Janet in New York City — September 27, 2009 — photo by Mark Weber
A BIRTHDAY CARD FOR JANET
Janet is one of the few people that actually understands when I come barreling through the front door waving an Oscar Moore LP that I just found in a second-hand store yelling, “CHECK THIS OUT ! Oscar Moore on vinyl and this has never been re-issued on CD, yet, and probably never will!” She knows if I’m that excited it must be something. Or if I’m jumping up & down listening to Jelly Roll Morton record or going into one of my frequent raptures over Lennie Tristano, or Lester Young, then she still understands. Or pretends to. She married a jazz nut.
Janet was born on the day the Flamingoes released their 45: “Are the stars out tonight? I don’t care if it’s cloudy or bright, ’cause I only have eyes for you, dear, the moon may be high . . .” (January 18, 1960) Why do I know this bit of perfectly useless information? Remember those giant PhonoLog catalogs they used to have in record stores, huge tomes mounted on a podium, those Gutenberg Bibles are chuck full of such trivia. Happy Birthday, Flamingoes! Uh, I mean, Janet! ( I’ve always thought that Al Dubin in his lyrics took the opportunity to introduce an idiom from the Lester Young Lexicon: ie. “Have you got eyes for a little taste?” etc)
Then to certify that I’m completely whacked out of my skull I informed her that the first version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” was recorded by Benny Goodman in 1934* so then to completely befuddle her I tell her I once had Benny Goodman autograph my LP of the record he made with Bela Bartok. By this time she’s thinking I’m a raving loonatic spawn of Bela Lugosi.
1988 — We’re in a motel in Toledo, Ohio. She’s reading the paper and I’m starting in on a bottle of California red. She says, “Mark, do you know a saxophonist, Benny Golson?” I say, Yeh, why? “Well, he’s playing here tonight.” In 30 minutes. I jam the cork in the bottle and bark “COME ON! GRAB YOUR COAT!” We jump across town to this hotel lounge to catch Golson for what is my first time — all the years that I lived in Los Angeles Benny worked in the movie studios and NEVER played out, never. And now Toledo?
Benny Golson in Toledo, Ohio — November 6, 1988 — with Larry Fuller Trio: Larry Fuller, piano; Jeff Halsey, bass; Randy Gellespie, drums — photo by Mark Weber
Similarly, about the same thing happen’d in Toronto. “Mark, do you know a piano player, Sammy Price?” Keerist, how’s a guy ‘spose to get any drinking done? I jam the cork in the bottle and scream, “COME ON, GRAB THE KEYS, GET YOUR HAT!” Sammy Price was a boogie woogie pianist out of Texas who made his home in Harlem. That evening in Toronto I must have asked him about his years working in gangland Chicago because he told us of shoot outs in the clubs he worked and Al Capone. He loved to talk.
Janet and Sammy Price — Cafe de Copains, Toronto — July 4, 1987 — photo by Mark Weber
In Nashville I take her to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where I know I can get some drinking done, as well, as show her this honky tonk bar behind old Ryman Auditorium where all the cats like Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Faron Young, Waylon, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Patsy Cline, used to trade songs . . . .
I met Janet in northern California. I was languishing on the sand of Oak Bottom Beach at Whiskeytown Lake recuperating from a hospital stay and she was there on vacation after her first year in medical school. I remember I was reading Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet and she walked by and asked what I was reading. We must have talked ten hours straight, about clarinets (she was a student), travel, canoes (we went canoeing), and the next day I took her to a solstice ceremony of the Wintun Indians that I had been invited to further north deep in the Cascades. That was June 1986.
When I caught the dog (that’s Greyhound to you landed gentry) to Cleveland to play house with Janet, July of 86, she meets me at the bus depot and asks me what we should do this night. I ask if she has a telephone book. And lo & behold Robert Jr Lockwood is in the book and I call him and he has a gig in a little dive on the Lake Erie waterfront. Between Lockwood, Johnny Shines, and Honeyboy Edwards, these guys at the time were the nearest you could get to Robert Johnson, and here he was, and once Lockwood found out I knew a little something about auto mechanics we were outside looking under the hood of his old jalopy.
Janet and Robert Jr Lockwood outside the Rockwell Inn on Lake Erie, Cleveland, around 11pm — I’m giving him a diagnosis regarding the condition of his land yacht, that’s the hood raised, I forget what was wrong with it — July 23, 1986 — BACKSTORY: this is before I knew how much Robert Jr hated cameras, he was death on photographers, hence, you can see the disdain in his non-smile, but he didn’t want to get too rude, yet, he wanted me to fix his car ! — photo by Mark Weber
All throughout those first years together in Cleveland she’s hitting the books, attending medical school, and somehow coming along with me at night to catch the local scene like bopster Ernie Krivda, or the blind organist Eddie Baccus in after-hours clubs, and Bill DeArango, who made records with Charlie Parker and Ben Webster, playing his mad scientist guitar set-up, as well as groups on tour like Art Ensemble of Chicago, dixie-swing pianist Art Hodes, Jimmy Smith, James Newton, Merle Haggard, Mose Allison, and her first encounter with Sun Ra Arkestra (later, after concert, backstage, she helped Sun Ra with a foot issue — corns — that he was having — Janet is a podiatrist — I’m talking with John Gilmore, June Tyson, and Martin Banks, and I look across the room and there’s Janet kneeling on the floor with Ra’s red size 13 Keds tennis shoes off giving him advice — I regret I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a snapshot of that! Ra was in his orange phase at the time, orange hair and orange goatee, sitting there with his space cape on ! )
In New York I take her to see Les Paul at the Iridum, and Don Pullen & George Adams at Village Vanguard, and one time we almost caught Aaron Copland, best I could do is call the restaurant where he was playing weekend sets for the diners and had the maitre d’ hold up the telephone so I could hear Aaron tinkling the ivories! Many times she’s been to Connie’s with me (Connie Crothers Quartet) at her studio for sessions in Brooklyn. One time in NYC I brought the clarinet player Tony Scott home to her sister’s apartment on 113th Street on the West Side because Tony needed a doctor to look at his feet. This was when he looked like Methuselah with long white hair and beard. I think the girls thought I dragged a madman into their house. When I told them this was the guy who made that famous 60s album MUSIC FOR ZEN MEDITATION they were intrigued. He also played with Charlie Parker and worked at Minton’s in the 40s. Janet gave him a consultation. He was very private and wanted the consultation done in another room away from the rest of us. So, I can’t tell you what the deal was with his feet — something about confidentiality — maybe he had seven toes?
