Tuesday, May 04, 2010

more local "Iwama" news and personal cinco de mayo

Things have begun to heat up concerning the potential aikido living situation in Boulder Creek. If any more are interested, please contact me(jack@aikidosj.com). The more people we have the cheaper the rent would be. For more info please scan recent blogs.

Tomorrow is cinco de mayo. It was three years ago that I took up the trumpet again. I rented an instrument and went home(at the time the East Hills of San Jose) to try to make a sound. I was determined to try to play with an orthodox embrouchure(two lips instead of the upper lip and tongue I used in middle and high school). What possessed me to start again? It was that I was listening to the music of trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker. I started with singing along with his vocals, then I decided to try to play. That first session was very mixed and somewhat discouraging. But towards the end some notes from "Let's Get Lost", the first Chet piece I ever heard floated out and I decided to continue.

Some interesting and coincidental dates: Chet Baker passed away on May 13, 1988, so I started within about a week of the 20 year anniversary of his passing. Also, at the time of his passing he was 58, and that was the age I was when I discovered his music and started to play again. In the early to mid-60's Chet was the victim of a brutal assault and suffered the loss(or very severe damage to) his upper front teeth. And according to Artt Frank Chet also suffered nerve damage to both sides of his jaw. He was told he would never play again. He was local for awhile. His mom had a house in Milpitas and he pumped gas at a local gas station. It took about 3 years for Chet to make a comeback and play again in front of an audience. He was supported during this time by the friendship of Artt Frank, who has written a book about those "lost years" in Chet's life during which he made a comeback against almost impossible odds. Hopefully that book will be published shortly. I will definitely post information here about it in my blog.

My thought process was that if it took Chet 3 years to learn to play without teeth(he had dentures) then I could give the trumpet 3 years as well. So three years to learn how to play. It has been a fascinating journey. I've had a few friends and students to play along with. I've had wonderful advice and encouragement from Artt and his wife Lisa, as well as their friend Lucille. Mainly it is about self-exploration and self-expression. I think the recent "Isn't It Romantic?" is very good. My technique and ability to follow music needs work. But in terms of expressing an inner lyricism, and, as Artt puts it, "Being able to tell my story", I feel good. So I'll go for another 3 years and see if I get any closer to being able to play like Chet. And I don't seek to copy him. But he himself was strongly influenced by a Miles Davis album "Birth of the Cool". And he himself said while he didn't copy Miles, in listening to it he found who he was. So that is my intention around Chet and his music. There is something behind the lyricism, the legendary cool and the same time the emotional fragility and vulnerability he expresses that awakens something in me.

Now the next part is very subjective. It is my sense, and I do not wish to offend anyone with what I say. Along with my sense of Ueshiba Osensei's aikido, I think Chet Baker's sound and music are unique. I believe his sound double helixes, just like Ueshiba Osensei's movement and chanting. I believe he was a very original soul very much in touch with the soul's original creative power. I think music just came to and through him. I feel he played from a place very close to what Ueshiba Osensei called the "divine realm". And being such an original soul so close to what we may call the source energy, I think he found it very difficult to be here in this world so dominated by thought form energy(war, winning, control, fear are major thought forms that tend to control the world). But he brought into being music that is still very unique. He is categorized by many as an exponent of the cool jazz(or west coast jazz) of the '50's as if he never moved past that. Yet his lyrical magic and the fact that when he free formed his compositions were often times much better than the standards he played are often overlooked by people who simply categorize him as a certain type of jazz player from a certain era. I told Artt Frank that I think of him as pure magic, that maybe given more time or slightly different circumstances to his life and that he could have been curing cancer with his playing.

The video below is from youtube and is the First Chet piece I ever heard. It is one of his most famous. Notice the emotion that his airy and almost effortless vocal style can create. How it can take you to another world. And the second of his trumpet solos is brilliant.Every once in awhile I get up the nerve to play try to play it along with him. Enjoy!


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