded through technology, but the desired result has never changed; we are looking for friendship and love, an understanding ear, and a sense of belonging though shared experience.

Last week I lost a dear friend. Kim passed quietly in her sleep, after her brave battle with lung cancer. Kim and I never met, our relationship was built on emails exchanged over a period of many years, and I only spoke with her twice, after she informed me of her illness. Yet, now that she’s gone, I feel like a part of me went with her.

Drifting back to 2002, my son is planning for college. My wife and I are anxiously awaiting a call from the adoption agency and China to notify us when we will be able to travel to adopt our yet unknown baby girl. So it goes that a boy from the northeastern United States meets and marries a girl from the tiny country of Guyana in South America, and they have a child together. Over sixteen years later a baby girl is born in the middle of China, to become part of this family nearly two years later.

Spin the wheel of life…

About this time, during a quiet period at work, I’m posting a review to Yahoo Movies about The Sixth Sense. The next day I see a response on the message board from another fan of the movie. Like me, she never saw the surprise ending coming. From that unlikely exchange grew our friendship as we discussed and recommended other movies and music. Kim was a fan of soul music, which led me to nickname her my little soul sister, but more about that later…

I started a little guessing game, beginning with my first email where I assumed that Kim was a guy. She quickly corrected and playfully reprimanded me for my sexist presumption that only a man would be adventurous enough to leave his home country and study abroad. Explaining the process of trying to transform a complete stranger into a friend, I recounted to Kim an experience I had many years ago in what was then the famous Folk City in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan.

Folk City was this dark little club where Bob Dylan made his NYC debut and the atmosphere defined bohemian. A friend from work had introduced me to the club, and one night I decided to visit on my own. I sat at a small table between the bar and the stage and nursed my drink while taking in the local musical talent and atmosphere. To my immediate left a girl, maybe a few years older than me, sat alone at her table also surveying the scene. I cautiously peaked at her out of the corner of my glasses, then noticed she was doing the same thing. If this was a movie, she would have smiled, and I would have been emboldened to go over to her table and introduce myself. Alas, for me at least, real life is never like the movies. Instead, she maintained a stern, suspicious expression and I eventually backed down from the staring contest.

I told Kim we were a lot like those two people in the club, carefully glancing at each other on opposite sides of the world, trying to piece together some understanding of the person behind the words and pictures.

Over the years, it became almost comical how often I was incorrect with my guesses. The picture below is a perfect example. When Kim posted it on Facebook a few years ago, I was so excited for her that I commented, “Congratulations?” That started a deluge of follow up comments in English and Chinese, “Are you?”

No, she wasn’t, to my disappointment, as I can’t think of anyone more suited to motherhood; it was only a bit of wind puffing out her blouse. In my defense, it was an honest and well meaning mistake. Besides, look at her thoughtful expression as she contemplated her future. Kim had her share of fun with this game, commenting that since I’m an American that I must listen to Madonna. OK, maybe she was a little better at guessing than me.


17 years…more than one-third of my adult life’s experiences shared through a thread of electrons. Kim and I shared stories about family and work, but also discussed philosophy and religion. After an early career in IT, Kim decided to move in a different direction pursuing her seminary studies in the U.K. and Hong Kong as a path to help others. Later, when she moved to the San Francisco bay area with her husband Dan, she obtained her counseling LPC so she could provide support to the Asian community. With this, my reference to Kim as “my little soul sister” took on a deeper meaning.

Filling in the earlier years of our lives, I told Kim the story of how I met my wife Bibi at work, smiling at each other from across the room. Kim summed up the experience nicely as, “Love at first sight and last forever…” as she reflected on her own love life and hope for the future. She eventually met and married Dan–I know nothing of their courtship, having learned of their marriage through Facebook–but, Dan was by her side, right until the end. I know the past few months were especially difficult for both of them.

As I said, Kim and I never met, and I never really said goodbye. There is no wake or funeral for me. I can’t be there to read her eulogy. Once I learned of Kim’s disease I spoke with family and friends about her, and about our friendship as long-time pen pals. I think this helped give the whole experience some substance. In the end, I was left with a few inadequate words to Kim to explain what her friendship has meant to me:

Obviously, I’ve thought about you a lot lately, about our friendship and what you mean to me. I know you, and I don’t know you. I think back to the little guessing game we started in the very beginning, and about how often I was wrong in my assumptions, right up to the time I misread your Facebook post with the windblown blouse and wistful expression on your face. But it was a mistake with a heartfelt intention. I have always wished only the best for you and couldn’t think of a better person to be a mother and raise a family. I know I have always been right in my admiration of your strength and adventurous spirit and knowing that you have a good heart and generous nature which was evidenced in your work first through your ministry, then more recently in counseling others.
Maybe I’m silly, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought one day we would meet, that we would become great friends, sharing long discussions about music and religion and family, and maybe even having our kids play together. Look how quickly the time passes. We have exchanged e-mails on and off for over 17 years and so much has happened for both of us in that time. For me, it’s comforting to know there is someone out there, even if it’s on the other side of the world, that understands me at some level and shares some of my thoughts about what’s important in life. We’ve never met, we only just recently spoke for the first time, and I don’t really know the in’s and out’s of your daily life, but my awareness that you’re out there, and that I can call you my little soul sister, makes me happy.
Nothing is promised to any of us. All we have is today. Looking forward to hear, “still here,” and hopefully that you are finding some comfort and relief.

