Thursday, April 23, 2009

Accountability: America’s Moral Responsibility to Humanity



BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Accountability: America's Moral Responsibility to Humanity

Eight years of Republican "leadership" has left America both economically devastated, and globally humiliated. Yet, far from apologizing for the damage that they've done to the stability and image of this great nation, instead, they've circled their wagons and gone into damage control mode–not to control the damage that they've done to the nation, but in an attempt to rewrite history in order to control the damage that they've done to themselves.

So now, as President Obama goes about the business of desperately trying to return America to its former position of economic stability at home, and respect, admiration, and moral authority abroad, the GOP leadership seems to be completely oblivious to the nation's desperate and immediate need for a concerted effort in that regard. They're like clueless children who find it impossible to see the big picture. Thus, at this point it has become abundantly clear that their primary concern is not with restoring America to a sound footing in the world, but rather, simply restoring themselves to power at any cost.

This situation points out the wisdom of always seeking to draw something of value from every adversity, and in this case, we should seek enlightenment. In spite of the fact that virtually everyone in the Bush administration managed to avoid serving this nation in uniform (Bush went AWOL, and Cheney obtained five (5) deferments), the GOP has somehow managed to pre-empt and wrap themselves in the glorious vestments of patriotism. But this current situation should teach us a valuable lesson in that regard–never go by what people say; always go by what they do. And what are they doing--while the American people are experiencing the kind of suffering that this country hasn't seen since the Great Depression, and the United States has become the "Dick Cheney" of the world, the GOP's one and only concern is how they can regain power. Is that patriotism? I don't think so.

There's only one word to describe this current batch of Republican wingnuts--and you have to go outside the English language to find it--hutzpah. They've left this nation's global standing at its lowest ebb ever, and they've also left us much less safe. But in spite of that, Sean Hannity and FOX news have seen fit to trot out Dick Cheney to lecture President Obama on national governance and world affairs. What Makes these people think that anyone is interested in listening to anything this guy has to say? The vice president of the Crips has a higher approval rating than Dick Cheney, so they can have but one motive--to create division and disseminate propaganda. But Hannity's time would have been better spent holding a seance, then conjuring up the spirit of John Wayne Gacy to give us a lecture on child rearing. It couldn't have been any less productive, but at least there would have been an entertainment factor involved.

Then you have Karl Rove trying to imply that President Obama is turning America into a banana republic. When I first heard him, the word "stupid" immediately came to mind. Either Rove is stupid, or he thinks the American people are complete fools. Now, think about it. Wasn't Karl Rove a major part of the very administration that lied us into war, illegally invaded a sovereign state, sent our troops off to war without the proper equipment to keep themselves alive, then made them pay for their own meals while lying wounded in the hospital, then looted the nation's treasury and resources, setup no-bid contracts to enrich their cronies, spied on their own citizens, and as we speak, are now trying to convince America that torture and all of the things listed above are ok, so that Bush, Cheney–and their entire crowd-- won't be prosecuted for war crimes, defrauding the American people, and the senseless waste of human life for personal gain? If I'm not mistaken, I think Karl Rove was indeed a major part of all that. So who looks, sounds, and behaves more like tinhorn dictators? Thus, before Rove starts pointing his finger at President Obama, he needs to smell it first.

As a direct result of the greed, poor judgment, and self-service of these people, instead of focusing our efforts on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border where Osama Bin Laden and the others who planned and executed the Nine-Eleven attack on America were in hiding, they went to Iraq and began to tortured innocent detainees–not to protect America, but in an attempt to justify the lies they were telling the American people in order to steal Iraqi oil, enrich themselves, and loot this nation of the necessary resources to fund the New Deal programs that they couldn't attack legislatively. Now, as a direct result of that flawed judgment, we have the Taliban a mere sixty miles away from a nuclear armed Pakistan. So I don't know about the rest of America, but to me, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove's claim of keeping us safe is sounding pretty ridiculous about now.

