The Love Spell and 20 Years of Marriage

20 years ago today I married Kate. I’ve expressed enough gratitude for that and for her that people are likely bored of it. BUT very few people have heard the story of the day 5 years prior when the opportunity to have a love spell cast upon me set the wheels in motion.

It was my freshman year of college, and I was the embodiment of lovelorn. Even more than loneliness, the persistent ego bruises kept accumulating. Every infatuation led to some form of rejection and every rejection reinforced the sense that I was somehow unlovable damaged goods. I was utterly convinced that a change in those fortunes would bring about a change in my self-concept, that if the next person with whom I fell in love (or really even in like) returned the favor, all of my insecurities and other negative feelings about myself would go away. I still remember my first-ever therapy session a few months later, telling my new counselor that my self-esteem was GREAT, thank you very much, and the ONLY problem was that others didn’t respond in kind

So you can imagine how intrigued I was when I heard about the love spell. My best friend at the time had a roommate, let’s call him Guillermo just in case he doesn’t want his identity revealed. Guillermo was an insightful reader of tarot cards and generally something of a man of mystery and mysticism. My friend informed me that Guillermo could cast love spells. Aside from a healthy dose of too-good-to-be-true skepticism, I was pretty giddy over the prospect and arranged a phone conversation.

Guillermo explained to me that when he put the spell on someone, the result was that person finding their perfect match within 30 days. He went on to cite several examples of past spells, case studies of sorts. He described a range of outcomes, all falling under the “perfect match” umbrella. In one case, a decent person met another decent person and had a decent relationship. In another, a psychotic person (whose pathology was unknown to Guillermo when he agreed to cast the spell) found another person with similar issues and fireworks ensued. He warned me that compatibility was measured by the spell recipient’s traits at the moment the spell occurs, not good intentions or potential.

With little contemplation I graciously declined Guillermo’s offer. Not because the idea of a love spell was cockamamie and not because I was any less desperate, but because I wasn’t ready. Even though the conviction that I was one relationship (however finite, even) away from eternally solid self esteem would remain for another year or two, and even though my longing for companionship and affection remained desperate, and even though I’d never read a book about relationships or heard the word “codependency,” I knew I had work to do. If I took Guillermo’s explanation at face value, I’d need to be able to look in the mirror and know with confidence that I was worthy of and equipped to meet the needs of someone who I really wanted as a partner. I wasn’t and I knew it.

I can’t overstate how consequential the three years were between then and the point when Kate (for whom my slow-burning infatuation was already a year old by the time of my conversation with Guillermo) and I became an item. There was a lot of therapy and a lot of frustration and a lot of demon confrontation and a whole lot of stubborn determination to become that person who I knew in 1993 I needed to become.  And because of all this there was liberation. I didn’t consciously use the love spell itself as motivation, but that conversation was the moment that I was invited to face the truth. And the truth was that I wanted a relationship that was good enough that it would demand me to be a better person, not unlike the way I didn’t just crave gigs, but rather craved performance opportunities on a level that would demand me to be a much better player. What I further came to realize was that I wanted to be that person regardless of whether I put that to use in a long-term relationship or spent the rest of my life alone.

By the time the stars aligned for me and Kate to get together, I was still a work in progress (and still am), but things were different. I knew I could be fulfilled and have strong self-esteem without a relationship – goodness knows I didn’t always succeed, but at least I knew it was possible and indeed preferable to putting my ego and quality of life in someone else’s hands. I knew I was able to be a fully contributing participant in a partnership in which I could reasonably have high expectations. And maybe most importantly I knew that whenever I fell short (as I have approximately a gajillion times) I had the wherewithal to adapt, grow, and continue the painfully slow but vital process of proactive evolution that had gotten me to that point.

By the time we got married I was all the more confident in these things. I know that the same grudging self-awareness that kept me from taking Guillermo up on the love spell offer in the first place would have kept me from making vows I didn’t feel confident I could keep. Interestingly, soon after the wedding, Guillermo told me that once he and I became friends he love spelled me anyway, without my consultation, and that it had taken years to come to fruition. Basically, by his framing (without my ever having told him the reason behind my initial choice to decline or what that conversation catalyzed), I was too stubborn to let the spell take hold, but once it finally did, boy did it. If that really is why the stars aligned for me and Kate to have this sacred opportunity to put in the work to sculpt and refine this relationship and marriage with each other, then I guess that’s two things for which I owe Guillermo a debt of gratitude.

EDS Awareness 2018: I QUIT

If I had a dollar for every time I dragged my aching carcass out of bed the morning after a gig and declared “I QUIT,” then I’d be buying dinner for everyone reading this. A couple weeks ago I had a gig in NYC with my old friend and colleague Amanda Monaco’s band, also featuring one of my longtime musical heroes. And I finally put my money where my mouth was and I DID QUIT, though not in the way I have historically intended with the statement.

The act of playing jazz piano is very physical. And I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and my joints are therefore loose and fragile and yet I want so badly to play what I hear in my head, to play what reflects my able-bodied heroes, and yet and yet . . . and the circular conundrum goes around and around and in frustration I declare “I quit.” And then of course the music calls me back and the cycle repeats. This has been a recurring pattern for the last 27 years or so since I simultaneously fell hopelessly in love with the music and started experiencing the first EDS symptoms that hinted at the obstacles before me (having previously experienced plenty of injuries, but ones that were generally fairly tangential to life as a jazz pianist).

One result of this has been a steady emotional resistance to the idea of being “impaired.” Even as I’ve reconciled that EDS is and will always be central to my life, and even as I’ve developed coping strategies, and even as I’ve been methodical about figuring out ways to maximize the musical potency and minimize the musical compromise, and even as I’ve worked to figure out what role performing plays in my life so that I don’t burn out my limited energies prematurely, there has been resistance. I have longed, at least when on the bandstand, to be whole, to be able-bodied. My biggest fear has not been of having to quit, but of sounding feeble.