Until we meet one day Kim…



The Franchise

**** August 31st, 2020 is the day that will forever mark the end of my childhood, as it will for every other Mets fan of a certain age.

George Thomas Seaver, the greatest player in Mets history, passed away in his sleep Monday night after a long battle with the debilitating effects of Lyme’s Disease.

#41 will forever live in our hearts…

It’s April 8th, 1969 and Opening Day for perennial losers the New York Mets. An 11-year-old 6th-grader is playing sick, and is home from school on a Tuesday afternoon, when he stumbles upon the advertising for today’s baseball game on WOR-TV in New York. It will be the first full ballgame he will ever watch, and the home team features a hard throwing young ace named Tom Seaver. Seaver will pitch a rough 5 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, with 3 walks, and the Mets, following in the tradition established in their first year 1962, will go on to lose 11-10, giving up 4 runs in the top of the 8th, then falling just short with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth.


The ’69 Miracle Mets would chase the Chicago Cubs most of the season, then overtake them in spectacular fashion, closing a 9 game lead, and winning the division by the same margin. They were led by their 25-year-old emerging superstar righthander who quickly became my favorite player. Seaver would close out that season with 10 straight wins, along the way hurling his famous near-perfect game against the Cubs on July 9th, the win announcing to the world that the Mets were for real. I thought I was blessed…


And I was, even though Seaver and the Mets would never duplicate the magic of that season, I got to watch my boyhood hero excel, despite marginal run support. The greatest righthander in baseball history was brilliant in every way, displaying brains, power, and a tenacious will to win. Off the field I looked forward to his appearances on the post-game show, “Kiner’s Korner,” where you could count on his witty remarks, wise-cracks, and unique cackle. I emulated Seaver in every way possible, pitching complete games with a sponge ball against the courtyard wall of the neighborhood hospital.
I watched Tom Terrific strike out 10 Padres as the sun slowly set behind the 410 marker in centerfield of the old Shea Stadium, saw Leron Lee of the same Padres break up Seaver’s second bid at a no-hitter in the 9th inning, and proudly watched him collect three Cy Young awards on his way to a Hall Of Fame career. When he was traded to the Reds on June 15th, 1977, I was crushed, and did not watch my beloved team again until he was traded back to the Mets for the 1983 season.
That infamous trade to the Reds was nothing compared to the news today that George Thomas Seaver is suffering from dementia, slowly losing his decades long battle against the debilitating after effects of Lyme’s Disease.  This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets championship, and I’m numbed by the realization that our shining hero, the greatest player to ever wear a Mets uniform, #41, will not be out on the field to share in the celebration.
Tom’s wife Nancy, and the rest of the Seaver family announced that he will withdraw from public life to battle his disease. I, along with other Mets fans, can only hope and pray, and root for our hero to somehow overcome the disease and find some peace and comfort tending to his second greatest endeavor, his vineyard.

Seaver Vineyards

Seaver Vineyards

How to Submit Your Manuscript to the Big 5 US Publishers in 2019 — The Cat’s Write

This one’s a keeper, so re-blogging for easy reference:

Hi Everyone! Here’s a recently updated list of the Big 5 US Publishing Houses, their submission requirements for unsolicited manuscripts and links to submission details. I’ve also added a bonus publisher at the end for you. I spent hours (quite literally) researching and updating this list for all of my wonderful blogging friends. You know how much […]

via How to Submit Your Manuscript to the Big 5 US Publishers in 2019 — The Cat’s Write

Somebody’s watching…

WordPress sent me a notification that I reached a milestone of sorts. My little counter button that tallies my followers finally hit 100. I actually surpassed that number a short time ago if you count the handful of Facebook friends and e-mail subscribers that follow my blog. I have amassed this enormous following in less than three years.


If this number was the only thing motivating me to continue writing, I would have abandoned this blog long ago. I can remember being stuck at 56 for the longest time, to the point where it was almost comical. More recently the counter taunted me with a big fat 98 that never moved. So, why am I here?

Once I built up some courage to share my thoughts here, I invited friends and family. For the most part, for whatever reason, most of my immediate family has shied away from reading my posts. However, if I had to choose one place in all of cyberspace to share my thoughts and feelings it would be WordPress. The talent and success of the community of writers both amazes me and humbles me, but at the same time, I find it to be a kind and positive, supportive and nurturing group of individuals. I look forward to the daily exchange of ideas and feedback.

Having expressed my appreciation to those of you who do read my posts, I would also like to reach out to others like me who may be discouraged by the apparent lack of interest. I stumbled upon my larger audience while poking around in the Stats section of WordPress. One particular post WRVR Jazz Radio New York caught the interest of a group of fellow fans of the long defunct jazz radio station in NYC.