Thus, to even consider "moving on" without prosecuting these people is out of the question. If we simply turned the page on this matter, we become accessories to their war crimes. In addition, we cannot allow them to just walk away from placing the survival of this nation–and indeed, the world--in serious jeopardy. And further, if we are fortunate enough to survive this unmitigated episode of irresponsibility, we need to send an unmistakably graphic message to the next group of budding demagogues, who they've undoubtedly planted throughout the government. If Nixon had gone to prison for Watergate, and Reagan had become his cellmate for selling arms to Iran, we wouldn't be going through what we're going through right now.

And finally, we have a moral responsibility to the world. A nation cannot just turn the page after its leaders have committed war crimes and are responsible for the slaughter and/or displacement of a million people. That page won't turn without the offending nation engaging in aggressive corrective action. If it were any other nation, the United States would demand accountability, so we can demand nothing less of ourselves.

I know--they're simply wingnut Republiclowns, but their behavior in office was much more than a meaningless prank. Just because we put up with them, doesn't mean that the world should have to. After all, we even carry a pooper scooper for our pets. Trying to walk away from the atrocities of the past seven years would be like defecating and then trying to walk away without cleaning ourselves. We'd have to walk wide-legged and very uncomfortably, throughout the rest of history.

Eric L. Wattree


wattree.blogspot.com

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet Caesar: The New, Greatest Singer in the World


BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Meet Caesar: The New, Greatest Singer in the World

It was about 3 a.m. In the morning, and I found myself, as I am prone to do at that secluded hour, strollin' down the laid back and funky avenues of The Jazz Network. I love that place. It's the kind of place where if you're a jazz lover, you'll immediately feel like you're among family and friends. It's a virtual city, and it's only reason for being is as a monument to jazz. One minute you're accompanied down its soulful avenues by Buster Williams, with his slow, swaggerin' bass lines struttin' along beside you, then you turn the corner, and there's Buddy Rich and his big band tryin' to blow all the windows out the joint–it's a true oasis of jazz in this vast wasteland of contemporary mediocrity.

As I strolled awash in musical bliss through its various nooks and crannies, I suddenly began to hear the first few bars of "I Wish You Love." I immediately stopped in my tracks, because even in this rarified musical environment, the beautiful melody of that hauntingly gorgeous tune was being caressed by a voice that literally took my breath away.

While I hate to use such an unhip and overworked adjective, breathtaking is the only word appropriate to describe my reaction to its mellow, yet velvet tones. It was a finely tune instrument in perfect pitch, with the beauty, phrasing and diction of Nat King Cole. Yet, it was also reminiscent of Jesse Belvin, Johnny Mathis, and Sam Fletcher, and with the slightly muffled, airy sound of Luther Vandross, that made the heart say, "hush"–and it all came together to create a sound that was uniquely, and beautifully, its very own. So I immediately knew that I was dealing with immortality in the making, so naturally I stopped to investigate.

The voice belonged to a confident, yet unassuming young man known simply, but appropriately, as Caesar. Appropriate, because just like his namesake, he was clearly sent to Earth as a conqueror. I've been a jazz fan every since I slipped out of the womb, so I'm intimately familiar with all of the material output of the great, and the near great–and in my humble, but highly informed opinion, Caesar is beyond great. This young man is one of those talents that come around maybe once or twice in a hundred years–and only then, if we're extremely lucky.

Even at this point, so early in his career, I wouldn't hesitate to put him in the company of Nat King Cole, Jesse Belvin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan. While I realize that's a mighty tall order for him to live up to, true greatness doesn't require a runway–Picasso was born Picasso, he didn't require a learning curve, and so it is with this young man. Caesar, like Nat, Ella, and Sarah Vaughan, is one of those rare people that's clearly dripping with greatness from the moment they, in many cases, stumble upon their calling (Ella wanted to be a dancer). From the very moment they're born, the writing is on the wall–it's all about greatness, just waiting to happen.

While I'm quite hesitant to insert myself into this piece, as a writer I recognize that there's an obvious question just screaming to be addressed–who am I to make all of these grandiose assertions? What credentials do I have to take it upon myself to single-handedly bestow greatness upon anyone? My answer to that is short and sweet–I was born with legendary ears.