For a little context for folks not into jazz (jazzheads, feel free to skip this paragraph), one of the things that’s special about this music is that the individual player generates much of the musical content. There are many other forms of music in which the specific notes one is responsible for playing have been previously determined, whether it be a Beethoven piano sonata in a concert hall or an accurate rendering of the “Jump” keyboard solo from the original Van Halen recording with a cover band in a sports bar. In this sense, while any musician with EDS or comparable physical obstacles is likely to have some struggles in playing the music before them, my inner struggles have another layer because as a jazz musician. much of the time I’m literally deciding what to play in the moment

When I listen back to my older recordings I cringe at times. Not because they sound bad (they mostly don’t, thankfully) and not because I feel wistful for my lost youth (I mostly don’t, thankfully). There are moments, though, when I hear myself “going for it” not because the music demands it at that moment but because that compulsion kicks in. It’s kind of like showing off, but in a more clear cut compensating-for-something manner. Of course, a case could be made that ALL showing off is compensating for something; I have observed that to be pretty valid. The thing is, these things don’t SOUND bad, but because I know my own “voice” as a player, I can tell when I let that stubborn resistance take over.

Before I hung up my racquet for good, I used to do this on the tennis court, but that was different. I would mostly stay focused on playing intelligently (playing “winning tennis,” one might say) and having a good time, but at times I would get into the mode of just slugging hard or running fast not because it was smart but because that’s what an able-bodied person would do and I wanted to have that feeling. Not only was this harmless playing tennis, but it was one of the main reasons I started playing again, because it felt so good to have those moments – and indeed, nearly four years after packing it in, I value the memories of those moments probably as much as the trophies (though for similar reasons I still appreciate the chance to point out that THIS CRIPPLE WON TENNIS TROPHIES).

But the funny thing is that the people who cared about me thought that was cool just because. Nobody ever said “what a profoundly heroic accomplishment for someone with a disability” or anything like that. They were happy because I loved tennis and it was a cool thing. I may get more of that with music (pats on the back for perseverance, for not playing like someone for whom there’s something audibly “wrong”), but usually it only comes up when people inquire about my ring splints and are surprised that they’re not a fashion statement. I have had many experiences where my limitations had professional consequences OFF the bandstand, where I’ve lost opportunities (and validly so) because of expressing limitations surrounding length of gig or hauling of equipment or other things that were simply not compatible with the needs of the venue or bandleader. But, again, this is not the same as sounding feeble. As time has passed, I’ve realized that while this fear of feeble musicianship is tangibly valid, it’s also a) not constructive, and b) not based on any feedback coming from outside of my own overactive head.

So as I took the train to New York, I reflected on my previous opportunity to play with the aforementioned hero, the bassist Rufus Reid, who played on so many of the records I studied in my late teens and early twenties. The previous occasion was 1996, I think, maybe 1997, and I was one of three young musicians chosen to round out a quintet with Rufus and the great drummer Akira Tana, who was one of my teachers at the time. That was a long time ago, but the memory is vivid primarily because I can remember the headspace I was in. This was an opportunity to sound like I was whole and IMPRESS one of my heroes. That all makes sense, except that a) he never perceived I was broken in the first place, b) being “unbroken” in a macho way doesn’t really impress anyone in a context like this (maybe weightlifting?) and c) being in that headspace takes one OUT of the headspace of being tuned-in, musically responsive, and soulful (which, among other things, is hardly “impressive”). So the experience went as one might predict – I didn’t embarrass myself, but I certainly didn’t play in a manner reflective of my actual musical personality or attundeness to what was going on. I remember one moment particularly vividly, when the music went in an unexpected and exciting direction and I stubbornly kept trying to play the no-longer-relevant stuff I’d practiced in order to be “impressive,” banging that square peg with my fragile arms until it kind of squished into the round hole.

I moved on to contemplating the gig ahead of me. This was one of those opportunities to do exactly what I worked so hard to learn to do, to make music with someone I respect so much and whose sound is embedded into my very conception of the music. And I thought about what a shame it would be to fall back into that “must impress, must sound not-feeble” head trip booby trap. As the train moved towards Grand Central Terminal I declared once and for all that I QUIT. I quit trying to distance myself from the reality of my physical existence. I quit feeling ashamed of being disabled when I sit down at the piano. And most of all, I quit caring about being “impressive” or flashy or really anything else but serving the music in the most genuine way I can

That sounds more dramatic than it was in a sense, given that it was at most a culmination of years and years of working on this stuff, not a sudden flipping of a switch. But it was the perfect affirmation before being in this environment. And the music? It was blissful, really, and felt as natural as I might hope. I even had an extra “test” when I looked out and saw one of my peers in the audience, an utterly brilliant pianist about whom the insecure, feeble-fearing parts of me might say “please, you think you’re HER peer?” Those thoughts hit me for maybe 10 seconds, and I took a breath, felt gratitude that she’d come to check out the music, and went back to being me, warts and fragile joints and all. As much as I encourage others to shed their own unrealistic expectations of themselves, I’m fully aware that it’s not always that easy, and I’ll always be grateful for this confluence of events to help me reach the next step on that endless climb towards an unapologetically authentic state of being. And in my case, it just may be that finally quitting will help me push the other kind of quitting off a bit further into the future.

MLK, ‘Trane, and 3 Steps to an Aspirational Life

This month I am choosing to focus on how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. modeled the aspirational life, an existence governed by what could and should be. The older I get (and the scarier the threats become to my country’s moral fabric) the more essential this view of life becomes to me. It also becomes more difficult for me to separate it from the cosmic possibilities that exist in music, something for which John Coltrane is Exhibit A (and quite possibly Exhibits Bb-G# as well). I have long viewed these two figures as aligned, but what is most significant is how these lessons can be applied by any person who chooses to, regardless of career path. Few of us would herald Dr. King today if not for the balance he struck between the moral and spiritual profundity of his “dream” and the corresponding day-in and day-out work.

The biggest reason I chose jazz music as my life’s work is that it has such a high capacity to be an aspirational music. I love the aesthetic aspects of how jazz sounds, but the revelation that made the difference was that jazz could be pursued and improved upon with virtually no end in sight. At age 17 I realized that I could already play all kinds of fully-composed music (from Mozart’s “Turkish Rondo” to “Wild Thing”) about as well as I ever could expect to, while in fleeting moments playing jazz I experienced what it meant to pursue something that was simultaneously deep and ephemeral, in the now yet unattainable. I was inspired by the vastness of the possibilities and the endlessness of the quest on which I was embarking, and it allowed me to hear those qualities in other non-jazz music I loved, whether it was the textures of Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book,” the soaring of Aretha Franklin’s high notes on “I Say A Little Prayer,” or the gnarly phrasing of Hubert Sumlin’s guitar behind Howlin’ Wolf’s voice on “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Each time I accessed some of these sounds it was so exciting, but I knew even then I would never fully grasp the divinity of which they offered a glimpse. In spite of that, and to an extent even because of that (masochistic though that may sound to some), I needed to put my whole self into the pursuit. On some level, I knew this aspirational sort of person was who I needed to become. I was never drawn to laboratory science or religion, and at that point didn’t even know that life as a social justice activist was even a thing. So when I became aware that music could be a mechanism for that kind of life, it seemed too good to be true.

