Sunday, March 7, 2010
Song For My Father
The first time I heard the Horace Silver classic I was in a self-imposed time-warp of my own ignorance. I thought Horace had "borrowed" those opening chords from Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."
Either way, I dug both tunes--and when I heard Leon Thomas slowing down Silver's rockin melody and putting it to words, I turned up the radio dial. I had no idea what was coming.
Thomas intoned the lyrics--
If there was ever a man who was generous, gracious, and good... it was my dad, the man A human so true he could live like a king 'cause he knew... the real pleasures in life To be devoted to And always stand by me So I'd be unafraid And free. If there was ever a man who was generous, gracious, and good... it was my dad, the man
A little schmaltzy, but not coming from Leon's deep inflection.
And nothing schmaltzy about what came next--
First jazz yodeling solo I had ever heard.
Not just yodeling--the dude seemed to be channeling the souls of a thousand pigeons.
Nothing in my life--not even growing up in New York City--had prepared me for that sound.
It bothered me. I wanted to turn it off. But I didn't. Something made me listen. Something important in the rawness of that sound, the jagged edges of emotion slashing against the sweet melody and the sentimental message. It said the ties we have with our parents, the legacy of our past that reaches all the way back, it's not always a pretty sound or a coherent sound but it's a sound we need to recognize if we want to know who we are.