Tuesday, September 14, 2010

JIGSAW RECORDING

Cory the barber stood on my front porch. He held a sky blue envelope and a copy of saxophonist Kirk Whalum's new album "Everything is Everything the Music of Donny Hathaway" in his right hand. Before he stepped inside my house, he passed me the envelope. Then he gave me the black man’s handshake. The handshake is too complicated to describe. At the Detroit International Jazz Festival, I hung out with Cory and Inez. I invited them over to watch the men’s finals of the U.S. Open. Novak Djokovic challenged top ranked Rafael Nadal. Rafael chased his first grand slam. He was the favorite. Cory and Inez love tennis, and I developed a fondness for the sport when I finally learn how officials score the individual games, what deuce, love, break point, and match point meant. I called in a few favors and scored Cory and Inez a backstage pass to the jazz fest.

September 4, Inez turned 11-year-old. She met and took photos with a number of her favorite jazz musicians Tia Fuller, Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Turre, and Roy Haynes. Haynes liked Inez immediately because she had listened to all his classic albums, and she knew all the sidemen who played on the recordings. When Inez is excited, she talks rapidly. The drummer likened her speech to how fast Bird and Dizzy sped through the changes to be bop staples such as “CoCo” and “Cherokee”. Haynes nicknamed Inez Be Bop. Her dad felt that was a suitable pet name.
“Where is Be bop,” I asked. I closed the front door after Cory entered.
“She's at some family get-together with her mother. She wanted to come, but her mom laid a guilt trip on her, so she decided to hangout with her mom.”

I led Cory the barber to my family room. Whalum’s album played. The saxophonist performed with Hathaway’s daughter Lalah, at the Detroit jazz fest. We missed the performance. I bought the album, and planned to listen to it with Cory and Inez before the tennis match started. Cory had a copy of it. He did not know I purchased it. When Cory flopped down on my brown sectional sofa in the family room, track 5 “A Song For You” played. I opened the envelope Inez asked her dad to give me. Inside it was a thank you card and several photos Cory took of Be Bop backstage. The card read:

“Uncle Chuck, thanks for letting me and my dad hang out with you at the jazz fest last weekend. I had an amazing time. I never thought I would ever get a chance to meet my favorite jazz musicians. Tia Fuller was really nice, and Branford Marsalis was really funny and smart. Roy Haynes was the coolest. Do you like the nickname he gave me, Be Bop? When I grow up, I’m going to have that name on my business cards. Inez “Be Bop” Little. Uncle Chuck hanging out with you and dad listening to live jazz was the best birthday present I’ve ever receive. Thank you so much!
Never stop swinging,
Be Bop

I felt good after I read Be Bop’s thank you card. I never told Cory that I secretly wished Inez were my daughter. I placed it on the coffee table next to a photo of my oldest nephew Jalen in his football uniform clutching a football, and a photo of me hugging my wife on our wedding day.
“It safe to say Inez really enjoyed the jazz fest,” I said. I set on the opposite end of the sectional.
“That's all she’s been talking about,” Cory said.
“It’s amazing how much she loves music ”.
“Her mom was the same way. That’s why I fell in love with her. But our mutual love for music wasn’t enough to keep us together. Inez was the one thing we did right.”
“She’s something special. Has Be Bop listened to Whalums album”?
“My daughter is a jazz purist--maybe the youngest jazz purist on earth. She hates smooth jazz.
“I don’t like this album.”
“I think it’s pretty good.”
“The album is all over the place. It sounds as though Kirk couldn’t decide what kind of album he wanted to make. He supposedly was honoring Donny Hathaway, but it doesn’t feel or sound like a tribute about at all,” I said.
“Kirk is a great saxophone player. He sounds a lot like Grover Washington Jr. during his heyday,” Cory said.
“His saxophone skills are solid. I will give him that much, but this album is like a jigsaw puzzle.”
“I like the collaborations on the album with Musiq Soulchild on ‘We’re Still Friends’ and ‘You Had To Know” with Lalah Hathaway. I think those collaborations added to the overall appeal of the album.”
“I like the collaboration with Lalah. I will admit that, but the album was too heavy with cameos, and I thought Kirk’s playing got lost. The album needed some heavy editing.”
“I thought the album showed his versatility. You know, Kirk is one of those cats who like to mix things up. He can play R&B, Gospel, and straight up instrumental music.”
I asked my guest if he wanted something to drink or eat. He declined. I excused myself to grab a bottle of water. When I returned Cory had changed his mind, and asked for either a soda or a glass of juice.
“Including all those genre on one album is tricky. Most musicians who try to mix things up are unsuccessful,” I said.
“Was there anything you liked about the album,” Cory asked.
“On ’Trying Times’, Kirk was really blowing his ass off on that one. Overall, the album was overwrought. I couldn’t get into any one groove because Kirk kept changing gears. At times, the album made me dizzy.”
“You’re being dramatic,” Cory said.
“Honestly, ‘Everything is Everything’ could’ve been a good album if Kirk had held back some. The album just had too much going on. ”
The album ended with the titled cut “Everything is Everything”, which was the weakest song on the album. I peeked at my wristwatch. It was 3:45pm. NBC broadcast of the tennis match began at 4:00pm. I clicked on the television. Nadal and Djokovic trotted on the court.

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