Meanwhile, last week a musician I know put forth a survey of his colleagues on the topic of how they make a living in music, and the conversation became something of a referendum on why we do music and what it means to have that as a centerpiece of our lives (fun? attention? money? expression? Impacting others?). Not surprisingly, this got me thinking. Maybe I have a different perspective because of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the way it both limits my physical strength and illuminates the ongoing specter of further limits, but I made the choice years ago to forge a relationship with music that put the pursuit of transcendence front and center. That may sound touchy-feely, but there are various tangible ways it has manifested. For example, a few years ago, I had a taste of “success” with writing/recording music for TV, and considered delving deeper into that world. There would have been nothing inherently wrong with that, I know musicians who do wonderful work in that context, and I even find it pretty enjoyable. However, on closer examination, it became clear that my finite physical and creative resources would then be largely allocated to a pursuit that to serve its function properly would require stifling some of my most sincere musical impulses. I left some money and opportunity on the table, but that prospect worried me less than the prospect of looking back at my life and realizing that my window of opportunity to create something profound and deeply personal had shut.

The other day, with all of this percolating in my mind, I had a chat with a student about the innovative and risk-taking work of the late 1950s and early 1960s, obviously a time when the idea of revolution went far beyond having a less conservative relationship with standard chord progressions. John Coltrane’s name figured prominently in this conversation and we discussed various aspects of how he embodied music as an aspirational pursuit in which the possibility of getting at something new and deep took higher precedence than the guarantee of executing something cleanly. We discussed how higher pursuits often require immersion in the mundane, which Coltrane embodied so deeply in his tireless practice. When we hear him (or certain other like-spirited musicians) “go for it” there is a risk involved, and yet that risk is mitigated by the dedication to mastery of the things that can be controlled (this student made the observation that this must be why there isn’t an album called “’Trane Wreck” – well played).

In that sense, the idea of a dichotomy between people (musicians or otherwise) who value experimentation and spontaneity and those who value craft and meticulousness is a romantic notion and not a particularly helpful one. It is possible to pursue mastery AND take risks. It is possible to be a free-thinker without being oblivious to the structures that guide others. Indeed, the greatest freedom is often a reward for discipline. Sure it’s possible to become stagnant when focused on the mundane, and sure the spirit of discovery is often at its most exciting when we are children, blissfully ignorant of things like expectations and broader context. Once we’re adults with lofty goals, though, it becomes our job to simultaneously nurture all of that. It’s not an easy job, for sure, but neither is it futile.

But, again, I would not subject my readers to all of this if it only applied to music (much less only jazz music). At this point in history it is SO easy to give way to despair and hopelessness. And yet that makes it all the more important to maintain both the integrity and the vision to operate by the higher principles that some in power seem to have tossed into the scrap heap. So how do we do this? How do we embrace the aspirational in a concrete way? As promised, here is a grossly oversimplified but hopefully useful overview:

1 ) Tune in to the ideal with passion and focus.

2 ) Work diligently on all the mundane things that are needed to bring that ideal to fruition.

3 ) Continually calibrate the balance between these.

The first two are straightforward, if hardly easy. Demand equality. Love another deeply. Be generous. Look out for those who are in need. AND do the gruntwork to manifest these things in daily life and the world around you. Task #3, the reconciling of the two, is where things get particularly tricky, but regardless of your feelings about 1960s Coltrane, Dr. King brilliantly shows us how it’s done. That we are still slogging our way towards the mountaintop he helped us identify invalidates neither the utter necessity of the climb nor the inner rewards of giving ourselves fully to an aspiration that rationally speaking we know we will not live to see brought to full fruition.

I remember listening to hours of MLK speeches on a long road trip four years ago. I was doing it less for the content and more for the oratory, and I was disarmed by how mundane some of it was. Yes, we’ve all heard him raise the roof as he teaches us about love and justice and equality. Personally, though, I had never heard him illuminate the painstaking minutiae of implementing protests and boycotts targeting specific Midwestern businesses. I knew that he was involved in these things, but accustomed to his most passionate big-picture oratory, I was struck by how many hours of these recorded speeches revolved around explaining these micro-elements that were so methodical and patient.

This helped me understand the need to put these pieces together. If we view his work merely through the lens of idealism, we lose sight of how hard he and others worked to make tangible change and undo tangibly oppressive systems, while if we view it merely through the lens of gruntwork, we can lose sight of the higher substance that is at the root of it all and that hopefully gives us renewable inspiration to persist and keep working. There have always been and will always be threats to love, justice, and equality, but we must remember that stubborn pursuit of the ideal DOES make change, not to mention serving as the foundation for a life well-lived.


It’s a very contemplative moment for a couple reasons. One, we’re into December, with the next couple weeks serving as a suffocatingly (like, literally difficult to breathe sometimes) ominous march towards grim anniversaries of loss. Two, I just gave my last public performance of a year that brought me more in the way of stimulating musical collaboration than I’ve ever had, all undertaken by the skin of my teeth amidst an unusual degree of overwhelm (as evidenced by the fact that this is my first blog post in three months and the first one that isn’t a musical Top 10 list in seven, the longest such stretch since I began blogging in 2010). So it’s all kind of coming at me at once.

For reasons that I didn’t initially try too hard to identify, I’ve spent my fleeing moments of downtime over the past week and change reflecting on where I was 25 years ago (spurred, I suppose, by having missed my 25th HS reunion last weekend). 25 years ago I was wrapping up my first semester of college, living in a filthy, stinky apartment with a couple of sketchy roommates and no heat. I had few friends there (and was by that point estranged from the one close friend with which I began the semester) and limited access to my “offsite” friends (letters and expensive long-distance phone calls). I had just been informed that my wrist problems had been largely misdiagnosed and in the meantime I had followed the instructions of the misdiagnosing surgeon (who had operated on my right wrist a couple weeks before I began college) so well that not only had that wrist gotten a bit worse, but my left wrist had caught up in the meantime and gotten just as bad. The issues had grown so acute that it was excruciatingly painful to lift my backpack or a tray in the dining hall when I went for one of the 12 meals per week (skipping breakfast each day as well as lunch twice a week) on the meal plan I had chosen due to some sort of masochism and body image issues (justified internally under the credible but insincere guise of frugality).

