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Entry date: 2-4-2024 – Love Was Definitely In Tucson – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

We had a supremely lovely time on the eastern outskirts of Tucson. I have never been out to the Tanque Verde Ranch before, and the spot is pretty darn breathtaking. When we pulled up, I was just blown away by the backdrop. It was just beautiful.

 

Yesterday was one of those days where you are reminded that the universe does indeed love all of us. It folds us in its arms from time to time and just says, “You are worthy of everything.” I felt it and it was good.

 

Brian and Lauren’s wedding was just a joy to watch and be a part of as a crisp breeze blew across a sea of saguaro cacti. The mountains were about as picturesque as you could ask for with snowcapped peak perfectly framed in the nearby distance. We felt for the wedding party as it was just cold enough to make everyone long for a warmer coat, but they all faced it with poise and grace. It made for pretty pictures.

 

Most importantly, we were in the presence of love itself. It seemed like everyone there was happy and ready to support the two of them wholeheartedly. Not a bad vibe existed in the group, seemingly, and if it did, it was well and cleverly hidden.

 

For me, being around my aunts and uncles, parents, my brother, cousins, and some extended family from Oregon was just what I needed. It would have been awesome to have all the cousins there, of course, and Gramma, Grandpa, and Uncle Dave and Aunt Barbara. They were sorely missed.

 

I thought about how much Gramma and my Uncle Dave would have loved the party. Aunt Barbara and Grandpa, too, of course, but Gramma and Uncle Dave loved a good social gathering. I miss them. I felt for my cousin, Deb, as it has to be hard for her in these types of situations to not have her folks there.

It made me feel so thankful for my own luck and lot in life. It was a great joy to see the happiness in everyone’s eyes. Watching my cousin Brian dance with my Aunt Kathy brought happy tears to my eyes. I was glad that everyone was too busy watching them to see me wiping my eyes. It was a beautiful moment. Paul Simon never sounded so good.

 

I was on a bit of a high on the drive home just thinking about how it all unfolded and just enjoying the drive with my wife. Love is a good thing, the best thing, really, and the universe has been good to us. It was hard to go to sleep. It could have been the two cups of Earl Grey and the delicious brownie, but who cares.

 

All the love to the happy couple!

 

***** 

 

Giant Steps by John Coltrane just sucks you in from the opening notes of the title track. “Giant Steps” is a classic song from a classic jazz record and there is a reason for that. It’s amazing.

 

Coltrane was just fucking crazy on the tenor saxophone. Words are like little purveyors of bullshit compared to how his tracks just sing without anyone ruining it by singing a note. It feels like I am trying to torture myself by writing about Giant Steps and maybe I am.

 

I got turned on to this about 30 years ago after taking a class in American Music at ASU. The professor covered a lot of the greats. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for being open minded enough to go out and buy the CDs (eventually I picked this up on 180-gram vinyl at Fry’s Electronics when they had a sweet reissue for sale). I was becoming a true music fan in those days and probably insufferable to my friends as I began regurgitating the lectures.

 

Jazz is not for everyone, but this record certainly can be. Giant Steps is full of feeling. There is hope and despair, excitement, lament, and it isn’t painted in just primary colors. There are muted overtones, hazy gray lines, and marvelously rich palettes the best painters only dream about.

 

“Cousin Mary” takes me to strange places in my brain. Today I feel like I’m watching one of the scenes in The Days of Wine and Roses when Jack Lemmon is really dancing with the devil, but he’s holding Lee Remick’s hand on one side and a dry martini on the other. It’s sunny music with a feeling of dread just inches away. Paul Chambers’ bass is just sublime on “Cousin Mary.” I can get lost in it.

 

Art Taylor’s drums on “Countdown” get things going before Coltrane lays waste to the listener with one of the coolest blasts of tenor saxophone ever recorded. I’ve read a few things over the years that talk about how this record is kind of a roadmap for what saxophone should be and the older I get and the more I listen to jazz, I understand and agree.

 

There is a manic-ness to the whole thing that makes me glad I never got into amphetamines. This record after a few days of not sleeping would probably have driven me to harder and harder drugs.

 

“Spiral” just sort of brings this kind of thinking to the front the ol’ noggin. The quartet playing here is just blowing the doors off of everyone else who made music in 1960. Coltrane, the great Tommy Flanagan on piano, Chambers, and Taylor created a sound that transports you across time and space. I love that this record will be new to people for the next 1000 years, assuming people still exist. Way out there on the time line, some young cat will take a chance on some jazz from the truly olden times and have his/her/their mind blown.

 

That’s just the first side of the record.

 

On a fun side note, one day at Third Space, which was an awesome little place my buddy Neil owned for a while, we were DJ-ing out on patio and I mixed “Giant Steps” into “Necrophiliac” from Slayer’s Hell Awaits record and it fucking worked. I’d like to think I am the first person to do that. Point of pride and all. Wonder what Coltrane would think?

 

I’ve always loved “Syeeda’s Song Flute” which opens the B side. Coltrane wrote this one for his adopted daughter, Syeeda, and it’s a joyous little romp. It does get a little funky when Chambers starts vamping a bit around the 4:15 mark, but man it comes back in swinging in a low key but powerful way with some great interplay between Coltrane and Flanagan.

 

Look at me using jazzy words. I should just stop right now but I can’t help it. This is one of the records that taught me that I really like jazz. Back in 1995 or so, though, I couldn’t make my brain still enough to really take it in. Giant Steps has grown on me and helped me evolve over the years in a way that many records have not done. 

 

“Naima” is named for Coltrane’s wife. From what I’ve read, theirs was a very spiritual relationship and the song itself unfolds like a meditation compared to other tracks on the record. It’s definitely the most inwardly contemplative.

 

As the record wraps up with “Mr. P.C.” I am always feeling a little relieved. It’s an intense record. If it were to go on much longer, it might be too much of a great thing. When I was in my 20s, I couldn’t do back-to-back jazz records unless I was trying to go to sleep. Now, I can just let it play.

 

“Mr. P.C.” is another swinger. It’s bouncy and full of that weird alcoholic-mania that reminds me of Lemmon on a bender. Coltrane left this world a mere seven years after Giant Steps came out. There could have been so much more, but there would have never been another one quite like this one. 

 

I’m so glad that I was brave enough to take a chance on this record when I learned about it. Thank you, past self, for having an open mind and not staying in your heavy, weirdo, punk rock cave.

 

*****

 

Enjoy your Sunday, people.

 

See you tomorrow.



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Justice can't be done, no way.

The lens of my soul.

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