When I was twelve years old and my friends were still singing nursery rhymes, I was listening to Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dexter Gordon. My mother was quite concerned, because she was afraid that I was following in my father's footsteps–and I thank God every day that she was right. He's was also what she called "a jazz fanatic," and she was convinced that was what led to many of the problems in his life, which we won't get into here.

By the time I was fourteen, my father used to take great pride in buying new jazz albums and impressing his friends by calling me into the room and having me listen, then tell his friends who the musicians were that was playing on the various tunes. He used to win money that way, until his friends got hip to me. It was a piece of cake–I could tell them who was playing before the record got to the bridge of the first tune. His friends would be amazed, while I'd walk away wondering how they could call themselves jazz fans and not be able to recognize the piano of Bud Powell when they heard him. So I'll put my ears up against anybody who ever lived, and I'm telling you, my ears tell me that Caesar is not only great, but he's destined to become among the greatest of the greats.

And there's another thing that struck me about this young man--he's not just all music. He's multi-dimensional and highly intelligent. Born Irvin R. Caesar in Chicago, Il in 1965. He attended Percy L. Julian High School, where he played guitar in the jazz band. At the same time, he played football, basketball, and baseball. The football team won three Chicago city championships, and he was captain of the team his senior year. After graduation, he went on to play Outside Linebacker for Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., where he also received a degree in Business Management.

Inheriting a sense of purpose from his father, also name Irvin Caesar--who was a political activist during the sixties, and worked closely with Vice President Hubert H. Humphry--after obtaining his degree, young Caesar went on to work first, as a Procurement Officer and then Operations Manager for American Manufactures in Houston, Texas. They provided humanitarian assistance to over 40 countries around the world. Then he went to Islamabad, Pakistan as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He worked to provided humanitarian assistance to Afghan rebels, who were then at war with the Soviet Union.

To our benefit, this young man's intelligence, background, and depth of experience didn't go to waste. You can hear every drop of his intellect, compassion, and commitment to humanity literally dripping from every note he sings. You don't simply hear this young man, you experience him.

Ironically, Caesar was born the very same year that Nat King Cole died. So while I've never been one to wax metaphysical, I dedicate this piece to a new old friend. Because as I listen to this young man's velvet tones, I can't help but wonder if perhaps, Nat decided, that he wasn't quite done yet.



Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

April 17, 2009

Pain is the mother of enlightenment--and she's married to adversity.


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Friday, April 10, 2009

GOP Underestimates Conservative America


BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

GOP Underestimates Conservative America

While President Obama is going about his valiant and statesman-like attempt to rescue America and restore our image at home and abroad, the GOP's politics as usual, diehard operatives are acting like spoiled brats determined to undermine the president's–and America's–effort. But in their blind attempt to regain power they seem to have forgotten one important fact–the vast majority of true conservatives are fiercely loyal Americans, and don't share their view of power at any cost.

While conservatives have a vastly different view from liberals regarding the policies that make America great, the two groups have one very important thing in common–both groups understand that even as we indulge in our sibling rivalry, we are all Americans. America is a family, which means the viability of our nation and proud American traditions must come first.

But many of the wingnuts on both the right and the left have long since lost sight of that very fundamental principle. They've allowed what was once a healthy sibling rivalry to escalate into a hatred within the American family that supercedes the viability of America itself. That is unacceptable, and it is exactly that mindset that has led directly to the crises that the nation faces today.

In their wisdom, however, the American people decided to put an end to it. That's why we have radicals on the left, calling President Obama a sellout, and reactionaries on the right, calling him a socialist. But the fact is, President Obama is a true mainstream American that the American people have sent to Washington to put an end to this childish bickering.

President Obama is neither liberal nor is he a conservative, he's a progressive--and while the terms liberal and progressive are often used interchangeably, there's a big difference. Both liberals and conservatives are people who have, by definition, surrendered their independent thought to the exigencies of political ideology. On the other hand, a progressive is an independent thinker who recognizes that truth and wisdom, more often not, is neither black nor white–it generally resides in the grey.

