49 trips around the sun is not just a quick skip through the park.
My older friends are quick to tell me that I’m still young. It seems that as long as someone is older than you, then you’re still young. It goes right to the top. My father, in his mid-70’s, was telling me about the old-timers he drives around in his bus for Veterans gig. The guys in their 80’s and 90’s look back on people in their 70’s and say “What, your only 70?”
I know and have known people up there in their 80’s. My first mentor Hildred made it to 85 or so. My buddy Giuseppi is 83 and seems to almost exist outside of time. Doc Cheatham is the oldest person I ever met, and he had chops in his 90’s. When I met him, he told me to tell Hildred to call him right away, there was music to play!
As I write I’m about to turn 49, my last year in the 40’s. I’ll never forget Roy Campbell turning 50 and telling me he made the 50 yard line. I never had a mid-life crisis, at least I didn’t suddenly start driving a motorcycle or something like that. I have had somewhat of a musical mid-life crisis however.
We all have our paths to walk, and have to be who we are. The timing of the way each lifetime works is what haunts me. What haunts me is that I sense the master plan’s presence, but access to it is denied. Every now and then in life an event can occur that changes everything. You can meet a person that just changes your entire life. The only constant I can perceive is that it seems that if a course of study is in place, then the lessons must be completed before you can leave. If you’re still here, you’re still learning. If your life ends, then seemingly the better path for your soul at that point is to change direction. Giuseppi Logan must still be learning some kind of soul lesson. I think he is.
The problem I have turning 49 is fear. My biggest fear is that my chance to say what I have to say in music has passed. My fear is that who I am and what I play just doesn’t make sense to most people. At the same time, after all the time I’ve spent figuring my musical self out, there’s no turning back now. For many years now on my birthday I say to myself, well, just one more year, and if something isn’t really jumping off on my next birthday, then I’ll just put the horn down. I’ve done that more than 10 times, and every year I tell myself the same thing. People might think that’s strange as much as I play, especially with all my bridge streaming and the 12 Houses, but it’s true. I’ve written often that at some point music became a spiritual path. That’s almost by default, as it’s the only direction left.
One of the trips of 2018 was finding out I was in a book called “Current Jazz Trumpet Legends” by Larry Kemp. One paragraph on page 214. Kemp has found hundreds of players that are playing today that I have never heard. I’m sure that almost all of them have also never heard of me or heard me play. That’s my fear while I’m turning 49. Is it my fate to be one of these guys? I often say that I don’t want to be a footnote in a book. I want to be a book!
While all of us are stories, not all of us are books. I look at the lives of true music legends and see that at some point they all faced some kind of over the top adversity. Sometimes I wonder if I have simply not paid enough of some kind of price. Then I tell myself that Bird didn’t have a 40 hour day gig for 29 years, maybe that’s the price I’ve had to pay.
I often think that sometimes the problem with me is style, and my need, even enjoyment, at not being able to be tagged. This side of my musical personality seems to just be a hindrance at 49. So many trumpet players, so many, have met tragic ends. I have outlived so many others now by a long shot as strange as it sounds. I often think of Howard McGhee. McGhee was in some ways the bridge from swing to bop. He was between styles. As such, he seems to have fallen through the cracks except for historians. I don’t want to fall through the cracks.
All good though. Like I do every year, I’m throwing another year on the fire. I’m seriously going for it with my quartet and trying to define who I am and what I do to the world. I’ve always fought to control my own narrative.
I’M NOT A MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST.
Anyway, it always comes down to what Denzel said. You have to be who you are in this world, no matter what.
That’s all I have ever done, and I’m not stopping anytime soon.
Throw another year on the fire then.
I’m seeing this thing through to the end.
No matter what.
For Bern, Roy, Raphe, and Will.