Friday Favorites – 11/16/2012
I was talking with a friend a few days ago about concerts that we’ve seen. I think the first concert I attended was in 1962, when I was attending Stevens Institute of Technology. The early sixties were interesting times on campuses with an eclectic mix of musical styles available, including folk music, rock and jazz. There was probably classical music available as well but I wasn’t yet self-confident enough to publicly enjoy anything that I perceived as uncool. That first concert was The Brothers Four, a mostly forgotten folk group who’s signature hit was Greenfields. Once I’d had a taste of live music, I began to attend the Summer Concerts at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, where I heard acts like the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary and the Lovin’ Spoonful. I’ve heard so many amazing performers that it’s hard to choose a favorite based on performance alone. My memories are inextricably linked to what was going on in my life at the time. Let me give you a few examples.
My senior year of college, a Johnny Mathis concert stands out because it was the perfect date for a couple in the early phase of a forty-seven year romance. A year later, seeing Sammy Davis Jr. live in Boston is memorable because the concert ended so late that Muri missed her curfew *, so we had to seek alternate lodging and call in a phony excuse. Seeing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1970 was memorable not just because they were my favorite band at the time, but because it was shortly after the Kent State shootings. Their performance of Ohio whipped the crowd into a quasi-revolutionary fervor. A concert featuring Barbara Streisand, James Taylor and Carole King was a benefit for George McGovern, and I wasn’t there just to hear the music. I know. Hard to believe. Of course, some concerts can stand on their own based on showmanship … Neil Diamond … Gloria Estefan … Itzhak Perlman at the Hollywood Bowl and Manhattan Transfer at the Greek Theater. And although I’m not a huge fan of country music, seeing Tim McGraw from the third row in 105° heat with my daughter seven months pregnant is hard to forget.
But as a favorite, I’m going to pick a little oddity. It was in 1962, fall break. My best friend, Russ was home from Clarkson University and I was home from Stevens. We were both jazz fans. I think we saw jazz as intellectually superior to rock and roll. I probably still do, although I like both, but for young men who weren’t exactly Big Men on Campus, being intellectually superior was important. There was no cooler jazz group at the time than the Dave Brubeck Quartet and no cooler jazz number than Take Five, written in the difficult to follow 5/4 time signature. It sounds smart just to say that, doesn’t it? The Quartet was playing on the Yale University campus in New Haven … what could be a better place to listen to intellectually superior music than the Yale campus? We got tickets, dressed in our best simulation of Ivy league garb and off we went. We were as cool as could be and the music was amazing. It looked just about like this concert, recorded in Belgium in 1964. And, by the way, do these guys look intellectual or what? Dave Brubeck – piano; Paul Desmond – Sax; Joe Morello ** – drums; Eugene Wright – bass.
Enjoy. And please, listen long enough to hear what is considered one of the remarkable drum solos in jazz at about 4:30 into the video.
* Curfew. Yes, Younger Eyes, Muri had to be in her dorm at 10:00 on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Once curfew passed, the doors were locked. Quaint? I think we were better off.
** Joe passed away last year. Rest in peace to one of jazz’s great drummers.