MUSIC AND WORLD EVENTS
I am writing this barely one month after the momentous and tragic events of 9/11/01, and all that has transpired since. I, like the rest of the world, am grappling with the new reality, and am searching for direction and motivation. I find strength in music.
Two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center I went to New York City to play with Rob McConnell's Tentet. Even though I grew up just across the river, New York remains an exotic locale. For a jazz musician, arriving in New York is like a child entering Disney World; it takes your breath away. New York is the ultimate city, the center of the jazz universe. The legacy of all the great New York jazz musicians, past and present, seems to resonate from the building-lined corridors. Riding in a cab through the city streets, every block begs exploration. Throughout the city, there is a palpable feeling of resolute sadness. It is a city broken, but not beaten. At the gig, there is nothing but laughter and high-spirited music. In a scene awash with great music, the crowd was warm and welcoming and seemed genuinely glad that we had come to play. It is always an honor and a privilege to play in New York. I returned home burdened with the reality of what has happened to that great city, yet uplifted by the spirit of its residents, and happy for the opportunity to share a few moments of jazz with them.
This week I played with Aretha Franklin. As always, she killed, singing soul, jazz, even opera with that incredible voice. When the band closed with the Canadian and American national anthems, the mostly-American crowd cheered with appreciation. This was a moment not just of national unity for two close neighbor-nations, but a connection of reasoned, decent people everywhere. We are all together in this. When Aretha sings, she speaks to everyone. Music unites.
As an aside, I am proud of the way the Canadian band faked The Star Spangled Banner, with the right harmony and everything! As a born-and-raised American (now proudly a dual-citizen), I wouldn't have wanted to fake O Canada before becoming a resident of the Great White North. In fact, I did get caught in this very situation over twenty years ago, shortly after arriving in Canada. One of my first gigs was at a retirement home on Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day, in the US). A local politician said a few words and then suggested we all sing O Canada. It was the first time I'd ever considered the Canadian national anthem. The aging audience had a great deal of difficulty just holding up their heads, let alone singing, and what followed was a tone-deaf politician croaking out the anthem with me about one note behind, trying to figure out the melody. The only blessing was that most of the residents appeared to be quite hard-of-hearing. I went home feeling a bit sheepish and learned my new national anthem. (Thank goodness he didn't ask me to play Last Post. I still need the music for that one. Taps is so much simpler!)
In regards to my own playing these days, I haven't had a good day since September 11. Despite rigorous daily practice sessions, it just doesn't feel right. Yes, I can get through my gigs, but it seems such a struggle. I guess it is an outward reflection of how I feel inside-flat, uninspired and depressed. I've realized that I've been sucked into what has been described as 'disaster addiction'. "Welcome to the world of all-bad-news, all-the-time! Stay tuned for information on the latest disaster, coming to a location near you!"
My normal daily routine is to exercise for an hour in the morning before practicing my trumpet. Usually I watch a half-hour of TV news, and then listen to a CD to get in the mindset to practice. It finally dawned on me that for the last month, I've only watched the TV, unable to tear myself away from the constant onslaught of bad news. This did not put me in a good mood to practice. Today I turned off the TV and listened to the Russian trumpet virtuoso Timofei Dokshitser while I worked out. The combination of a little physical exercise and an infusion of music delivered directly from the soul of a great artist elevated my mood considerably. My picture tube will be getting a rest in the days to follow. I've realized I need more music. We all could use a little more music.