A Jazz Age

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A Jazz Age

My son came to me tonight, a school night, on a day when the temperature neared 100, and asked if we could have a fire.

To be clear: having a fire at our house means the cheap fire pit we got from the Lowes Hardware store in the back yard.  It’s been a great gathering place for our whole family.

The fire pit has been a departure for us.  My wife, though she enjoyed camping and family outings as a kid, never really thought much about these outdoor fireplaces or pits or anything of the like.  Add to this that it was warm, had the kids running around . . . let’s just call it what it was, we never really thought about doing something like it in our time together.  We had other plans, other thoughts, other options . . . and we spent more time together in intimate moments in other ways.

But in the last three years we’ve been using this as a gathering place for myself and the kids.  Change, as I’ve been so prolific in stating here, is the constant in our home.

So when we moved to the rental home we have now the first thing I did was hook up my stereo.  My wife hated the clunky old thing, but it’s a masterpiece of sonic engineering.  Thanks to a receiver and turntable given to me by my oldest brother years and years ago it’s superior to any bookshelf system you’d buy today.  Yes, Virginia, I still buy and listen to vinyl.  I’m not a hipster, I’m just . . . lazy.  I like it, the experience of vinyl and a turntable.

But the fire pit came after and what we started doing was lighting the fire, opening the back sliding glass door, and putting a record on the turntable.  Most the time it’s one of my jazz records because, I have to admit, it just feels right.  I like the relaxed atmosphere, the dancing tips of the fire like they’re bopping to Miles Davis or Coltrane.  They slow dance to Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell.

I looked at my son tonight and asked him:
“Why would you want to put on a fire tonight?  It’s hotter than hell outside?!”
“Because I like going out there and playing around.  Then you put on a record and I like when you listen to your jazz records.”

I was surprised.  He’s an 11-year-old who knows the lyrics to every song on the Black Keys’ latest record.  His sister listens to the band Paramore.

“What records do you like the most,” I asked, thinking he’d have a hard time coming up with anything?
“I like your Brubeck stuff the most.  Especially the one on the red vinly…an Octet.”
I was stunned.
“But the Live at Carnegie Hall is the best because it has Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk on it, too.”

I was about to tell him I was impressed when he added:
“But Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is pretty cool, too.”

It’s here I have to admit, my musical tastes are rather eclectic.  Yes, I have a lot of jazz.  I also have bad ’80s LP’s leftover from my teenage years.  I have new blues, rock, pop, and whatever else.  I have that same Black Keys record.  I have Cage the Elephant alongside Florence and the Machine next to Coltrane, Brubeck, and Miles.

Not many kids would know any jazz records, let alone the names of the artists.  But I never forced the music on my kids.  I don’t get in the car, with their music on the radio and force them to listen to my jazz records or Clapton or whatever “because it’s better for them!”

But holidays, special occasions, dinners in the dining room with big family gatherings . . . we have jazz playing.  Christmas – Vince Guaraldi.

And then there are the fire nights with Brubeck on the stereo.  My son even knew that Take Five was named such because of it’s off-time signature: 5/4.

We went outside, stood in the back yard, and felt the intense heat coming off the pavement and even he agreed…just too hot to handle tonight.

“We can still put Brubeck on the stereo,” I told him.

“Yeah, that would be good,” he said . . . and we walked back inside and listened to the song that confuses the toe-tappers of the world. . . and I smiled with just a little pride in my kids who can enjoy just as wide a range of experiences as their Dad.

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