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Entry date: 4-5-2024 – Freaky Friday – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I can’t believe this week is almost over. It has flown by. It’s been a busy one, I suppose, but I feel like I got here without blinking. Freaky.

 

As a kid, I loved the original version of Freaky Friday. I had such a crush on both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris. For a seven-year-old, or whatever I was when I first saw it, the concept was just so wild. Imagine switching places with your parents. What a thrilling and frightening thought.

I know the remade it a few times, but I don’t think I watched any of the remakes all the way through. I wonder if any of my students have seen these movies. It might make for a fun writing assignment.

 

***** 

Speaking of the students, up to this point, it has been a relatively quiet week for the Cocaine Baby. He’s sort of slipped back into some old behaviors, but I can tolerate a lot of it much more easily since he’s turned it down from 11 to about 4. His classmates have also started to give him a bit more of a chance, too. He might even have a few friendships brewing.

 

I have another charming fellow who I am trying to get to stop raising his hand for everything. He wants to be heard so badly. I think something is going on at home where Dad is not in the picture. He never mentions dad at all.

 

He will do this thing where if I ask a question, he’ll raise his hand even if he has no idea what I’m talking about so we’re working on only raising our hand when he has a question or knows the answer to what I’m asking. Baby steps.

 

*****

(The Bet)

 

As Friday pulled onto Colony Road and slowed down as Jonny James, the venerable security guard, waved her through.

 

She yelled, “Hi, Jonny” as she slowly rolled past him, and he smiled and sent a wink in her direction. She had known him her whole life and always felt a little safer that he was watching out for her and her family.

 

Friday drove her car onto the beach house’s long driveway and parked in her usual spot. It had been a month or so since she’d been out here, so it felt good to be at what had been her second home for as long as she could remember. It wasn’t too long ago that she had spent months at a time living in this house.

 

One could use the word “house” if you wanted, but it was really a beachfront mansion. Freddy Adams had bought it with proceeds from the first film he produced in 1962, He had cleared almost two million dollars from Hunter’s Paradise and had purchased three lots for $250,000 each then leveled the existing homes and built one much larger house, a tennis court, a pool, and a small recording studio.

 

Friday had loved wandering around the property as a child. She would bring friends from school on long weekends and endless games of hide and seek or Marco Polo would be played. In high school, she and her friends loved any opportunity to have the house unsupervised when Freddy and Janet were busy working. Always a pretty responsible kid, Friday’s parents had trusted her from an early age and she rarely let them down.

 

As she walked into the large great room that opened up about ten feet into the house, she took in the great view of the Pacific huge, west facing wall of windows afforded. It had always fascinated Friday to watch the window washers when they came on Thursdays. They were a Sikh couple, and they did an amazing job, but it was kind of scary watching them climb so high on their homemade ladder.

 

Friday wondered where her parents were. On a day like today, they could really be anywhere on the beach. They had friends, seemingly, on all sides and with the weather so nice, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find them laughing and talking on just about any balcony within walking distance.

 

She walked past her mom’s piano, tinkled a few keys, and headed to her room.

 

There were seven “master” suites in the house, each with their own bathroom, balcony, and sitting area. Friday’s suite had probably slept 15 or 20 at a time pretty often when she was a bit younger, and had a couple of fold out couches, lots of comfy cushions, and a giant California king sized bed. Friday often found herself drawn to this bed.

 

Today, she thought of sharing it with Aidan one day soon. Maybe this weekend as neither of them would be shooting any scenes after about 2 on Friday. She laid down and thought about it some more.

 

 

 

*****

 

During the early days of Hillbilly Devilspeak, I started learning about time signatures. We were jamming some riff or another and Terry, our original guitar player, (AKA The Great Ciarlino), said, “That’s in 5/4 time.” My world changed instantly.

 

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

 

“It’s in 5/4,” he replied.

 

“What’s that?” I asked again.

 

Terry proceeded to explain that there were time signatures other than the standard 4/4 beat to me, and I saw music in a whole new way. I had never really understood what people had meant when they were talking about ‘time signatures’ so I just played along, probably, and agreed with whatever they were saying if those conversations happened at all.

 

After learning a little, though, and realizing that some of the bass lines I was making up were in ‘odd’ time signatures, I wanted to make everything weird and disjointed. Terry explained that we really shouldn’t abuse it, but some of that early Hillbilly stuff was pretty wacky.

