Saturday, June 5, 2010

17 Days Until NMA Reunion

I couldn't get to sleep last night, even though it was well after midnight, so I went downstairs. To my surprise, I found Dracrevocsid, the Lady of Lake Taneycomo, sitting on my couch. She didn't seem to notice me at first, staring off in the distance, deep in thought. I noticed that she had already drank half a cup of coffee, so I thought it safe to venture a, "You sure are up early." "Yes," she said, "and so are you. Couldn't sleep, eh? No wonder. The music in your head was very loud."

"You could hear that?" I asked, "You mean you can read my mind?" "No, not as such." she said, "Not every thought. Normally, I hear only a muffled babble coming from your head. However, when you think loud thoughts or listen to music in your head, I can hear it quite clearly." "Yes," I said, "There was a tune stuck in my head." "I know." she said, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I believe. And I must say that it was a nice arrangement for solo guitar." "Thanks," I said.

I hear music in my head a lot these days and, although it sometimes keeps me awake at night, I must admit that it is good to hear it again. And if I awake in the morning with the muscles in my left hand tight from the day's practicing, I don't really mind. In fact, I welcome it. It's been many years since music kept me awake.

"Come," she said, "Sit beside me. We should talk." I was surprised at her uncharacteristic kindness. I had become used to her shouting "Hark!", "Lo'!", and barking out orders to me, but I sat next to her on the couch and waited to see what she had to say. "I was thinking about something you said, or rather something you didn't actually say, the other morning when we talked," she said. "We were talking about obituaries and such, and I sensed some worry on your part that you might die before you have said, in music, all you needed to say. I've come this morning to assure you that there is music in heaven. In fact, lots of music. So much music that it would take an eternity to master it all. Fortunately, for you, you will have an eternity in which to do so."

That was comforting. I thought about Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, and Barney Kessel. Sadly, they, along with many other jazz giants have passed on, and I mentioned this to Dracrevocsid. "Oh, yes," she said, "They are all there." She seemed to listen for a moment and said, "In fact, they are playing as we speak. Herb, Barney, Joe, Charlie Byrd, Tal Farlow... You talk about the 'Great Guitars'... They've got a new name now. They are now known as the 'Heavenly Guitars'."

"So you've really been to heaven?" I asked. "Yes..." she said, "Well... not 'officially', of course. A couple Angel friends of mine sneaked me in under their wings through the stage door so I could listen for a while. Good thing, too. The union doesn't look kindly on Ladies of any Lake who break the rules."

"I never thought there would be jazz in Heaven. Please tell me about it. I heard that there was a lot of music in Heaven, but I guess I always thought it was just choirs of Angels and such." "Oh, yes," she said, "There are the Choirs, of course, and darned good ones, as you can imagine. But there is also other music, including jazz. You should hear the Big Band. It's really, really big! Freddie Green is playing rhythm guitar right now, and I've never seen him happier. There are literally thousands of combos in as many jazz clubs. Everyone plays better than his or her mortal best and your chops never get tired no matter how long you play. This is good because, with the multitude of sax players, tunes can last quite a long time. It's not uncommon for Donna Lee to last a couple of years."

"Sounds wonderful," I said, "Thanks. I think I feel much better. But if that is what Heaven is like, what is Hell like?" "Well..." she answered, "That's another story and I certainly wouldn't recommend it. Hell, for musicians, is an endless circuit of Holiday Inn lounges where you are forced to wear candy-ass violet tuxedos and play, for all eternity, tunes like 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon', 'Elvira' and, I shudder to think, 'Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog'!" She shuddered as if to add emphasis. "You are Roman Catholic, are you not?" she asked. "Yes," I said. And she said with a wry grin, "Would you be interested in knowing what Musicians Purgatory is like?" "Uh... Yeah... I guess..." I said with some trepidation. "Well," she explained, "It is, in some ways, the worst! Purgatory for musicians is (depending on how many venial sins you didn't confess before death) an open-ended ride in a van, bus, or C-130 aircraft to the next gig. Let me tell you, it gets pretty boring driving past or flying over endless corn fields to your next gig at God-Only-Knows-Where. You can only play so many years of 'Twenty Questions' or 'Slug Bug' before you start to lose it and start making up silly games like the 'Cigarette Lighter Game'!" I interjected, "I kind of remember that one! How does it go, again?" "It matters not," said Dracrevocsid, "It's stupid! As far as I can tell, the only purpose of the game is to piss off the band leader. Ask Frank Mullen how it goes. He's the one who invented that infernal game!"

"You realize, don't you," she said, "that if Jazz is going to live much longer on this plane of existence, it will be people like you, Steve Abshire, Bob Roetker, [see links in sidebar] and others who will carry on that tradition --- along with your students". I pointed out that I don't have any students. "No matter," she said, "When the time is right I shall send you an apprentice --- a squire, and you shall teach your squire all you know. In this way, your music shall live on even after you have passed on."

I thought about it for a minute and said, "I'm a victim of circumstance, but I'll do it!" She gazed upon me with an expression of approval, and I said, "I must say that I've enjoyed our little talk this morning. I feel as though I've seen a new side of you. You've treated me with kindness and sensitivity, and I want to thank you." "You are welcome, but don't get used to it!" she snapped, "Now get off your keister and go practice!" Dracrevocsid, the Lady of Lake Taneycomo, pulled out her wand and, with a pop, vanished into thin air. I picked up Axecalibur and began to practice.

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