music fan is a musician trying to escape
Every music fan in the world has stood in the privacy of his bathroom or bedroom and
played his instrument of choice. Usually the performance is of the "air"
variety, i.e., without a guitar or saxophone or bass or drums; the closet musician simply
pretends he has an axe and goes to it while the sound track of his favorite song plays and
he stands before a mirror with an imaginary microphone, smokin' for a non-existent
I always thought I invented the form, beginning with Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" and
working my way slowly but solidly though the repertoire of 1960s rock 'n' roll until I hit
the speed bump known as disco, which, in turn, turned me to jazz.
I came by my love of music in the most natural way. My mother reads music and my father is
half Welsh, half Irish, a scion of two of the most musical peoples in the world. The
problem was that Mom had abandoned her piano lessons long before I was born and Dad, for
all his love of music, hadn't an atom of musical talent in his body. He was an
appreciator, not an interpreter. I can't imagine either of my parents in their underwear
before a mirror lip-synching to the Mills Brothers.
When I'd finally reached the maturity of musical taste that enabled me to mine the gems of
jazz, I'd spent many years standing in church next to father and listening to his "in
the crack" renditions of hymns.
The result: I am not bothered by dissonance, and the tonal explorations of, say,
Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis cause me not a moment's discomfort.
The dividend: An open-ended musical sensibility that tolerates just about anything, unless
it is unabashedly derivative.
No one loved music more than my father. He simply couldn't duplicate it. The same is true
for many jazz fans I know. We are all a bunch of frustrated artists who try to hone our
talents to the point where we can at least duplicate a music that thrills us all.
Dad knew that but wouldn't admit it, beyond good-naturedly recognizing his tone-deafness
as an amusing chapter in the family lore.
Those of us who think of ourselves as musicians of any stripe and who make the occasional
trip to the local club for some live music have noticed that the musicians in the audience
usually are the most forgiving when something goes wrong on the bandstand.
And their hearts, like my father's was, are always in the right place. Because the draw is
the music, not the band. What keeps the music alive is something indefinable that
comprises it, not always the messengers who carry it along.
That's a bigger job than an amateur can imagine, though we amateurs to manage to keep the
volume up on the sound track of our lives.