A clear example of that is the liberal tendency to promote the idea that a "progressive tax" is a system where people who make less money should pay a lesser percentage of their income in taxes than people who make more. That's complete nonsense, unjust, and therefore not progressive thinking. A true progressive supports public policies that are fair to all, and recognizes that justice is blind, therefore, caters to neither race, creed, sex, nor social or economic status.

True progressives understand that it is just as unjust to discriminate against the privileged as it is the poor. Egalitarian principles dictate that everyone pay the exact same percentage of their income in taxes--that, is progressive taxation. The argument that it won't work because it won't bring in enough revenue, is a meaningless argument to a true progressive, because progressive thinking dictates that convenience has nothing to do with what is just.

On the other hand, fiscal conservatives argue that the national doctrine of freedom of expression dictates that corporations should be allowed to send lobbyist to Washington with pockets full of money to lobby and influence congressional legislation. That's also ridiculous. Corporations are not citizens, so a citizen's right to petition government is not an inalienable right required to be extended to corporations. When citizens incorporate a business they are relieved of much of their personal liabilities, therefore, when acting as a corporate entity, they must sacrifice many of the rights that they enjoy as private citizens.

Thus, if the nation wouldadhered to common sense in addressing national issues rather than allowing public policy to be dictated by radical wingnuts and special interests, the gains that we would acquire as a direct result would allow everyone to prosper and be treated fairly. If tax payers didn't have to foot the bill every time some corporate big wig took his girlfriend to a power lunch or bought a Mercedes and wrote it off as a business expense, we'd have enough revenue to treat every American taxpayer equally. It would also take a wedge issue off the table that political demagogues use to divide us–after all, many fiscally conservative Republicans are socially progressive, so an evenhanded taxation policy would make them much less apt to align themselves with social bigots.

Contrary to what some would have us believe, all conservatives are not self-serving bigots. The election of President Obama makes it clear that many registered Republicans understood that in spite of party and personal interest, President Obama was uniquely qualified to lead this nation at this moment in our history. They didn't see his Black skin as a deficit. On the contrary, they saw Barack Obama's diverse background as an asset, so they set their personal interest and idology aside, put America first. They should be honored for that, instead of dragged through the mud with GOP demagogues.

These people understood that Obama's Black skin allowed him to understand what it meant to be Black and poor in America. They also understood that being the product of an immigrant father, he fully understood the challenges and hardships of millions of immigrants across this land. It was clear to these conservatives that after having lived all over the world, and even enjoying the benefits of differing cultures within his own family, that Barack Obama had a unique understanding of the mindset and views held towards America by other people and cultures throughout the world. They also recognized that after being raised and loved by White Americans in the very heartland of this nation, that he also understood the needs, fears, and aspirations of middle American. And finally, they recognized that he's a brilliant intellectual and constitutional scholar, whose knowledge of America and American traditions would dwarf nearly any president in the history of this nation.

So in spite of all of the divisive rhetoric served up by the GOP hatemongers, these conservatives said, while I don't entirely agree with his philosophy of governance, I going to support him, because he's right for America at this point in our history. They deserve recognition for that, because unlike the Limbaugh wingnuts, and liberals of every stripe, it was the ideological sacrifice of those conservatives that led directly to the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Therefore, as progressives, let us not make the mistake of gloating in the face of these people, because while liberals and progressives turned out in larger numbers, no group in America has made a greater sacrifice to ensure that Barack Obama is sitting in the White House today.

Progressives should also learn from President Obama, and not confuse all conservatives with GOP wingnuts. Listen to the words of Charles, a true conservative, at the link below, and begin to understand that it is not conservatism that is the enemy. Limbaugh told this conservative caller that he was not a Republican, he was one of the stupid people that allowed President Obama to be elected. Limbaugh was right in one respect, the man is not a Republican, at least, as Limbaugh defines Republicanism, but neither is he stupid--he's a loyal, conservative American.

