Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When I was 18 I set out for lands unknown in my 1969 red Volkswagen Beetle. The odometer didn't work and the gas tank had a leak. So, I had to stop frequently to pump gas.

First stop: Carbondale, where my sister was an art student at SIU. She was taking summer classes, so I was left to myself most of the day. A friend of hers had left his record collection for safe keeping at her apartment. I delved in and found the provocative cover of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." I played it and was swept away by emotion and desire. Desire that I could create something so wonderful.

I drove my bug on down the road to Lexington, KY, where my other sister lived. She was minutes away from used bookshops, which I took advantage of.

I rode home to Auburn, IL in the leaking VW. I longed, in the middle of cornfields, for the more Bohemian life of Carbondale and Lexington.

I wanted more jazz. Our local public radio station played it of an evening, but my mom complained when "they keep repeating that same note over and over."

We would usually be playing Scrabble when this happened. And I would say "I love it."

And then, "Oh, if I only had an "e."

Years later, I would drive to Chicago to visit my sister and her boys. Chicago airwaves are filled with hair band rock crap but also a jazz station that plays nothing but top notch stuff - some of it wildly discordant but wonderful.

Now we have XM Radio with 70 Real Jazz. Mostly they play awesome stuff. Lots of Coltrane and a great show on Saturdays by W. Marsalis.

Once in a while, though, I hear something indulgent or uninspiring. But, thankful that I have good jazz all day long, I abide.

Most of the time I moved by the jazz spirit that I first encountered long ago.

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