MNF (Monday Night Finesse)
There’s something about the horns on Roy Ayer’s “The Third Eye” that truly mesmerizes me. Perhaps it’s the fact that Mr. Ayers is a master of the vibraphone, a percussion instrument that (to me) sounds just like a xylophone. With his masterpieces, it’s usually the vibraphone that takes me to another galaxy. But the trumpet is actually played by a young Charles Tolliver. Or maybe it’s just Roy’s soulful ‘70s vibe and its continued endurance in popular rhythm and blues music. Mary J. herself scored one of her most beloved works of art (“My Life,” the title track of her classic album) to Roy’s legendary “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” and even featured Roy himself on the track “Searching,” a song titled after his own masterpiece of the same name, on her Share My World LP. Back in my time, a group named Ed O.G. and the Bulldogs used the well-known saxophone sample from the same track as the background music to the hook for their “Be a Father to Your Child.” But back to Tolliver’s trumpet on “Third Eye.” For me, there are times when music manages to transcend anything we previously thought we knew or felt. At that point, what we hear is more than just music; it’s our very life force, like oxygen or water. Personal examples for me include Marvin Gaye’s polar icecap melting mastery of soulfully intertwining main vocals and adlibs on the vocal version of “After the Dance,” Kurt Cobain’s wonderfully haunting guitar solo on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the best video EVER, ANY GENRE & single most defining song of my culture after Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”), Nas’ cinematic stark reality on the third verse of “One Love,” Earth Wind and Fire’s indelible “ah” crescendo at the end of “Can’t Hide Love” (y’all gotta feel me), and Mary’s ultra-soulful and passionate pleading thru her repetition of the hook during the heart of “Mary’s Joint,” to name a few. But that trumpet after the vocals and vibraphone, Mr. Ayers…it, like those tracks I just mentioned as well as countless others I wasn’t able to name on this blog, takes me places that no automobile, train, or airplane could ever take me. It takes me deep within my very own mind and soul, often to places and events that could never be replicated or duplicated, except in my mind. When I hear that trumpet, I go there. Ola Mae and Neil (my grandparents Thompson) are still living, playing that very record in 17A on 1500 Noble Avenue in the X. Friday night in my crib on 207th and Post Avenue uptown was a slice of pizza, Kool-Aid, and cable in the back bedroom while my folk partied all night long out front. MTA turnstiles were wooden and rotated like helicopter blades and moved by $1.00 tokens with a hollow middle…and I was inhaling everything…just me…hey, young world. Those were days of innocence. Shortly thereafter innocence was forever taken away. I wish I could properly express through words how I miss those days from time to time. To me, that’s what getting older is all about. It’s the realization that some of the best times you’ll ever experience in this precious lifetime are way in the rear view of your life’s mirror. At times you can capture tiny glimpses, but for the most part they are an eternity away. The crazy part about that part of life is that, just like O.C. said on “Born to Live,” “…It didn’t seem important or serious, it just seemed curious. It was about, waking to a bowl of cereal. Cartoons on Saturday, karate flicks and like…” We have no idea that the formative era of life is often what we retreat to when the stark reality of life as an adult affects us in various ways. For some reason, we go back to those “stolen moments” for a certain good feeling or a temporary refuge from the ills that often occupy our adult minds. God bless the kids of every race and culture. They are our future. Those same thoughts we had back when they are thinking right now. Let’s just pray that these memories that are being created for them aren’t transformed into nightmares, that their innocence isn’t stripped from them too soon. They deserve better. They don’t deserve to grow up bitter like so many of us (self-included) because their childhoods were taken from them while they were still trying to figure things out. That, to me, is a heinous crime. The kids are our most precious resource. We have to return to the standards that existed in previous times. We owe it to them, all of us. A great lady by the name of Elizabeth “Liz” Dennis told me to pay it forward. That’s been one of my daily goals every day since being blessed with that jewel a decade ago. Like I said on the last blog, I’m not here to preach, #ijs. Y’all be cool how y’all be cool. By the way: I turned out pretty ok, I guess. All that credit belongs to God himself.
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