VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Reflections”
This one is for the “old” in all of us, the part of us that looks back down the roads we’ve traveled, fingers the experiences that continue to exist in our consciousness, caresses the still tender emotions housed in the specialness of our hearts. This is for when we have a moment of solitude and can savor what we’ve enjoyed and ruefully reflect on what we regret.
This is reflections.
Was it someone who loved you tenderly whom you treated terribly—in retrospect you realize that you were terrible, at the time you just were having fun and going on about your business not thinking about, nor wanting to take a moment to examine, whose feelings were the sidewalks you stepped on, walking pass their welcome, maybe even picking a flower from their garden (which flower you gifted to someone else)? Or was it the confusion engendered by an unexpected kiss you surprised on someone who just happened to be near your lips and you had no intentions of breathing love into that kiss, you just were horny at the time and they were available to assuage your desire, and they would end up vainly waiting for your follow-up? Or, perhaps, the worse of all, it was the mistake you made in getting close to someone whom you discovered you could only love from a distance, and so how did you extricate from an embrace that you initiated—I know, I know, you just left and said nothing and the other person withered, hurt, damaged by what was perceived as your insane fickleness, when really it was the confusion of what to do with someone you pursued and once you caught them found you didn’t really want to be with them?
Most of our looking back is at best bittersweet. Honey does not last long. All old food always tastes bitter.
Chances are if you are looking back it’s because the object of your gaze is no longer part of your intimate life. Monk knew this when he arranged these notes. Monk knew that reflections are moments of missing; if we are happy we don’t reflect, we enjoy.
Recollecting. Remembering. Recounting. Repairing—or at least trying to repair—emotional damage. Registering all the stuff we miss because it’s gone from our lives. Doesn’t have to be an old love. Could be our youth. Could be a moment splashing in some warm water, hanging out with a gang that is no longer together—a gang? Really good friends, people with whom we came of age, people we pledged to cherish forever. Forever. Now some of them live thousands of miles away, most you have not heard from in months—make that years, it’s been two years and some months since you’ve last talked and that time was when you were in airport passing through town and had idle time between flights and called partly out of boredom. Forever. Is that what forever looks like? A divorce—divorce, ha, you never even got married. The dog that ran away. The cat you couldn’t carry to your overseas job and Mr. Reggae black-tipped tail wasn’t there when you got back. What does any of this have to do with how you cried at your mother’s funeral and even then refused to talk to or even recognize your father who had nerve to show up at the burial when he had never come to anything else before. The taste of curried crab in Tobago and that wonderful barbequed fish you had in Tanzania. Something about playing tag in the dusk or climbing the China-ball tree in your grandparent’s yard, not to mention bumblebees and the wondrous scent of pink roses from your grandmother’s garden—the blossoms were bigger than your fist and the petals were so soft, so velvety soft to the gentle poke of your fingertip. Something about sucking on cherry cough-drops and thanksgiving gumbo with those huge oysters and the thick and heavy potato pone. And the time you invited your current lover to a family holiday meal and everybody—you, them, the family, everybody—had a real good time.
The music will make you think about that. All of that. More of that. Everything and more than everything. The music will make you think about things you’ve forgotten; no, not really forgotten, just things you don’t usually recall because there is nothing currently in your life to bring those things back to life, except when music like this hits. And you pause. Slow down, sit or stand motionless, close your eyes or look far, far out a window, find that there is something in your eye that you wipe away with the back of your hand, except that something resisting the rubbing and in some insistent way keeps irritating your forgetfulness. Maybe you take a deep breath, or blow your nose, or wave your hand like trying to dismiss something except at this precise moment that something, whatever it is, whoever it was, will not be dismissed. At that moment Monk’s music has blindsided you, caught you unawares and before you know it your eyes are blurry, you hear nothing around you, hear everything inside you, at that moment you are reflecting.
Thinking about your life.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Reflections Mixtape Playlist
01 Adrian Iaies - Round Midnight Y Otros Tangos
A very beautiful pianist/composer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, born November 4, 1960. He is one of the most successful and innovative at combining jazz and tango along with other influences both native to and foreign to Argentina. His playing is both muscular and sensitive, much like Monk.
The band is:
Adrián Iaies: piano
Horacio Fumero: bass
Pablo Mainetti: bandoneón
Fernando Martínez: batería
02 Dianne Reeves - A Little Moonlight
I don’t know how many times I have spotlighted the touching work of Dianne Reeves who sings with the most vulnerable expressiveness of any vocalist on the contemporary scene. You can tell she has tasted hurt and failure but the cream of her voice has not been soured by any of her experiences. Actually, she seems enriched by the ups and downs. I hear no pessimism nor cynicism in her wisdom, nor for that matter is there naiveté or ignorance. Dianne Reeves is more than a survivor, she is a celebrant waving the flag of life in all its scarred beauty.
03 Thelonious Monk - The Complete Prestige Recordings
Here is where I seriously entered modern jazz. Monk. The percussiveness of Monk’s piano always reminded me of drumming. And dancing. His quirky rhythms always make me laugh. At times he seems almost drunk as he bobs and weaves, lurches this way, swings back another. Monk’s movement is fantastic regardless of tempo.
04 Archie Shepp - Splashes
Archie Shepp is the grand-pere of post-Coltrane tenor saxophone who has, in recent years, chosen to extend the legacy of Ben Webster. You didn’t usually hear the now obvious source of Shepp’s brutal beauty. It sort of sounds like a heavyweight champion tenderly bathing a new born baby—calloused fingers washing fresh flesh except this baby is old memories reborn in a song. That’s Horace Parlan on piano, aiding and abetting.
05 Carmen McRae - Carmen Sings Monk
This is from Carmen McRae’s album of Monk interpretations. Other singers may do a song or two, Carmen raised the bar so high I don’t believe anybody else has even tried to reach those heights. We wrote about and featured Carmen before and undoubtedly we will do so again in the future. She is absolutely majestic in interpreting Monk—if you are in to Monk or jazz vocals and don’t own this, you’ve yet to be fully “in”!
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