I take great pride in coming to the defense of this man. He said that he was a former Marine, and so am I, so it comes naturally. Limbaugh told him that he didn't know diddley squat, but unlike Limbaugh and his kind, Charles does know what it means to come to the defense of America. As a former Marine, I've known such men. He's of the very same breed that left their families and marched off to die, to defeat slavery.



  Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bishop Joe Simon Sings the Blues Over Rappers and Ministry

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Bishop Joe Simon Sings the Blues Over Rappers and Ministry

I call this column "Beneath the Spin" because it's dedicated to an honest search for truth, an attempt to stimulate thought, and an earnest effort to clear up the trough of pure bullshit served up to us on a daily basis. I generally deal with political demagogues in this context, but due to our current economic crisis I'm going to expand my attention to anything that doesn't smell quite right–and the fumes emanating from my current focus, seriously suggests that demagoguery is far from exclusive to Washington D.C.

While I'm normally not one to defend the rap industry, I have several problems with a claim being levied against it by former rhythm and blues singer, and now ordained bishop, Joe Simon. Bishop Simon is complaining that rappers are destroying his ministry by sampling his material.

In the article, "Bishop Joe Simon Says Rappers Damaging Ministry," in Frost Illustrated, Simon alleged that as a result of rappers sampling his music without his permission, "he started noticing that certain once seemingly open churches were starting to baulk at inviting him to bring his crusade to their pulpits. Some even rescinded speaking invitations they earlier had issued to the bishop." Simon went on to say, "Many churches want no part of preachers whom they feel are straddling the fence between secular and sacred worlds." That seems somewhat disingenuous since one would think that any misunderstanding within the church could easily be cleared up with a simple memo or statement.

The article also points out that "Since near the beginning of the year, Simon said he has sent the record company a series of letters asking that someone talk to him and to work out an agreement." What kind of agreement? You can't un-cook an egg. What kind of 'agreement,' could he come to with the record companies that would un-release music that's already on the market? The only agreement that he can possibly come to is a financial one–and how would a financial agreement help his standing in the church any more than a simple memo or statement that his previous material was being used without his permission?

This is not about his ministry–what needs to be addressed is whether or not this is actually his material. If Simon has legal ownership of the material, why is he trying to chase down record executives instead of hiring an attorney? The obvious conclusion is, he's trying to use God to be compensated for something that he has no legal right to.

The article goes on to point out that "In the wake of more and more folks hearing his voice on rap records, Bishop Simon said some folks seem to be shying away from supporting the ministry financially." Yet, Dr. Mark H. Sandilands, the presiding Bishop of the Mission Consortium of Churches International indicated that "When Bishop Simon was ordained as a part of this organization, he was placed right next to me. If something were to happened to me, he becomes presiding bishop overnight."

Oh really? I find it quite curious that a religious organization that is so disdainful of "worldly music" that it would withdraw support and speaking engagements, would place a "worldly musician" who is newly ordained into the organization into the second to the top slot in the organization's hierarchy. Thus, the church must find something of value in worldly music.

I can fully understand Bishop Simon being frustrated by people making millions of dollars while using his material and then thumbing their nose at him. But if that's the case, he should just say so, and stop trying to use his collar to drag God into what is essentially a personal and legal matter. The congregation of his church looks up to him and have vested in him a solemn trust, so he shouldn't be abusing that trust by trying to make the very God that they worship his private lap dog, utilized to address his personal issues. That's the kind of thinking that led to hundreds of thousands of people dying in Iraq, and what the facts seem to suggests, to a much lesser degree, but just as insidiously, is happen in this case.

That's the primary reason this issue is even worth our attention. It provides us with a bite size example of the mindset and kind of rhetoric in which people of faith should always remain vigilant. It clearly demonstrates how some so-called "men of God" often use the Lord's name to promote their own interests. It also shows why the many selfless men and women of God who are out struggling everyday to uphold his name, are gradually beginning to lose credibility with the public.