Of course with wrist problems like that I was barely able to play the piano, the pursuit of which was pretty much the only reason I had landed there in the first place and the only reason (aside from stubborn determination not to return home) I chose to stay in spite of all of this. I had not begun studying with Kenny or Ted, the mentors who would most inspire and shape me as a musician, I hadn’t yet met Wanda or Caryl (the classical piano teacher and hand therapist, respectively, who would team up to help me crawl out of the gutter physically), and I was still months away from beginning to reconcile that seeing a therapist could be anything other than a) a humiliating admission that my image as a generally functional person was all a ruse and b) the opening of a floodgate that protected me from things that, unlike all the above circumstances, were well beyond what I could handle.

Mind you, I’m conscious that many people have it worse. I was hungry and cold, but not REALLY hungry and cold like others without regular meals or a roof. I was sad and depressed and lonely, but I was not despondent (I never once contemplated ending it all, for example) and was not without people in my life. But man, I was pretty miserable. One of the hardest parts was the added layer of disillusionment. My high school experience was by no means terrible (I wasn’t subjected to physical violence or significant bullying, aced my classes, had some friends, played some music, etc.), but I was depressed, anxious, and generally out of my element, and able to endure largely because of the reassurance that college would be different. And a few months in, it was even worse.

I now look back to those days with a certain type of fondness. Not fondness in the sense of positive nostalgia – indeed, thinking in any depth about it brings me back to having the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that on a good day back then would abate for maybe one or two of my waking hours. But something shifted for me in that time, specifically the deep awareness that I could endure.

There was this one moment in particular that I remember helping to sustain me. My “love life” was a non-starter (yet another thing I had banked on changing once in college) and at one point I asked a girl out; I wasn’t entirely sure about her but I’d become so desensitized to that feeling in the pit of the stomach that I just ignored it in this case. She said yes and then she cancelled the afternoon of the date, citing too much studying that she needed to do. So I went to a movie instead, and there she was with her friends. And I laughed – for whatever reason, it felt not like a slap in the face, but rather more like a private joke with the universe. And that moment of laughter, trivial and momentary though it may have been, broke the tension, reminded me to breathe, and gave me some smiles that made it easier to get through the next day.

I don’t precisely remember the next day, but I DO know that every moment of levity, every moment of kindness, every moment when a setback wasn’t as hard as I anticipated, all those moments cumulatively wound up being the nourishment that allowed me to endure. My life could hardly be more different now in terms of the resources I have, but it’s not hyperbole to say that the resource I value the most is my awareness of my capacity to endure. It’s not even the capacity itself (though obviously that’s important too), but my AWARENESS of that capacity is what allows me to stay out of certain rabbit holes of despair and know that adversity won’t break me. Even that assertion is largely spiritual in nature – I can’t say for certain that life will never break my body or even my heart beyond repair, but my soul can withstand the beating and hold out for a clearing. That’s pretty much what I expect the next couple weeks to be – I know it’ll hurt like hell and it’s likely that I’ll still be there on the other side, and that’s enough to sustain me for now.

As a postscript, just this morning I thought about the beginning of the following semester, the winter of 1993. My wrists were getting marginally better and I was starting to have people want to play music with me. My relationship with my estranged friend was getting marginally better. One of my sketchy roommates left, replaced by a not-sketchy one. I was starting to write letters to this cool girl who was in college in Rhode Island. Objectively speaking it was still a pretty rough time, but I felt so good to be seeing any positive things happen that I felt alive and encouraged. This was the reward for enduring. Subtle though it may sometimes be, there is always a reward for enduring.

Top 10 Favorite Steely Dan Tracks

Woke up today to the rumor and then news of Walter Becker’s passing. His and Donald Fagen’s work with Steely Dan is on a very short list of my most formative musical influences. When I was 5 and had access to a handful of cassette tapes; Aja was one of them, and I would listen in particular to “Peg” over and over. When I was in high school I got really into their first album (Countdown to Ecstasy) and listened pretty incessantly to a cassette I had from a 90 minute radio “special” on WPLR (basically a cross-section of songs of theirs from throughout the ‘70s). In college I got into Katy Lied and Aja and eventually made one of my first-ever CD purchases of music I already owned, getting the boxed set of their complete recordings from 1972-1980.

It would be a gross oversimplification to say that their mixture of rock and jazz was THE reason they were so important to me, but it’s a big part of it. I love their songwriting AND I love the jazz soloists and hip chord progressions. With apologies to Stevie Wonder, no other artist I had ever heard married these things in such a compelling, organic way and committed to doing so as often as Don and Walt. My own tastes in lyrics tend not to run in the direction of cynical abstraction that marks their lyrics and my own tastes in singing tend not to run in the direction of Fagen’s sometimes-warbled delivery . . . and yet I still love it and find their music to be perfect for what it is, and what it is has been central to my musical consciousness for literally as long as I can remember. They inspired me beyond the music too, proving to me that possessors of their kind of eggheady, dry wit really can have a place in this kind of music, yet another way that they successfully married things that I previously found to be mutually exclusive.

It’ll take me a while to wrap my brain around Walt’s departure, but in the meantime here are some of my favorite Steely Dan tracks. They are arranged in chronological order, with one tune from each of their non-compilation album (which omits the song “FM” – check that one out too). Other personal favorites from these records included as well.

1 ) “Kings” from Can’t Buy A Thrill

One of my favorite Don & Walt lyrics here is paired with a truly great (and weirdly overlooked) rock melody and groove. Guest guitarist Elliot Randall (better known for his iconic soloing on “Reelin’ in the Years”) gets a tasty, gritty solo in on this one, just one of the moments that hints at their jazz predilections.

(other picks: Midnite Cruiser, Reelin’ in the Years, Fire in the Hole)

2 ) “Razor Boy” from Countdown to Esctasy

Talk about jazz predilections, here we have Ray Brown sitting in on bass and Victor Feldman (a regular contributor, particularly on the Aja album) on vibraphone, but the song is also eerily catchy. When I first got the record I mostly was checking out “My Old School” (and “Skunk” Baxter’s wonderful soloing on it) but this one made a serious mark.

