Wednesday, April 11, 2018

So Twisted It's Straight

I went to school with a sax player, Rick Margitza, who went on to play with Miles Davis and others. Rick was (and is) of a school of jazz musicians so terminally bored by the lazy complacency and facile lick-playing of earlier styles that he more or less reinvents harmony within every moment. If he's playing in C-minor, he'll find ways to play everything but the standard C-minor scale. Playing in the key of E-flat, he'd chew fiberglass before he'd willingly land on an E-flat. Immersed in highly advanced and abstract harmonic models, Rick avoids "right" notes with the same diligence other musicians apply to avoiding "wrong" ones.

I used to joke that his next step should be to play nothing but E-flat in the key of E-flat....but only with the most refined harmonic justifications. In his mind, it would be the ultimate tricky sidestep. E-flat, man! HOOOONK. E-flat! So twisted it's straight!!

The other day I had a flash of realization about myself. It felt a bit complicated, so I struggled to articulate it. Finally, it popped out: I'd never join any club that wouldn't have me for a member.
For those unfamiliar with the classic Groucho Marx line, he famously said "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."
It's the epitome of bland non-neurosis. It's mayonnaise on baloney. It's a fat E-flat on an E-flat chord. But can you even begin to imagine what it took to arrive there? The detours and hairpins and dead-ends? And to say it without a trace of arrogance or sullenness? I cheerfully assume I'm just worthwhile enough - and not an iota more. The elusive Golidlocks point!

It's another way of accepting that one deserves to be here.

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