In addition, Bishop Simon's actions in this matter are in direct contradiction to everything a man of God, and a Christian, is supposed to believe. Instead of trying to chase down record executives, why doesn't he do what they always tell their flock do about their problems–"take it to the Lord in prayer?"

Even though in many of the churches throughout America there are children sitting in the pews next to their parents with their stomachs growling, many of these professed men of God will unhesitatingly take the very funds needed to feed those children away from the family in the collection plate. Then, when it comes to the family's needs, they tell the family to have faith, and pray to God for help to feed their children. What has always perplexed me, however, is when the preacher needs money to pay the church's light bill, or for airfare and hotel expenses to fly across the country to go preach in another state, to "spread the word"–in states that are already literally overflowing with preachers–they don't pray for God to provide the airfare, or pay the light bill, they pass the collection plate.

Well, Bishop Simon, you're a man of God. Maybe it's about time to test your faith. Instead of wasting your time trying to chase down Jay-Z with your problems, maybe you should look to Jay-C, and pray on it.

As Rev. E. V. Hill used to say when I was a kid–"If you have the faith, God has the power"–but you also have to be right.

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

The Building of a Jazz Man

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

The Building of a Jazz Man 
. 
There are two things in this world that allow me to remain sane–writing and music. I’d be in absolute agony if I ever had to choose one over the other, because they are one–one is an extension of the other. Each in its own way allow me to express a part of my being. There are some concepts that I can only express in words, in which case, I sit down and begin to write; but there are other things that spring from a place so deep within my soul--the pain of loss, deception, or of being disappointed by a friend or loved one, for example--that it can only be expressed through raw emotion, which means my horn--it's cathartic. So I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention such an important part of my life in the context of this written interview.
.
The saxophone keeps me connected to my roots, and who I am fundamentally, so it contributes to my writing in that way as well. Sometimes when I get on my high horse and begin to speak the superficial language of the Washington pundits or the mainstream media, I simply have to glance at my horn to remember why I started writing in the first place–to present the views of those who are too often overlooked. In fact, it reminds me that I’m much more of a translator than I am a writer.  I seek to translate the emotional truths that Bird, Miles,Trane, and others set forth in their harmonic and melodic constructions into readable prose. As I mentioned above, that’s not always possible, but my horn keeps me in touch with my mission, and it reminds me to remain focused on doing the best I can in that respect.
.
My father put that horn in my hands when I was a kid. While he had many flaws (one of my first memories in life was of the police coming to my house in the middle of the night, shooting my dog, and dragging him off to the penitentiary), but at his core, he was a good man, a loving father, and a jazz fanatic. For him, the Sun only rose in the morning so it could keep Charlie Parker's reeds warm. So he wasn’t able to give me much, but what he did give me turned out to be one of the most potent and enduring forces in my life.
.
I’ll never forget the day he gave me that horn. It was on a Sunday morning. He opened the case, and there it was, smiling at me for the very first time, with its pearly-white keypads and glistening gold body gleaming in the sunlight against the deep blue felt lining of its case. Even now, I can remember my excitement as the newness of it’s smell filled my young nostrils.
.
But to my surprise, he also brought Jimmy home with him - for what, I didn’t know. Jimmy was the neighborhood’s quintessential dope fiend and general substance abuser. Thus, to my even greater surprise, it turned out that he had brought Jimmy home to teach me to play the saxophone. I was very doubtful that Jimmy could teach anyone to do anything but shoot dope, toss back a pint or two and nod, but I wasn’t worried about that at the time - I just couldn’t wait for him to put that horn together.
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It seemed like it took him forever to extract the pad-saver and adjust the reed on the mouthpiece. Then they finally put the strap around my neck. Jimmy showed me where to place my fingers, and then I blew my first official note on the saxophone, and I got one of the most horrifically agonizing sounds out of that horn that ANYONE has ever heard. It made my mother jump up out of bed and run into the living room yelling, "What is going on in here!"
