Category Archives: Music & the Arts

Stories about sights and sounds that expresses emotion.

Jazzed Up ©

Appreciating jazz with Will Jones

jazzLast week my wife and I and a small group of friends went to see and hear Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra play at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center.  Fifteen virtuoso jazz musicians played a variety of arrangements, from Duke Ellington to James Moody, with a spectacular combination of precision and improvisation.  Combined with Marsalis’s knowledge, humor and reverence for the genre, it was one of the best jazz concerts I’ve ever attended.

My sister gave me the gift of jazz when I was only twelve years old.  She was eighteen, dating a guy a few years older who listened to jazz and got her into it.  One day in 1960 she suggested that I start listening to an FM radio station, WHAT, in our hometown, Philadelphia.  It was the first all jazz station in America, and the first FM station I ever listened to.  Up to then I listened to top 40 AM stations like WIBG (pronounced “wibbage”).  Hearing the jazz on WHAT was like visiting another galaxy.  It was both otherworldly and intensely exciting, and I was hooked from the start.

It was around the same time that my parents bought a Stromberg-Carlson stereo console, a cabinet on four legs meant to look like a piece of furniture.  We joined the Columbia record club, and my parents allowed me to order “Jazz Poll Winners of 1959,” award winning performances by the winners of the annual “Downbeat Magazine” poll.

jazzIf my appreciation for jazz needed any further boost, it came from listening to this record.  I can still hear virtually every one of the songs on that LP.  Beginning with “All Blues,” an absolute classic by Miles Davis, it also included “Blue Rondo a la Turk” by Dave Brubeck, “Better Get It in Your Soul” by Charles Mingus, “Cloudburst” by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and “Just You, Just Me” by J.J. Johnson, among others.  My sister also took me to my first jazz concert, the incomparable Nina Simone.

In high school I started a jazz club and I was a regular at the Barn Arts Center in Riverside, New Jersey.  There I saw greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Les McCann and Jimmy Smith.  My first solo road trip was in the summer of 1966 when my parents allowed me to drive to Rhode Island for the Newport Jazz Festival.  I’ve been attending jazz concerts for over fifty years.

For my sister’s 70th birthday I took her to the Allen Room in Manhattan to hear the Piano Kings of New Orleans, featuring Ellis Marsalis and Jonathan Batiste.  It was the least I could do for the gift of jazz she gave me so many years ago, one that has enriched my life ever since.

 photos by edenpictures and alexkerhead

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Woodstock ©

Will Jones was at Woodstock

woodstockBy the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration

– “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell

Crosby, Still and Nash recently played a concert in San Luis Obispo, California, where I live.  While I didn’t attend, friends who did raved about it. Turns out the concert was filmed in HD and  it started airing on TV in late July. My wife and I watched it one evening and by the time it was over we agreed that we’d missed a great performance by a legendary group that reached a high it hadn’t reached in a long time, particularly on an astonishing rendition of “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.”

While not exactly déjà vu, the experience took me back to the summer of 1969. I was in the early days of a first marriage, living on an island in the Susquehanna River about 30 miles north of Harrisburg. It was that time in American history when everything seemed to be happening at once, including the continuing ascendance of rock music as my generation’s anthem and daily soundtrack. My wife and I were thrilled when her brother gave us tickets to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair as a wedding present, not realizing at that point that it would turn out to be one of the most significant cultural events of the 20th century.

woodstockAlong with my fifteen-year-old brother and another of my wife’s brothers and his girlfriend, we drove to the festival on August 15th, having no idea what to expect when we arrived. We had our tickets, our camping equipment and enough food to last the weekend. After a few hours negotiating Pennsylvania and New York back roads, we approached the festival site on a two lane blacktop, fell into a long line of cars, and when it was clear we were going no closer, we pulled into a field and made camp, along with thousands of other eager pilgrims.

We soon learned that we were about a mile from the staging area, a walk that we made several times over the next couple of days. I still remember the thrill of seeing the vast hippie army spread out over the hills in every imaginable style of shelter, music playing, flags waving, smoke rising, intoxicating aromas filling the air.

It would take more space than I have here to describe in any detail the experience of the next three days. Highlights? Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Country Joe, Janis Joplin, and the incredible level of calm and cooperation demonstrated by several hundred thousand young Americans. Lowlights? Rain, mud and not staying to hear Jimi Hendrix. Bummer!

Tickets for Woodstock were not collected after Friday. I carried my Saturday and Sunday stubs in my wallet for many years, and eventually kept them in a safer place, pulling them out to show friends, and, when I started teaching, slack jawed students: “Mr. Jones, you went to Woodstock?!” Forty-three years later, nothing has replaced Woodstock as one my life’s greatest transformational experiences.

About a decade ago my wife embedded my old tickets in a window at the bottom of a framed Woodstock poster. It hung on the wall behind my desk during my nine years as a high school principal. On especially tough days I could look at that poster, remember Joni’s lyrics and smile:

I’m going on down to Yasgur’s Farm
I’m gonna join in a rock and roll band
I’m gonna camp out on the land
I’m gonna set my soul free..

photo by will jones, art by ame jo hughes

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Saxophone Jones ©

Will Jones plays the saxophone

saxophoneMONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) — Music lessons may help keep the brain healthy as people grow older, a new study suggests.

I’ve been noodling around on the guitar since the 60’s, and while I can competently strum some chords and sing a few songs without disturbing the neighborhood cats, I’m not a musician. But, by degrees, I’m moving in that direction.

A long time jazz fan, years ago I bought a tenor saxophone at a local pawn shop and swore I’d learn to play. From time-to-time I’d take it out of its tattered case and work my way through some of the exercises in the Belwin Saxophone Method book I purchased, but soon I’d run out of motivation and go back to plunking the guitar. I’d blame it on being too busy with work, children, lack of natural talent, or just plain laziness.

