Friday, May 8, 2020

The Truth Doesn't Need You to Lie

Philly Joe

I sent a drummer friend a link to this rare video of the great Philly Joe Jones, god of jazz drumming, playing a gig near the end of his life (with a 22-year-old Wynton Marsalis sitting in toward the end). Jones sounds awful. Bombastic, spastically misfiring; he's all over the place (bassist Larry Ridley probably lost 8 pounds trying to hold things together). He was obviously stinking drunk, but, hey, it's Philly Joe, so this is still an important document.

The drummer I sent it to is much more reverent than I am. So when I sent it along with a note saying "I don't know WTF's going on with his playing that night", he got his back up. Philly Joe's an immortal great and he thinks he sounds fantastic.

My first thought was that my friend takes a religious view...and I'd offended his faith. But then I realized I'm the more religious one.

I believe so strongly in Philly Joe Jones' greatness that I can watch him throwing feces around a jazz club without worshipping him less. I admire him enough to view him without flinching; without airbrushing; without self-deception. I don't need to concoct a fictional, mythical Philly Joe whose every note was flawless. To do so would deeply disrespect the actual one, and I like the actual one.

The Truth is sufficient. The Truth doesn't need me to lie.


I profiled my late musical mentor Arnie Lawrence a few years ago, and was intensely proud of the result. I felt I'd truly captured him and paid fitting tribute. I'm sure he'd have appreciated it.

People close to Arnie, however, were livid. I'd revealed flaws, and discussed missteps and dead-ends. I showed his pain, his rejection, his friction, his frustration. None of this jibed with the heroic legacy they wanted to project. They had some unrecognizable Arnie in their minds who’d subsumed and replaced the actual guy.

I was dumbfounded. Was the actual guy so unsatisfactory that he deserved burial in an unmarked grave and supplanting with a two-dimensional myth? They thought I'd disrespected him, but, from my perspective, their revisionism was tantamount to a kick in his face. The Truth is sufficient. The Truth doesn't need you to lie for it.


Whenever I see the Left exaggerating Trumps multitudinous transgressions, it drives me bonkers. Isn't the truth bad enough? The Truth is sufficient. The Truth doesn't need you to lie for it!

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