Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saturday Improvisation: Boom Boxes, Bob Marley, Brubeck

I wish boom boxes hadn't fallen out of fashion. Sure, iPods are far more convenient and efficient for hauling music around, but they don't make the personal statement that pimping an oversized cassette-playing cannon on your shoulder does.

My boom box from ages 14 to 16-ish was nothing to look at. It had scraps of skateboard griptape plastered all over it and silver anarchy symbols drawn on it. It was almost always to be found on my 13' Boston Whaler. And it generally only had one cassette, dubbed from two vinyl records: on one side was Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Exodus," and on the other was Oingo Boingo "Dead Man's Party." Exodus was the first Marley album I had; the first reggae album I had and I listened to it constantly.

Yesterday morning I ran listening to Marley's live album, "Babylon By Bus," which I have long called a desert island album for me. Feel good vibes fit for any occasion. I have a couple different philosophies about running music: 1) hard, heavy stuff to push you through the lows and the pain when it comes, 2) music to get lost in, space out to, during the really long runs where you have to go slow to survive, 3) Feel good music to help you transcend time and pain. Babylon By Bus fits into the last category.

The song "Exodus" came on and I was transported from my back roads run to the Whaler, sand and water spraying my face, and hearing Marley almost 30 years before and getting much the same out of his voice and music today.

I intentionally left Saturday as unplanned as I could. So that I could be open to anything that came up. Carpe the Labor Day weekend diem. Improvise. Impromptu is sometimes how the coolest stuff happens. Like jazz. And as the gods of improvisation would have it, jazz is what presented itself. A friend had an extra ticket to a Dave Brubeck tribute quartet at the Avalon Theatre. If you haven't listened to Brubeck's iconic album, "Time Out" give yourself a time out and do it. You already know the song "Take Five," whether you know you do or not.

I have been a big jazz fan for a while. Generally all older time-tested stuff like Miles Davis, Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, Art Blakey. For some reason I have not heard jazz performed at the Avalon. So an unplanned Saturday turned into a few afternoon Dale's Pale Ale drafts and live jazz played to a packed theater at two o'clock in the afternoon, led by Bobby Militello, who was Brubeck's alto saxophone player for 30 years, and getting to catch up with the band over a beer or two after the show.

Sometimes impromptu improvisational Saturdays have a way of pulling it together. Almost like jazz.

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