Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankfulness XI

EDIT: I thought I'd posted this much earlier in the day. Perhaps its Blogger's doing, or my own ineptitude. Oh well!

Music has always been present in my life. From both sides of my lineage, music and performing have passed down for many generations, and my generation has been no different in that regard.

Now I am not about to simply do a 'thanks, Music!' post. That would be kinda silly, even though I am quite thankful for the presence of music of all kinds.

Today I wish to express my thankfulness for a certain kind of American magic known as

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1917

Much discussion and a certain ambiguity reign about the subject of jazz; there is a lot of debate about its precise origins, what actually constitutes or defines it, and myriad other points that are far too numerous (and in some cases too controversial and incendiary) to note with any depth here.

This is not a History of Jazz post.

The Duke Ellington Band, 1929

But I must at least express my thankfulness for the music I call jazz.

My father was born in 1924 in Michigan City, Indiana; just the right place and time to become one of that Great Jazz State's geniuses of the form.

His love of jazz, swing and what some called Dixieland (a term he never really liked or willfully used for his own music, even if he had to let band leaders, album producers, record labels and movie makers categorize it as such) was passed on to all of his children, and in my case I think it struck deeply and very early.

My father Dick Cathcart on television in the early 60's.

As mentioned in Thankfulness II, I started playing guitar at an early age; one of the main reasons was the incredible jazz and swing guitar work of the men my dad knew, the greats with whom he worked, and to whom he often listened.

Jazz, of many different styles, became an overriding and influencing force on all of my music, and it's still that way.

The pioneering, troubled genius Bix Beiderbecke, 1924

I do not pretend to play it on any instrument as well as I'd like, but I think a lot of very good musicians think that their whole lives, so I suppose I'm in good company.

But I know my exposure to some of the greatest players and works so early and consistently has given me a very clear understanding of certain styles and schools of playing, and it has surely made me a real nutcase for jazz!

Guitar god Charlie Christian, in the late 30's.

I can lose myself in it when the tune, instrument, tempo and sound are just right. Actually, the heck with that; it can be kinda close to decent and I can still fly off into the Cool Zone.

When I am playing, jazz can alter the way I look at my surroundings, and the people with whom I am playing. In that zone, that ecstasy of feel, I can look to the other instrumentalists and rather than seeing their faces I am seeing their light, their colors, as they express themselves on their given instruments.

We can share music without boundaries, without prejudice, and when it's in the right groove, we all become the same beautiful colors.

It's no wonder that some of the first and best examples of the breaking of the color barrier come from the realm of jazz and swing.

Benny Goodman with Christian, Auld and Cootie in 1941.

Like baseball, jazz is purely and uniquely American but played all over the world.

Unlike baseball, jazz is interesting, moving and expressive all year long.

Plus no one who ever played it well ever had a 5-year, $250 million contract. You don't get rich playing jazz. Well... not financially.

I loves me some fine swingin' jazz.

Grateful almost doesn't cover it.



  1. Amen.

    There is something about listening to Bix, Coltrane, Ellington, Armstrong, Reinhardt, and Grappelli, that for me transcends mere music. They lived in a whole different level in the world. And we are fortunate to have caught a glimpse of it their playing.

    And your Dad was right in there too.


  2. Wow, fantastic pictures!!! Looooooooooooove the jazz