Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Listen Or Not To Listen ...

The morning routine never varies: comb hair, shower, brush teeth, kiss husband, pour coffee, read the newspaper, begin sorting the day's demands.

Recently, we experienced a computer melt-down which necessitated a somewhat frantic search for a capable tech whiz. We found Stuart Young working out of his house not more than 2 miles from our home. He diagnosed the situation, walked out with my tower, promising to return as soon as he'd repaired the device. He replaced the hard drive and restored the PC to our eager hands. I mention this because part of my daily routine involves reading various US newspapers as well as The London Times, the Chicago papers, SF and LA papers, Washington Post, most often reading book reviews and sports pages.

There are other web sites equally or often more intriguing, for example: Rich Wilson is a Massachusetts native who is sailing around the globe solo. His daily reports of this spectacular voyage are so totally fascinating to me that I wrote him a little note (lots of school children are monitoring his progress and express their curiosity via email). I asked (naturally) if he had time to listen to music and if so, what? Opera? Bach? Mozart? Gilbert & Sullivan? Selected Debussy? Rodgers and Hart? Coltrane? He responded to the child he assumed me to be, saying he did have some classical music on board, adding (rather vehemently, I thought) that he "never" listens to jazz. I wish the man good luck but I think a little Ben Webster drifting over a calm sea would be heavenly.

While spending my usual hour or so surfing, I never listen to music. It's impossible, and I believe my reason is sound, literally. Let me preface my defense with this brief true story: A brilliant jazz scholar I know named Gary Shivers hosted a Saturday morning jazz program on the NPR affiliate WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, NC, c. late 1970's. When we met, I was living in neighboring Raleigh, and our paths crossed almost at the moment he assumed his position as station General Manager. His weekly show (which preceded live Metropolitan Opera broadcasts), quickly became the most popular program of its kind, and more importantly, provided starving jazz fans with a format not readily available in an area saturated with Country/Western music. Thousands boasted that they were Gary's most loyal listeners, keenly interested to hear his informed commentary which preceded each recorded performance.

I once asked him why he never played Bill Evans. He said: "On Saturday mornings the mere idea that a washing machine or vacuum cleaner might be in use prevents me from featuring Bill Evans. He deserves to be heard without distraction." Indeed, there were numerous other musicians of introspective persuasion who never got any air time either.

But I think Gary was right. This is my own dilemma: I could not sit here reading a book review or writing this Blog while any of the music I love hovered around and in my space. I would have to cease my labors to marvel at Carmen McRae's incisive phrasing or that astoundingly brilliant Tommy Flanagan improvisational passage. Mine are the ears Gary always hoped to reach on Saturday morning. Which brings me back to my hard drive woes.

After Mr. Young returned this household to full on-line capability, I hastened to make certain my music library was equally in tact. Yes: all the Basie, Charlap, Ella, Mozart, Ellington, Peterson, Webster, Lester and McRae just quietly awaiting my "Play" directive. But I can no longer write. It's time for some tracks from "The Peacocks" featuring Stan Getz and Jimmy Rowles. Seas are calm, winds are favorable, my jib is secure and today's Blog is complete. Ahoy, Mates!


Bill Crow said...

Hi, Carol... I finally got around to hearing Rowles singing "Chambermaid.." What a sweet treat! I sure miss his adoration of the American song. Gigs with him were treasures.

Phil said...

One of the most enjoyable evenings I ever spent was listening to Carol Sloane live in Chapel Hill in the 80s when I was teaching at Carolina Friends School. This was after hearing her on WUNC and just when I was getting interested in jazz. I'd always been a fan of the "immortals": Ella, Sarah, Carmen and such, but having a voice that could compete with them right in Chapel Hill - what a luxury. Thank you Gary Shivers and thank you, Carol. I miss your voice!

Phil Fitzpatrick
Duluth, MN

Sloane said...

Hi Phil ... and thanks for taking the time to write. You'll be interested to know that Gary Shivers is alive and well (but not broadcasting, more's the pity) in Kansas City. I do occasionally hear from folks in the Triangle area who also remember his Saturday morning programs with great fondness.

Happy Holidays!