(other picks: My Old School, King of the World)

3 ) “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” from Pretzel Logic

This is maybe not my favorite track on the album, so why is it here? This faithful yet quirky Duke Ellington cover (the only cover song in their recorded history) is the track in their catalog that perhaps best shows the depth of their involvement in jazz, clearly far from a superficial affectation. Heresy perhaps, but I listen to this version as often as the 1927 original – I wonder how Bubber Miley feels from above about the guitar-with-talk-box interpretation of his plunger muted trumpet melodies. .

(other picks: Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Pretzel Logic)

4 ) “Doctor Wu” from Katy Lied

If I had to pick one SD song to demonstrate the line they straddled between rock and jazz, it would probably be this one, with mysterious and evocative lyrics, deep and rich chord progressions, and one of the great “jazz artist on a rock record” guest solos ever, courtesy of saxophonist Phil Woods.

(other picks: Any World That I’m Welcome To, Throw Back the Little Ones)

5 )“ The Fez” from The Royal Scam

This track, featuring their only shared writing credit (with Paul Griffin, who provides the great keyboard melody), is funky as hell and features some of the earliest recorded guitar soloing by Walter Becker on a Dan record, and he surely earns his increasingly prominent role as a soloist with his bluesy, lyrical playing.

(other picks: Kid Charlemagne, Haitian Divorce)

6 )  “Peg” from Aja

There are so many great and iconic moments on this album, but “Peg” is just one of the small handful of songs (like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from my Friends”) that’s so etched into my consciousness that it’s basically part of my DNA now. No matter what I’m doing, this song gets my shoulders moving and makes me smile, so infectious are the groove and the core riffs, not to mention Michael McDonald’s background vocals.

(other picks: Aja, Home at Last)

7 ) “Babylon Sisters” from Gaucho

This is one of the best slow-yet-funky grooves in modern pop music, if you ask me. Much of that can be credited to the drumming of Bernard Purdie, but this slinky song and great arrangement have a lot to do with it as well.

(other picks: Time Out of Mind)

8 ) “Book of Liars” from Alive in America

(other picks: Aja, Bodhisattva)

This live album is in one sense the perfect point of re-entry to phase II of SD, their era as a popular and superlatively tight touring unit. Most of the tunes on this record are Dan classics, with the exception of this reworking of Becker’s first studio album, which provides us with not only a new listen to a truly great song but also a chance to hear him sing.

9 ) “West of Hollywood” from Two Against Nature

For a time, jazz saxophonist Chris Potter was a touring member of Steely Dan and this track could be viewed almost as a two-movement suite: the song itself and then the utterly epic extended tenor saxophone solo at the end.

10 ) “Pixeleen” from Everything Must Go

This funky and lyrically insightful tune co-features the vocals of Carolyn Leonhart, one of the key members of their modern-day band (and regular performer of some of Don and Walt’s lesser-known material, such as “Book of Liars” above).

Top 10 Favorite Joanne Brackeen Tracks

I am so excited that JoAnne Brackeen is coming to Hartford, CT for the Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz festival, which I believe marks the first time in 15 years she has played in the Nutmeg State as a bandleader. Fresh off the news that she has been selected as a 2018 NEA Jazz Master, she is still a powerhouse at 78. She is also one of my biggest influences in music and someone who deserves far more attention (not that she herself is apt to complain).

In the fall semesters of 1993 and 1994, fairly early in my six years of studies with Kenny Barron, he brought JoAnne to Rutgers to teach a handful of lessons while he was on the road. Seven in total, not that I’m keeping track. Okay, maybe I am, because they were profoundly life-changing encounters. I wasn’t a particularly precocious or mature student at that time, but I was somehow smart enough to know that this was an opportunity to dig in and learn something about her conception. Most of that work together was spent with me learning her compositions, which are at the same time extremely challenging and extremely natural and intuitive. That is, on paper, the changes in time signature and rhythm and tonality are quite difficult, but as soon as I heard her play these tunes they made perfect sense and it was clear that the complexities weren’t hyper-intellectualized components added to trip up musicians. Quite the contrary, it was as if I was seeing the next logical step after Ornette Coleman, a composer working within the jazz realm of chord changes and song forms and notated composition, yet working with unfettered creativity that was still far from random. The tunes breathed and ebbed and flowed and moved when it made organic sense. My ideas about how to create were changed and there was no turning back. Some of my own recorded compositions are naked tributes to her writing style (such as “T-Time” from the Playdate album and “Gorpy” from Turtle Steps), but even the tunes that don’t obviously sound like her often bear that stamp more subtly.

Oh yeah, and then there was the piano playing. Holy cow what a powerful and visionary pianist she was and is. In addition to her wonderful material, it was really illuminating to hear her play standards and to hear what she had to say on my own burgeoning compositions. Along the way I became a drooling fan, collecting most of her records (I’m a couple short of having the “full catalogue,” but pretty close). Her recent recorded work is scant (making her upcoming appearance here all the more exciting) and while there are some of her 1970s albums that are available digitally, I’m frustrated by how much of her great output from the 1980s and ‘90s is difficult to find (unless you come to my crib for a listening party). I’ve made my attempts to introduce younger musicians to her music (including arranging/assigning her tunes for the Wesleyan University Jazz Ensemble, from “Can This McBee” early in my work there to “Egyptian Dune Dance” this past semester). The tracks here are a small handful of my favorites, presented in chronological order.

1 ) “What the World Needs Now is Peace and Love” from Jazz Messengers ‘70 (by Art Blakey), 1970

From a statistical/historical standpoint, this record stands out in that JoAnne was the first female Jazz Messenger. From a musical standpoint, she plays her butt off and this is the first chance to really hear her dig in, after multiple funky albums by vibraphonist Freddie McCoy in which she is dutifully playing in the rhythm section without being out front. This incarnation of Blakey’s band also features Carlos Garnett (who contributed this tune), Bill Hardman, and Jan Arnet.

2 ) “Nefertiti” from Snooze (a.k.a. Six Ate), 1975

This trio outing with Stan Getz bandmate Billy Hart on drums and frequent Brackeen collaborator Cecil McBee on bass is her first record as a bandleader. There are several wonderful original compositions here, but I selected this Wayne Shorter tune a) to provide a bit of context for her playing on a tune you may have heard before, b) to display her particularly authoritative playing on work by modern innovators of her generation (she’s also done great versions of tunes by Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner, for example), and c) because I LOVE the way she plays this tune and her version was the direct inspiration for my own recording of it from my What It Is album.

