Another day of wishing I wasn't me... for a bit

We often want what we don't have, yes? Women with hair like Sonia Braga's often favor the look of Ann Sophia Robb...and vice versa.

Men who realize they are aging would prefer Johnny Depp to Keith Richards or Denzel Washington to Bill Cosby.


As I was practicing today I started moaning to myself about all the time I wasted NOT carefully studying music back in the day: Damn, I wish I read better. Shit, I wish I had taken lessons back when I was a kid. Oh hell, my arm is tired. I wish, I wish, I wish. Now, please understand that I was playing scales at the time so I had to literally tell myself, "Shut up, dude and just play the freakin' exercises you have on the stand in front of you now!" Lord, I can be such a fuss bucket when it comes to practicing that I make my own head hurt.

And that got me to thinking: yes, I'm a sloppy player, but man I've played all over the world and sat in with some incredible cats since I was a kid. That was then and this is now. Then it was a time to be a hot shot and run head on into the challenges, bluffing it when I didn't know any better and just making the most of every song. Now is the time to study - and reflect - and practice. Jesus said something about there being enough worries for each day so just deal with what's in front of you and leave the rest to the Lord, right?

Kathleen Norris, one of my favorite teachers and writers, puts it like this in her book, Acedia and Me:

For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn't know we needed and take us places where we didn't know we didn't want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before... Might we consider boredom as not only necessary for our life but also as one of its greatest blessings? A gift, pure and simple, a precious chance to be alone with our thoughts and alone with God?

Last night we went to listen to a local jam session where a lot of aspiring young jazz players gathered. It was a ton of fun in one of my favorite places. It was exciting to see so many young women and men interested in jazz. And it did my heart good to experience their commitment to learning the tradition. They work hard. They make each day with their instrument count. And they put themselves out there in public so that they can grow and learn from their mistakes. Sure, they may want to play like Miles or Monk or Trane - or Krall or Simone or Lady Day - but at least for last night, they just put themselves out there and gave themselves to the song.

After my daily practice (plus  a few surprises like our stove in Pittsfield giving up the ghost) I opened up The Real Book and started singing McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation" to myself. I did the same thing with Wayne Shorter's "Footprints." Little by little all this practice is making a difference... and soon I'm going to sit in at one of these jam sessions even IF I am more like Keith than Johnny. It was a good day.


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