WordPress stats

The key stat here was views, not likes, or follows, or even comments (although those came later as well). Not only were people actually visiting the page, I discovered another oddity that resulted from this interest in the old station: Google was driving the traffic. When I did a search of my own I discovered I had leap-frogged over every other page related to WRVR Jazz, or WRVR New York, including the Wiki page and all related YouTube videos. How’s that for blindfolded Search Engine Optimization?


Viewed on the overall scale of WordPress and the greater web universe, I am still talking about a miniscule audience, and owning some very narrow search terms. However, fans of the old station are still out there and the extra foot traffic to my site presents an opportunity for someone to give a peek to one of my related posts. Evidently, there is also a way to tweak the Permalink, but I’m not yet that brave. Bottom line, it is reassuring that there are those of you out there who care enough to visit my blog and take the time to share your thoughts and reminiscences. This has encouraged me to create additional posts related to appreciation of America’s gift to the arts. Thanks for keeping the memory of WRVR alive. To the rest of my blogger friends, just keep being true to your original motivation for writing and creating.

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!


Poison Deconstructs Karma

Credit to The Girl From Jupiter for the inspiration for this post, based on her poem Reverse Karma and the resulting conversation linked here:

Excerpts from the comments section are in bold italics.

I was born and raised a Catholic, so my viewpoint has a Christian slant. However, my wife is Muslim who grew up in Guyana where Islam was practiced in a relatively moderate fashion—my mother-in-law has led readings of Quran Sharif within the household on many occasions—and there was sharing of traditions with the Hindu community. My daughter, adopted from China, had a Buddhist blessing ceremony before we left the country.

A beautiful, old wooden Episcopal/Anglican church is a half-mile down the road from me. I was drawn to it by the energy of the woman pastor who led the congregation there, until she was forced to retire a few years ago. My daughter was baptized in the same church, while my older son was baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, then received his first communion and was confirmed as an adult.

You can argue that although not all Jews are Christians, all Christians were borne out of Judaism. I admire the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Jesus, Confucius, Martin Luther King and Malcom X for their courage and conviction. I have studied and embraced the philosophies and religions of the East, so you can say my approach is, “Any port in a storm.”

“goodness involves the ability to sacrifice — out of love.” Echoes my comment, “Love, and the concept of love, overrides all, even when at odds with basic instincts like self-preservation.”

You would choose to starve yourself to feed your children, or jump in front of a bus to save them from being run down, but real life rarely forces us to make such extreme judgements or choices. If your kids were hungry, you would take on a second job, or steal some food, but at the same time, we like to believe that we would act unselfishly when faced with life and death decisions, like the one made on June 29, 1983 by K.C. Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, who couldn’t swim, yet jumped into the water and drowned trying to save three children he didn’t know.

Love does imply attachment, which on the surface may conflict with Buddhist philosophy. It does align with the thought that any kind of attachment, or longing, will result in human suffering.

We speak of trying to be “Christ-like”, but if God is in Man’s image, he shares his flaws. We think of God, and Jesus, as being perfect, but all contradictory evidence is dismissed as “God’s plan.” “He carried the cross for us…He won’t give you any burden you can’t handle”. So, cancer cells run rampant in a beautiful, innocent child as a test of the kindness, strength, resolve and faith of the parents and everyone around them? If I am to accept the rather limited concept of God as heavenly father, rather than a spirit force that runs through every living thing, is it not possible that God might step back for a moment and recognize his role in this tragic event? “Damn! I really #@%&*^ up. How can I fix this?”

Goodness might lose its reference point without evil, but that does not mean that the universe requires evil. It is not necessarily true either that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Sometimes it leaves you weaker and/or scarred. Who said that universal happiness requires an equal measure of suffering?

I believe that love or goodness/kindness can exist for its own sake, that it doesn’t require the polar opposite, or Karma’s cause and effect, to have value or meaning. You can think of Good and Evil as circles of influence. I read this somewhere, so can’t take credit for the concept. With this, there is the potential, and hope, that Good can eventually overlap, eclipse and eradicate Evil. Picture yourself at the center of all this.

“karma should not be conceived as a simplistic accounting of good vs bad in a soul ledger.”

In Islamic tradition the two kiraman katibin (Arabic: كراماً كاتبين‎ “honourable scribes”), are two angels called Raqib and Atid, believed by Muslims to record a person’s actions. Whether a person is sent to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell/purgatory) is not, however, dependent on whether good deeds outweigh bad deeds; but is ultimately up to God’s mercy upon a believer. I’ve always liked this little scorekeepers image.

“What are the effects over multiple lifetimes?” I agree that this is fatalistic, the old, “Pie in the sky, by and by, when you die,” argument which is usually used to keep the underclass under control. For the most part, that is the role of organized religion: another social structure. Why does Man feel the need to define God? For me, religion is limited and small, but spirituality is boundless.

I’ve described what we do during our time on earth as ripples in a pond. Our time is short, and eventually those ripples calm and we’re gone and forgotten. I do however, believe in angels, and that someone out there loves me and is looking out for me, not because I have any tangible evidence, but because I prefer it to the alternative.

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