3 ) “Infant Eyes” from Moments In Time (by Stan Getz), 1976

There is a goldmine of mid-70s live material featuring JoAnne and Billy Hart playing with Stan Getz. This track, recorded at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco (appropriately enough run by fellow 2018 NEA Jazz Master Todd Barkan), is another Wayne Shorter tune, and it features JoAnne’s gorgeous ballad playing both as a soloist and accompanist.

4 ) “Beagle’s Boogie” from Ancient Dynasty, 1980

JoAnne has a particular way with writing funky groove tunes in odd and/or shifting time signatures that still feel danceable as long as you don’t demand symmetry in your dancing, and this is one of my favorites. She also has a particular way with writing stuff that sounds great for tenor saxophone, with Michael Brecker, Branford Marsalis, and Chris Potter among those who’ve recorded on her albums. This record (and track) feature the great Joe Henderson, laying in nicely on this asymmetrical groove laid down by JoAnne and her frequent collaborators Eddie Gomez on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

5 ) “Enchance” from Special Identity, 1981

Here are Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette yet again, on the second of three great trio albums recorded over a dozen years’ time with JoAnne. Several of my favorite JoAnne originals are on this album, but I’m selecting this utterly gorgeous waltz that lends itself well to both lyricism and fire, of which she not surprisingly delivers both on this recording.

6 )  “Heidi-B” from Sweet Return (by Freddie Hubbard), 1983

My first time hearing JoAnne play or write was on this album, which I found at the Rutgers library upon learning I would be working with her. She sounds great on the whole album, but the tune that she wrote is predictably the one that really blew my mind and introduced me to some of her compositional and pianistic language. Lew Tabackin on tenor and flute, old pal Eddie Gomez on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums round out the quintet. As you seek out/fall in love with this tune, note that sometimes I’ve seen this spelled “Hedi-B,” and on other versions with JoAnne as bandleader it’s “Haiti-B.”

7 ) “Dr. Chu Chow” from Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, 1989

I adore JoAnne’s solo piano playing, from her first solo record Mythical Magic in 1978 to 1999’s Popsicle Illusion, her most recent album as leader. This song (one of those I learned while studying with her) is a portrait of a Qigong master about whom she told me early in our work together as I was experiencing severe wrist problems. I will never forget how nurturing and flat-out informative she was in sharing wisdom about wellness at a time when I was getting desperate. And this tune is wonderful too.

8 ) “Picasso” from Turnaround, 1992

Probably the most difficult of the JoAnne tunes I learned in our work together, this song epitomizes the “tricky yet totally sensible” ethos I’ve described. To hear Donald Harrison, Cecil McBee, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and JoAnne utterly destroy this tune (in a live performance at the sadly now-defunct NYC club Sweet Basil). All the quirks in the tune totally belong and give it an edge worthy of Pablo himself.

9 ) “Manhattan Style” from Brasil from the Inside (by Trio da Paz), 1992

Here JoAnne joins the powerful Brazilian trio, augmented as well on this track by Claudio Roditi. Her affection for Brazilian music can be heard on recordings as far back as the work with Stan Getz (including a live album with Joao Gilberto) and she manages to assimilate the rhythmic nuances while still retaining her own sound.

10 ) “Another Look” from A New Beginning (by Makanda Ken McIntyre), 1999

This slow swing tune, featuring Makanda on flute, is from one of her most recent sessions, save for a nice T.K. Blue record from the following year. She locks in with drummer Charli Persip and plays with impeccable taste and groove, still getting a bit gnarly as things develop.

EDS Awareness 2017: Reflections of a Partner to Someone with EDS

Guest post by Kate Ten Eyck

I have been married to Noah for nineteen years. When we got married, I knew very little about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and he looked and acted perfectly “normal.” At that point, the internet was in its infancy, and virtually nobody I knew had ever even heard of it. I knew that Noah’s skin was fragile, that his joints were hyper-flexible and could dislocate easily, but what did that really mean? I also had to be careful physically around him, lest I accidentally dislocate his shoulder by falling asleep with my head resting on it. Early on, that actually happened, and I adapted to having a level of physical awareness that was new and disconcerting. I knew that Noah and I were soulmates, but my soulmate came with this mysterious condition. I didn’t really know what to make of that fact.

As time went on, Noah developed chronic joint pain. The occasional dislocation or injury could be frustrating, but chronic joint pain is a whole new level of difficulty. It affects one’s mood, energy level, and ability to focus. At that point, both Noah and I started to learn more about his condition. We went to conferences and met others with EDS. I learned that we were fortunate that Noah was doing as well as he was, others with EDS are completely debilitated by joint instability and pain. We started to wonder, what would life look like in five years? Ten years? Twenty? Would Noah still be able to play the piano in his thirties? How could we prepare for a future that seemed suddenly so uncertain?

Being the partner of someone with a disability has brought out the best and worst in me. At my best, I am the kind and patient nurse. At my worst, I am openly frustrated and cross. The point I always come back to when I feel frustrated is that any day I could become ill or have an accident and become the one who needs more care. Yes, because of EDS there are more instances when Noah is injured and needs care, but he takes care of me as well. Even as someone without any chronic physical problems, I still can have a debilitating headache or get sick with the flu. I really try to be kind and patient, it helps me and it helps Noah. Probably because he has experienced it so much himself, when I get injured Noah is incredibly patient and kind towards me.

The very hardest thing is to see Noah in pain or discomfort and know that there isn’t much I can do about it. The next hardest thing is to tell Noah that I am struggling because some aspect of his condition is affecting me. I know he already feels bad that there are activities that I enjoy that he can’t participate in, and he knows that I wish he could. I don’t want to be selfish, and I don’t want him to feel bad. However, I have realized over time that being in denial doesn’t help either one of us. It’s much better for me to say, “it’s hard for me that we can’t take a bike ride together” than to feel that, not express it, and then just act weird. Sometimes if there is something difficult going on like debilitating back pain, the best thing I can do is talk to a good friend or therapist about it. At that moment, leaning on Noah while he is suffering, and telling him about how much his pain and debilitation is affecting me is just wrong. But it’s important to talk to someone about it. Those feelings are there, and unexpressed they could turn into something ugly. Not only do I need to communicate openly with him, but I need to be honest with myself even when the emotions are inconvenient.