All that changed when I retired.  I decided it was now or never. I hired a teacher, started taking lessons, practicing daily and learning to read music. A few months ago I played “Happy Birthday” at a friend’s party and recently I played “Summer Time” at a going away party for friends leaving on a one year, round-the-world adventure. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a threat to Stan Getz or Lester Young, two of my tenor sax heroes, but I’m improving all the time.

I’ve told my three adult sons that I plan to live and torment them until I’m at least ninety. I want to know how it’s all going to turn out for them. I figure playing the saxophone will keep my brain healthy and help me achieve my goal. My teacher says I’m almost ready to play in the back row of the County Band. I think I get to wear a royal blue blazer and maybe a funny hat. Does it get any better than that?

photo by Fred Jala

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WISDOM Wednesday: Whitney Houston – Inspired Contemplation

A  tribute written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

When I first heard Whitney Houston had died, I fleetingly thought, “Sad, another amazing talent has fallen to drugs.”  I had no evidence to support that thought.  I actually had no information at all.
Over the next 24 hours, however, my sadness deepened as I was deluged with non-stop broadcasts describing how her death impacted the music community, her family and fans … her vocal range and tonal purity and her struggle with drugs.
I decided to examine why I had such strong feelings over the death of a celebrity I didn’t even know.
Yes, “The Body Guard” is a favorite film.  Yes, years ago I downloaded most of her music.
Somehow, though, I my feelings related to Whitney Houston, The Person.  On the surface, our lives shared no semblance.  She was a singularly talented artist, a recovering addict, and a celebrity.
One layer deeper however, on the level of Person, she resembled many of us.  Her life was one of great capacity and noble challenges.  She was resilient.  She possessed unstoppable passion for her work and family.
We have lost a great talent – a younger member of our boomer generation.  So, how does that relate to me?  What have I gained from my exercise in contemplation?
Like Whitney Houston and many of us boomers, at all stages of the age spectrum, I see my life continuing to expand and deepen …Life is simultaneously more profound and joyous … serious and silly.
  • The passion I have about my new business is more exhilarating than businesses I’ve launched in the past.

  • My love is more than my heart opening.  It is multi-dimensional and felt at my core of my being.

  • My community service is not simply a cluster of activities I “do.”  It is an integral part of me, who I “am.”

  • My role as a mom, one I took seriously when my kids were young and actively needed me, has changed too.  I truly feel privileged when my young-adults ask for counsel or share a confidence.

Whitney Houston’s life gave me moments of song and tidbits of celebrity gossip.  In my contemplation of how I felt about her passing, I realized how wonderful it is to be fully engaged in life … 
Laughing, Crying, Loving and Sharing Wisdom with each other
Plus, I have this assignment to write stories for WISDOM WEDNESDAY – a forum for voicing all sorts of perception and insight.  It provides me an opportunity to continue to grow and learn from people everywhere – from folks of any age, culture, or rank in life.  Now how cool is that?  I get to be both sage and student.

Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)
Singer, Actress, Mom and Person

  photo by Nathan B

MUSIC Monday: Evolving Taste in Songs

A Story by Toni Duldulao


I grew up during the 50s when Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll.  I knew all of the words to all of his songs and still do.  Good memory?  No, in those days it wasn’t hard because the lyrics were extremely repetitive.  After all, what is so difficult in remembering: “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time.” repeated at least four times in a twelve line song?  Thankfully, as I grew older my taste in music evolved too.Post Elvis, Broadway musicals were being made into feature films.  I became a devoted fan of songs from West Side Story, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and The Fiddler on the Roof.  Funny but I don’t remember the lyrics to my favorite songs.  It seems that that the older I become the less reliable is my memory.


There was a saying among my age group:  “If you remember the ‘60s you weren’t there.”  My problem is I do remember the ‘60s because I wasn’t there.  I was in the convent.  My songs in those days were religious ones in Latin.  I don’t remember those either.  Maybe it was divine providence that my taste in music gravitated toward the classics because it is usually just instrumental and without lyrics.


When I looked through the list of singers and groups from the ‘70s, and ‘80s I recognized names but couldn’t tell you what they sang.  Actually the only singers I really remember from that time are Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond, but don’t ask me what were my favorite songs because I don’t remember.  Although I do remember Streisand singing some song with Neil Diamond complaining that he didn’t bring her flowers anymore.


What I can’t forget (and would like to) is later on there was a “new sound” called Punk Rock or Hard Rock and Rap.  “New sound?”  My heavens no, to me it was just awful screaming, instruments playing off key, and speakers turned up so high that the vibration moved them 5 feet with each beat of the “song.”


Now some sixty years later I have fun listening to an occasional Elvis, Streisand, Diamond, and classical music, but for the last few years my HEART HAS GONE COUNTRY.  Not long ago a friend asked me why I would listen to that “stuff.”  I don’t know but maybe it’s very similar to the old rock and roll AND I can understand the words being sung because they sing slower and use words and terms I understand.  However, other than the latest hit “Red Solo Cup” which is a repetitive song I don’t remember the lyrics except for the chorus…if I’m lucky.  

– – – – – – – – – –

 When I was 10 you introduced me to music  – you were crazy about Elvis. We sat in your room for hours watching the little black plastic circle go round and round on your new phonograph.  Now it ‘s my turn, let me introduce you to Everlast, a rapper whose music is influenced by the blues. Then there’s the Punk band, The Clash (they too have easy to remember repeating lyrics.) And, a favorite of mine, Metallica; their song ‘Bleeding Me’ is as soulful as any country tune.  Check out these bands on itunes and let me know what you think of the New Sound.

~  Shinazy, founder of BOBB


photo by shankar, shiv

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