Janet — NYC — September 27, 2009
Circa 1988: We take some time off to travel around northern Michigan for ten days and on our way back to Cleveland passing through Detroit I decide we should find Motown Records — it hadn’t been turned into a museum, yet — and we found it about 5 in the evening and I’m hopping up & down on the front lawn yelling at Janet, “THIS IS THE PLACE, WOW OH WOW, EVERYTHING HAPPENED HERE!” And through the front window of this converted 2-story residential house there’s a man and a woman and I’m sure they’re saying, “There’s a crazed white man having a conniption on our front lawn” — the guy comes out and it turns out to be Barry Gordy IV, the son of Berry Gordy! and he discerns that I’m not totally nuts and asks if we’d like to come inside and look around — I about faint and yell: “YEAH!” — and he walks us around both floors and then into the Snake Pit, hallowed ground, it’s a step-down entry into the converted garage where all that great music was recorded, and there’s the tiny Schroeder piano that you can hear on the Supremes! and if I remember correctly there was a baritone sax laying in a chair with music on the stands (the museum aspect was blooming), at this point I’m delirious nearly speechless, and Janet has to lead me around in a daze.
April 2, 2008 — photo by her husband
In New Orleans I take her to Rockin’ Dopsie gig at Maple Leaf Bar (Dopsie a zydeco accordion window into the past). In Albuquerque I drag her to a mumbling Bob Dylan concert (1993?) where you had to know the words to his songs to understand what he was singing.
After we met in northern California — June of 86 — I drove her down to Frisco so she could catch a flight back to school in Cleveland and I stayed on with friends in Bolinas for a month before eventually making my way out to Cleveland to be with her. I remember that afternoon after dropping her at airport I happened to be walking in Chinatown and turned a corner and bumped right into Ornette Coleman! He was playing that night in North Beach and after introducing myself and exchanging pleasantries I told him I’d see him that night. Although, first thing I did that night in North Beach was catch Barry Melton & John Cippolina in a little dive — I loved these guy’s music in the 60s, and they were cooking still — and then, after that I made it over to where Ornette was playing — backstage I said to Ornette, after I snapped a photo of Ornette with the poet David Henderson (the poet on SCIENCE FICTION) I said to Ornette, “I told you I’d see you tonite!” and he smiled and said, “Yes, you did,” somewhat incredulous.
Fish N Chips — Barry Melton and John Cippolina — June 27, 1986 at The Saloon, Grant Street, North Beach, San Francisco — photo by Mark Weber — the others in this band this night were Spencer Dryden, drums; and Peter Albin, bass
David Henderson and Ornette Coleman — June 27, 1986 — backstage at Wolfgang’s, Columbus Avenue, San Francisco — Photo by Mark Weber
In Salt Lake City I take her to see and hear the giant pipe organ at the Mormon Tabernacle. One of the Seven Wonders, or 29th?, of the Ancient World. A marvelous instrument.
But, some of this stuff she does on her own. Like we say back home: The Devil made me do it the first time, the second time I done it on my own. She was on the board of directors for the Outpost Performance Space for years and was volunteer coordinator for a few years, also.
In San Diego, while at a podiatry conference, she calls and asks, “Mark, do you know a guitarist, Mundell Lowe?” I tell her to bag the conference and make haste over to Mundell’s place! She does, and now she knows him as “Mundy,” too, like all his fans.
At another conference, where humorist Dave Barry gives a talk for the evening’s entertainment, afterwards she buys one of his books and tells him that her husband is a jazz disk jockey and that he wakes her up at night laughing at Dave’s books. Dave signs the book “To Mark, My Idol ! “
Oddly, I can’t think of many concerts we’ve caught together in Los Angeles, my home turf, other than when we flew out from Salt Lake for John Carter’s memorial concert at Harbor College. We had Christmas dinner with the Bradford’s one year.
She even stood by my side during my conversion when I decided to shake off that case of dipsomania I was lugging around — not an easy thing to do — that was almost 19 years ago.
cold snowy day
in Albuquerque, everything
frozen under this morning
I scrapped the frost off
Hobbit (#3), Janet had
an early-morning surgery
to attend to at the hospital
she drives off with a happy wave
all bundled up
I am grateful for her presence
in my life
—-Mark Weber 15jan2o13
That’s what I told her at the time but later learned that the movie “Dames” was out in 1934 that featured this Harry Warren-Al Dubin gem and the Benny recorded it in 1946 for AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service) January 30, 1946 with Mel Powell ( ! ) in his band and the only instance of Frank Sinatra singing with BG. IN 1934 Coleman Hawkins recorded this song and kept it in his repertoire, as well, Isham Jones recorded it that year.