To the Point

There comes a time in every epoch when pragmatism simply evolves into extreme acquiescence and surrender to the forces of apathy and do-nothingness, a guarantor of the status quo in all of its easy, democratic criminality--its fortress of greed. You could line up all the pols in the U.S. in a straight row and examine them head to toe and not find a single man or woman capable of admitting, never mind ending, the corruption of their vocation--Buddy Dooley

Monday, September 30, 2013

Excerpt/Lee Santa

A Journey Into Jazz
Recollections of a Jazz Fan, With Photos
Anecdotes and Photos of a Jazz Fan


I’m not a musician. I’m not a music critic.  I am simply a fan of jazz who is also a photographer.  Though I didn't know what it was called at the time, my earliest recollection of jazz occurred while growing up in 1950's Indiana.  My father had a couple of LP albums I liked listening to; one was by Stan Kenton and the other was the sound track from the film "The Glenn Miller Story," which had James Stewart and June Allison on the cover.

My interest in jazz and music didn't really begin until after we moved to Sacramento, California.  Our home had a basement where my father set up a work bench.  We fooled around with electronics; dad repaired our TV and radio when they occasionally blinkered out, and I experimented with a variety of projects.  Above his work bench my father placed an FM radio he had salvaged.  I learned about jazz by listening to a Sacramento FM station located in the Elks Building in downtown Sacramento.  Its call letters may have been KHIQ.  Whatever station it was, it was in business prior to KZAP which followed it at the same location.

During my sophomore or junior year in high school I first heard Dave Brubeck and became a fan.  It wasn't long before I began frequenting Sacramento record stores. My favorites were Tower Records (which was the very first one and located in the same building as the Tower Theater), Pacific Records downtown on J Street, and another downtown on K Street.  Around this time I joined the Columbia Record Club and subscribed to Down Beat magazine.  The first LP album I purchased was Gone With the Wind by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and the second was Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.  Listening to Kind of Blue, I became a huge fan of John Coltrane.  Down Beat magazine and ESP records helped me discover musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, Sunny Murray, Milford Graves, Jackie McLean, Don Pullen and Albert Ayler.

About 1961 I went to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet in concert at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, the first jazz concert I ever attended.  The first half of the program the quartet played with the Sacramento Symphony under the direction of Howard Brubeck, Dave's brother.  The second half of the program was just the quartet.  Fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled start of the concert, I decided to go backstage with some of the albums to gather autographs.  Off to stage right was a room where Brubeck and the rest of the Quartet (Paul Desmond, Gene Wright and Joe Morello) and others were busy preparing for the concert.  Holding my albums, I walked part way into the room.  I was quite nervous and I had no idea how I was going to penetrate the situation.   Since everyone was so busy it seemed like I was unnoticed.  Standing alone on the right of the room, Desmond looked lost in deep introspection or meditation.  I stood there for what seemed to be an eternity, wondering what to do when Desmond casually walked across the room and simply stood next to me without saying a word.   At the time I didn't understand what he had done for me.  I seized the opportunity and ask Mr. Desmond for his autograph.  It would be a few years before I was able to recognize the implication of Desmond's gesture.  The beauty of that moment will never be lost for me.  I only regret that I did not understand it at the time so I could have told him so.


RBP will publish A Journey Into Jazz early next year.


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