Everyone who lives long enough at some point suffers some kind of injury or disability. I feel like Noah and I have had to learn to cope with human frailty at an earlier age than many of our peers. As a result, I’d say we have developed some strong coping mechanisms that help us in all aspects of our lives. Working through adversity together has only strengthened our relationship, and for that I feel incredibly fortunate.

Top 10 Favorite Tracks Featuring Mickey Roker

About 6 months after saying goodbye to Bob Cranshaw, we do the same with his batterymate in Milt Jackson’s group and on literally dozens of other records, the fabulous drummer Granville “Mickey” Roker. I only shared the bandstand with him once (at Ortlieb’s in Philly when I was 20) and wish that I’d understood his contributions better then. I have since dug into many records he’s on and realized how many records I was already listening to then with which I hadn’t made the connection to this unassuming gent. Few have swung as hard, and while he was not the most famous of drummers, the feeling in his beat speaks to me in a unique way. Here are some of my personal favorites from his discography.

1 ) “The Sorcerer” from Speak Like a Child (by Herbie Hancock)

This is simultaneously one of the hardest-swinging and most harmonically hip tracks in jazz piano trio lore, and the incredible propulsion from Mickey and Ron Carter is a huge part of that.

2 ) “Baby Man” from Free Spirits (by Mary Lou Williams)

Playing at a slow tempo with a strong groove is a particularly challenging task for a drummer or anyone else, and this is one of my all-time favorite examples of that, courtesy of Mary Lou, Mickey, and Buster Williams. John Stubblefield’s tune is one of the most hauntingly soulful things I’ve ever heard.

3 ) “Big Bertha” from Sweet Honey Bee (by Duke Pearson)

The subtle hi-hat playing in the opening bass solo by Ron Carter here gives way to a clinic in hard bop medium-up-tempo swinging goodness during the melody and fiery solos by Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson (and some tasty piano by Pearson)

4 ) “Goin’ Down South” from San Francisco (by Bobby Hutcherson)

While Mickey was known for his swing feel, this is one of the fattest backbeats I’ve ever heard on a straight-ahead jazz track. Joe Sample’s tune, Bobby’s marimba and Harold Land’s tenor are all buoyed by this amazing groove.

5 ) “Summer in Central Park” from In Pursuit of the 27th Man (by Horace Silver)

The first recording of this classic latter-day (1972) Horace classic also includes some of his hippest piano playing, particularly since it comes at a time when he was largely pigeonholed as a “funky” player. The modern waltz feel that underpins this owes a lot to Mickey and the electric bass of Mr. Cranshaw.

6 ) “Milestones” from Con Alma (by Ray Bryant)

Mickey’s brushwork is fairly underrepresented on this list, but this up-tempo trio romp features him prominently and feels totally relaxed and totally energetic at the same time, without his picking up a stick.

7 ) “Tin Tin Deo” from Happy Time (by Junior Mance)

Here is the tandem of Mickey and Ron again, backing the hard-grooving Junior Mance. I love this whole record, but this performance of a Dizzy Gillespie classic is a particularly tasty example of Mickey’s Latin feel.

8 ) “Three Little Words” from the Standard Sonny Rollins (by Sonny Rollins)

This very short but ridiculously swinging trio track epitomizes the way Sonny’s sound evolved while still retaining the essence of his late 1950s pianoless trio work. The grooving fury of Mickey’s playing is the perfect complement here.

9 ) “Good Morning Heartache” from Sa Va Bella (for Lady Legends) (by Milt Jackson)

It’s hard to choose one track to typify the roughly 30 year relationship between Mickey and Bags (including Mickey’s stint in the Modern Jazz Quartet after Connie Kay’s death) but this one, from their last album together, does a decent job as it goes from achingly lyrical balladry to booty-shaking swing and back.

10 ) “Sunday” from Hank & Frank II (by Hank Jones)

Mickey is one of the “young guys” on this 2009 date, one of his last sessions, swinging hard alongside Hank Jones and Frank Wess.

Do You Realize?

“do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” – Flaming Lips

This weekend I heard the final mix of the now-released Trot Fox cover recording of “Do You Realize.” This coincided with my Uncle Tom’s 80th birthday celebration in Baltimore. All of this would sound both innocuous and tangential without some context. But there’s context aplenty and my head is spinning (and not just because I got up at 4:15 to catch the plane home from which I’m writing this).

If you already know the context, you can likely skip this paragraph, but Trot Fox is a wonderful band comprised of Claire Randall, Gabe Gordon, Declan O’Connell and Nate Mondschein, all but Declan former students of mine. Gabe and Claire, in addition to being life partners, were both part of the Resonant Motion team from its early stages and Claire also was a member of the Noah Baerman Resonance Ensemble. Was. Because she was murdered in December and now I don’t even feel like I understand verb tense anymore. Completing “The Rock and the Redemption” for release has felt like what I imagine Steve Cropper went through putting “Dock of the Bay” together after Otis Redding’s plane crash.

So about a year ago, with literally minutes remaining in a recording session at Converse Rubber Tracks, Trot Fox recorded this song live in one take. Mind you, I’ll admit that before this my entire awareness of the Flaming Lips consisted of knowing that they’d done a cheeky remake of Sgt Pepper and that when I was in college they did a that stupid but catchy song about the girl who puts Vaseline on her toast.

Fast forward and it’s as if the song is a eulogy-to-self, especially as she sings the above-quoted line at the beginning and end, the band sounds amazing, and in March I had the “privilege” (if anything about this could be viewed as such) of being the resident geezer in a room of her friends, collaborators, and family to record a choral overdub at the end of the song, arranged by two more students-turned-collaborators, Jess Best and Mel Hsu.

And Claire’s singing? It hurts. It hurts because it’s an emotional song. And it hurts because her performance is imbued with such strength and pain. And it hurts because she seems so present in the real-time interaction with the rest of the band, emblematic of how she differed from the archetypal good-singing diva. And it hurts because of Gabe and her family and so many others.

I listened 3 more times on the drive to the airport this morning, which felt necessary even though I nearly missed my exit and then forgot to empty my water bottle going through the TSA line. I hurt and I knew I was alive. And then I wondered, while going through the TSA line the second time, if that’s just masochistic. I mean, if that’s my rubric for knowing I’m alive, maybe I should just try stabbing myself in the forehead with tweezers?

