Traveling the world, folks.
It’s horrible. I was just in London last week. I was nervous going because of the Manchester attacks. I was somewhat amazed that people were just going on with their lives. I’ve really grown to like London. I like being there. A week ago, I was standing on a pedestrian bridge just outside of the Tate Modern looking toward the London Bridge thinking I should go over there and check it out. That bridge means something else today. I’m sad for the people that lost people there and I’m just sad and scared in general for everyone. Things are chaotic and awful in a lot of places but….
I went and saw some Jazz.
Because I have somewhat dramatic expectations for results when it comes to the effectiveness of anything to solve any kind of problem I wonder about the power of art to fight fear and hate and make it stick in a big way. Then I realize I have to temper those expectations and realize that big ways are hard to come by and little ways are essential. Every little expression of human creativity and imagination is a celebration of the pure human spirit—without boundaries or restrictions or even rules. Context, maybe, but easy on the rules. All those little things represent the collective human voice in all its manifestations and if the context isn’t hammered into an ideological agenda it is elevating. Obviously, agenda driven art is elevating as well, and can go either way, but I’m about to talk about jazz.
When I’m in New York City I really have to fight falling into the same pattern of things that I always do when I am here. I want to experience stuff. I want to have my mind blown but I don’t seek it out as much as I should. Years ago, I stayed at a hotel across from Lincoln Center and just kind of moseyed over there and went into a symphony performance. It was mind blowing because I know nothing about classical music and it really didn’t matter. It was massive and amazing and human. Wood and wind. Breath. Every time I’m in NYC I check to see what’s at Lincoln Center but I have not gone since that one time. This time I went. I looked on the site and saw the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis was performing Thelonious Monk. I had to go. It was astounding. To see a live jazz orchestra in a beautiful theater was awesome.
What was transcendent though was realizing that jazz is a fundamentally American music. A form that can carry and elevate any type of musical improvisation from anywhere in the world. The night we saw the orchestra they had two soloists performing. Baqir Abbas, a Pakastani flutist and Hamilton de Holanda, a Brazilian wizard of the bandolim. I had to look up what a bandolim was. They both brought their unique musical styles and instruments (wooden flutes and bandolim) to the foundation created by Thelonious Monk and the arrangements of the Orchestra to create something unique and almost spiritual within the context and form of jazz. Inclusive, diverse, completely surprising and ethereal jazz. Art makes a difference. The human spirit prevails and transcends the culture of garbage.
The book event I did with Al Franked at BookExpo was hilarious and moving. I had a great time being his straight man and talking public service with him in front of people. Brendan and I had fun at our panel too. We’re actually a good comedy team. He’s been my straight man for years you just don’t get to hear it too often.
Today on the show I talk to veteran journalist and interviewer Leslie Stahl about her life in the world of news. I also talk to Demetri Martin a bit about his new film, ‘Dean.’ On Thursday, we have a double header featuring two unique independent musical artists, Mark Mulcahy and Phil Elverum. Beautiful heavy stuff. Great talks, the lot of them.