Sunday, August 21, 2016

For I have loved you well and long/ Delighting in your company

The first several times you heard the folk song "Green Sleeves," you were of an age and temperament to consider it a love song. You had indeed been from time to time cast off, even on occasion discourteously, although, that said,there were times when Lady Greensleeves was well advised to have cast you off, thus the nature and humors of young adrenals and the fallout residue of puberty.

There were times,even then, when you equated puberty to the plague, writing and speaking of an equivalent to the Decameron, a framework for likewise afflicted youth gathered in such places as Lake Arrowhead or Avalon, Catalina, to read and write during the day, then regale one another with tales of our romantic adventures and misadventures. Any plague in a story, any story in a plague; all grist for the mill of romanticism.

At about the time of your early encounters with "Greensleeves," you also came across what you considered a twentieth-century version, of equal poignancy, "One for my Baby, and One More for the Road."  Romance was tricky business back then. Not that it has got any less so, rather more nuanced. But so have neighborhood taco trucks. The trick is knowing that not all tacos al pastor are alike.

During these encounters with the ebb and flow of dramatic fortunes, you encountered an old friend from the days of your serious engagement with jazz in most of its then incarnations. 

Al McKibbon was a bassist you followed not only for his stories of the greats of early bebop and hard bop he played with but for the sound of his dream instrument, a bass hand built by the legendary Jacob Steiner. Your friendship grew particularly when he teamed up with a pianist of great technical ability and some taste for jazz, but nothing like some of the legends he'd worked with.  

This pianist, Calvin Jackson, Julliard trained and jazz oriented, spent much of his career as an arranger or studio composer, in all likelihood working as a duo with McKibben less for the money than to keep his chops up. Jackson had a stylized version of "Greensleeves," which he featured at least once an evening at Frascatti's on Sunset and Crescent Heights, the French/Belgian restaurant where he and McKibbon appeared most often and, thus, you, either solo or in pursuit of "Greensleeves" romanticism, to dine and indulge yourself or to dine with a date, thereby to explore the frets and chords of the heartstrings.

"Greensleeves" remained for some time a gateway song, flinging open the portals wide into the vast landscape of romanticism, leading you in one memorable swirl of lyric heartstrings to another song introduced to you by Calvin Jackson, Claude Debussy's "La fille aux cheveux de lin," "The Maid with the Flaxen Hair."  Back-to-back with "Greensleeves," and you were as good as the errant knight in Keats' poem, La Belle Dame sans Merci," "O, what can ail thee, knight at arms/ Alone and palely loitering?"

But the next thing you knew, you were not hearing Calvin Jackson play "Greensleeves," nor any of your favored folk singers rendering the vocal; you were hearing it as the nasal drone of a single bag pipe, casting a mournful cry over a funeral, reminding you of the tendrils of melancholy connecting the grief of one kind of loss with the grief of another, and you had no choice but to take it in, then grow further up.

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