And that’s where Uncle Tom comes in. On a basic level, celebrating his 80th was an occasion of unadulterated joy. And it was indeed joyful, yet the joy was inherently entangled with mortality and all that comes with that. Part of that was his gratitude (reaching a level I’m tempted to portray as wonder) to still be here and to be surrounded by loved ones, aware that subsequent parties are not guaranteed. Part of it was the absence of Margie, his wife and partner for decades (who many of you know as the inspiration behind my “Ripples” composition, album, and philosophy). By his side was Mery, his wonderful wife of just over a year, herself widowed. I spent the evening chatting with them after the party as they (and I) played with my 2 and 4 year old grand-nieces. Though I wasn’t making the connection to Claire consciously as we hung out (indeed it was in a sense a few hours’ “respite” from that), their longevity as humans inherently carries loss. Their departed spouses are imminently present in conversations, in photographs, and in any number of other ways down to the ubiquitous presence of Margie’s ceramics throughout the house. And now adorning the basement are three paintings from my mother’s (his sister’s) youth that Tom has now framed and hung, including one that my mother painted of my grandmother, who lives on in a great-granddaughter named after her. There is joy and there are scars.

I could go on about the cycles of life, but others have done that far more wisely than I could. And ultimately for me and for so many fellow grievers there is the difficult yet mundane reality that we who are still here will (to paraphrase my dear sis Rachel Green) experience grief as a natural consequence of love. I will, of course, continue to process the cognitive dissonance of moving forward while not “moving on” in the months and years to come, but this was a cosmically-timed perspective check. I am the better for having had Claire in my life, and in proportion to that the visceral aspects of listening to this song fill me with both the soul affirmation of love and the pain of loss – a cocktail that is pretty overwhelming but for me beats the heck out of a straight shot of detached avoidance.

If after all of this you feel up to listening to this utterly stunning work of art, I encourage you to download it along with a “purchase price” that will go entirely to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Or download it for free and share it. Or just stream it. Or save it for when you have the space for it. Or file it away indefinitely and savor the presence of those still with us while honoring the scars we all carry and the scars that lay before those of us privileged enough to get to stick around a while longer.

Top 10 Favorite Larry Coryell Tracks

Top 10 Favorite Larry Coryell Tracks

I think Larry Coryell (1943-2017) has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in modern music. Aside from his clear historical significance in melding jazz and rock guitar traditions and techniques, the pure artistic brilliance with which he straddled those lines is rather stunning. While nowadays it may be more common for guitarists to be fully fluent in both of those arenas, Coryell broke tremendous ground for all of the youngins. Many rock guitarists lack the rhythmic nuance and harmonic fluency to play jazz authoritatively, and many jazz guitarists sound comparatively wimpy and/or cerebral when they play rock. Larry pulled off both with utter conviction, and I’ve always been particularly enamored of the contexts in which he has been able to do both.

The list is in chronological order and leaves out records I really dig by, among others, Herbie Mann, Jim Pepper (with whom he also played in the early days of the Free Spirits), Sonny Rollins, Leon Thomas, Donald Harrison, Joey DeFrancesco, Paco de Lucia, and Ron Carter.

1 ) “Green Moss” from Nine Flags (by Chico O’Farrill – 1966)

This is not Larry’s first record date (it’s his third, I believe), but his feature on this tune is honestly one of the most fascinating guitar solos I’ve ever heard, somehow channeling Barney Kessel, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry at various points yet still sounding coherent. This one is long out of print, but is on YouTube as of this writing.

2 ) “One, Two, 1-2-3-4” from Duster (by Gary Burton – 1967)

Though finally back in print after years, I can’t for the life of me understand how the Gary Burton Quartet of the late 1960s isn’t better known, especially by the musicians of my generation. The word “groundbreaking” gets thrown around a lot, but these cats really were. All four of the albums they produced (including A Genuine Tong Funeral, which augments the group) are classics and display the incredible interplay between Burton and Coryell. While I love their more lyrical material, if it had to be one song then I’m going with this rave-up, buoyed by the ferocious playing of Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes.

3 ) “Rain” from Tomorrow Never Knows (by Steve Marcus – 1967)

The work Steve Marcus did with his cohorts in the days before “fusion” had a name is both historically important and musically potent. There are other tracks that more prominently feature Larry as a soloist (I suggest “Theresa’s Blues” from Count’s Rock Band), but he does get his turn here on a track that really exemplifies what the middle ground is between 1960s Coltrane and psychedelic-era Beatles.

4 ) “Treats Style” from Lady Coryell (by 1968)

Larry swings hard in a trio with Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. ‘Nuff said.

5 ) “Rene’s Theme” from Spaces (by 1970)

Thanks to the presence of John McLaughlin, this album features the two towering influences in jazz/rock guitar side by side. So, appropriately enough, I’m picking the acoustic duet, which is lovely and interactive but not without some fireworks as well.

6) “Birdfingers” from Introducing the Eleventh House (1973)

Along with the also recently-departed drummer/composer Alphonse Mouzon, Coryell produced some excellent work with this hard-driving band (on this record also featuring Randy Brecker on trumpet) that is right in the wheelhouse of the 1970s fusion sounds associated with Return to Forever, Billy Cobham, and others.

7 ) “Carolyn ‘Kiki” Mingus” from Me Myself An Eye (by Charles Mingus – 1978)

Heady company here, as Coryell follows Lee Konitz and Michael Brecker as soloists on this gorgeous Jack Walrath arrangement from the first Mingus album produced after Mingus’s own battle with ALS had left him wheelchair-bound and unable to play. Larry toes the line between edginess and sensitivity perfectly.

8 ) “Nefertiti” from Shining Hour (1989)

Beginning in the 1980s, Larry had a long streak of really authoritative straight-ahead jazz records. Kenny Barron and company swing hard while Larry displays his rhythmic ease and harmonic fluency on this tricky Wayne Shorter composition.

9 ) “Sink or Swim” from The Coryells (by the Coryells – 1999)

This whole album (featuring Larry in an acoustic setting alongside his guitar-slinging sons Murali and Julian) is a lot of fun, but I’m particularly fond of this track, which prominently features all three of them as soloists.

10) “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” from Duality (by Kenny Drew, Jr. and Larry Coryell – 2011)

I’ve always admired Larry’s duo playing, and it’s particularly poignant here alongside another great musician we lost recently, pianist Kenny Drew, Jr. – both musicians display not only the chops for which they are well-known but also great versatility and sensitivity of interplay.