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I became immediately frustrated, because I just couldn’t figure out how something that was so beautiful could produce such a horrible sound. Then my father said, "Wait a minute, son. Jimmy, show him how this thing is supposed to sound."
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Jimmy, as I mentioned before, was not only a dope fiend, but over the years he had degenerated into an extremely unkempt drunk as well. He had become the kind of person who was completely dismissed by even the most down-on-their-luck adults, and the kids used to like to play practical jokes on him when we found him nodded-out somewhere in the neighborhood. And I'm now ashamed to say that I was one of the most prolific and abusive of the bunch. But when Jimmy put that horn into his mouth and began to play "Round Midnight," he became a different person. Now he was in his element - Jimmy was in command. All of the disappointments and humiliations in life slipped under his fingers and out the bell of that horn as some of the most beautiful licks that I’d ever heard before or since.
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Even as a kid I could see the confidence, the focus, and knowledge reflected in his eyes. I could see the young Jimmy. I could see all of his hopes and dreams that seems to have gone astray. And to this day, I have never heard ANYBODY play "Round Midnight" with such passion and ease of facility, and I’ve heard it played by some of the greatest saxophone players who has ever lived, but not one of them has been able to touch me in the spot that Jimmy reached that Sunday morning of my youth. And this was playing cold, on a brand new saxophone, and he probably hadn’t touched a horn in years - and not to mention he was loaded (one of the last times I ever saw him in that condition, by the way).
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When Jimmy was done, my father told me, in his typically graphic and offhand way, "Now, I want you to hang on to this horn like it’s your momma’s tiddy, and you’ll never be broke or alone." Then he looked over at Jimmy and added, "unless you start shootin’ that shit." I followed my father’s advice, and his words have turned out to be prophetic. But actually, after watching the transformation in Jimmy when he picked up that horn, my father didn’t have to say another word.
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So even as I respond to this interview, and speak of my love for the written word, a lifelong friend sits in its stand with that same beautiful smile that first greeted me as a child. The beauty of its song is a constant reminder that the written word is only one part of my life. Unlike a corporeal being, its only reason for existence is to carry out the blessing of a long departed father upon his son. But much like a sensuously flawless and indulgent woman, it waits patiently, still gleaming in the sunlight with its glistening keys and curvaceous body, as though longing for my loving and passionate embrace.
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So thank you, Jimmy, for pulling your life together long enough to give me one. This one's for you, my man:
.
.
A SWINGIN’ AFFAIR
I 
was told as a child 
Blacks had no worth,
Not a nickel’s worth of dimes.
I believed that myth 
‘Til Dex rode in
With his ax 
In double time.
His 
horn was soarin’,
The changes flyin’,
His rhythm right on time;
My heart 
Beat with the pleasure 
Of new found pride, 
Knowing,
His blood 
Flowed through mine.
Dex 
Took the chords 
The keyboard played,
And danced around each note;
Then shuffled ‘em 
Like a deck of cards,
And didn’t miss a stroke.
B minor 7 with flatted 5th,
a half diminished chord,
He substituted a lick in D,
Then really began to soar.
He tipped his hat 
To Charlie Parker,
and quoted 
Trane with Miles,
Then paid his homage to 
Thelonious Monk,
In Charlie Rouse’s style.
He took 
a Scrapple From The Apple,
Then went to Billie’s Bounce,
The rhythm section, now on fire,
But he didn’t budge an ounce.
He just
dug right in 
to shuffle again,
This time
A Royal Flush,
Then lingered a bit 
Behind the beat,
Still smokin’
But in no rush.
Then he
doubled the time
just like this rhyme,
in fluid 16th notes,
tellin’
Charlie and Lester,
“your baby boy, Dexter’s,
on top of the 
bebop you wrote.”
Wailin’ 
like a banshee,
this prince of saxophone,
His ballads dripped of honey, 
His Arpeggios were strong.
Callin’ on his idles,
Ghost of Pres’ 
within in the isles,
smiling at his protege, 
At the peak of this new style.
His tenor
Drenched of Blackness,
And all the things we are–
Of pain, and pleasure, 
And creative greatness
Until his final bar.
 
Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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