 

In a music class at ASU, I heard about how one of the most popular jazz singles of all-time, “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet was also in 5/4 time. Then I learned that the whole record, 1959’s Time Out, was also in odd time signatures. I had to go out and buy it.

 

Now, “Take Five” is an incredibly famous and instantly recognizable song. Paul Desmond, who wrote the song, came up with the jazz earworm of all earworms played on an alto sax and the quartet sold something like a million copies of the single in just a couple years. It may have been the first jazz single to do that.

 

I certainly get nostalgic when I hear it. This record reminds me of a very specific time in my life. I was 25 or 26 years old and living alone in an apartment on 36th Street, just south of Thomas. Ryan was becoming a part of my life, as was his mom, and things were in a pretty huge state of transition for me.

 

When I listen to “Take Five” or Time Out in its entirety, I can envision pulling into my parking space at that apartment and walking to little one bedroom place. I lived there for two years and lots of life took place there. Lots and lots of change.

 

I think it is fitting that Time Out feels like a soundtrack for change.  The whole album is kind of in a constant state of change, really. The beautiful “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” for example, is in a really weird time signature that, according to the liner notes, kind of does a 2+2+2+3 kind of thing. Brubeck’s piano feels like it is chasing itself, then Desmond starts chasing Brubeck on his alto sax, and the bass and drums kind of hold it all together.

 

Speaking of the liner notes, if you ever get a chance to read them, they do a way better job than I can do of explaining all the different time signatures at play on the record in a pretty entertaining way. One thing you can say about jazz people is they have a wicked sense of humor sometimes. Maybe they’re just wicked smart.

 

Either way, I love “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Eugene Wright plays this perfect walking bass line under Desmond’s great sax work that starts around the 2:45 mark that I dig. I’m slipping into the whole ‘hepcat’ lingo. Wild.

 

“Strange Meadow Lark” is just pretty. Brubeck’s wistful piano intro makes me think of the scene in Woody Allen’s film, Hannah and Her Sisters where the father is sitting at the piano, but he’s just playing something similar. I love that film and “Strange Meadow Lark” kind of fits that feel. IT also makes me think of the ‘dinner jazz’ we used to listen to in Berkeley in 1991 on NPR.

 

“Take Five” finishes out the first side and what can I say about it that I haven’t already said. Even a good handful of my fourth-grade students say, “I know that song” if it comes on in one of the jazz mixes I’ve made for them.

 

Side two starts off with “Three to Get Ready” and the influence of this record is just easy to hear. If you listen to Vince Guaraldi’s stuff, it’s not dissimilar to Brubeck. Both Brubeck and Desmond were fucking great at coming up with a playful riff. “Three to Get Ready” is pretty damn playful. I love listening to Brubeck’s left hand subtly play in tandem with Wright’s bass when he takes over for what I guess would be the bridge of the song.

 

It's a shame I haven’t mentioned drummer Joe Morello. The guy was not flashy at all, but he kept the whole thing moving and feeling good. He and Wright were a fantastic combo. How would it have been to see them play live.

 

“Kathy’s Waltz” is a really nice way to spend almost five minutes. You can really hear Brubeck manipulate the time signature with his piano in this one. The Beatles ripped it off a little, too, in “All My Loving.” If you don’t believe me, listen from 1:00 minute to 1:10.

 

“Everybody’s Jumpin’” was a song that I used to really like to listen to when I was trying to wind down at the end of a day. Being new to the whole fatherhood thing, sometimes when I would get home from taking Ryan back home, I really needed to take things down a notch. This track helped a lot. I can fully appreciate the total less is more approach that Wright does with the bass here and lo and behold, Morello gets a little solo, too.

 

The last song on the original version, which is what I have on CD and vinyl, is “Pick Up Sticks.” For me this one is kind of the most ‘traditional’ jazz bass on the record, but it may feel that way because of the way the bass is a little further out there in the forefront of the mix. I like it. I’ve become a lot fonder of this song over the years as my appreciation for a wider range of jazz has grown.

 

This is one of those records that I think even a person who claims to ‘hate’ jazz could grow to love. It’s certainly a ‘must listen’ kind of record, at least once in your life. What better time than now? Count the steps in the bass walk.

 

1-2-3-4-5-6.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Malibu, California



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