Which Voice Do I Obey?

I’ve been thinking about how we all have multiple inner voices giving us perspectives that have varying degrees of present-moment relevance, healthiness, and so on. Listening to our intuition is useful only insofar as we are confident that said intuition is coming from a solid foundation.

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Millet Brick and Pursuit of the Best Self

I have often referred to Kate as my best critic and pointed out how much I enjoy and appreciate that. While that’s true, I think it’s worth some explanation. It’s not that she just criticizes me often or indiscriminately, or that I just perversely enjoy having my flaws pointed out. Rather, I fully trust her embrace of the responsibility to help me be my best self, something that was central to our marriage vows and remains core to our code of ethics as individuals and together and core to my needs from my support structure, especially the person at the center of it.

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Top 10 Nat “King” Cole Tracks

I discovered Nat “King” Cole’s trio work early enough in my developmental process that I can’t really imagine my conception of a) swing, b) touch at the piano, or c) jazz as a vehicle for fun without his music. It’s weird for the same musician to be simultaneously hugely famous and totally underrated, but so it goes for the King, a widely-admired singer whose instrumental prowess and influence are known by far fewer. A day after his centennial, I’m still reflecting on some of his music (particularly alongside guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller in the classic drum-less trio) that particularly shaped my own burgeoning musicianship – here’s some of it.

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Top 10 Favorite Roy Haynes tracks

Any day that Roy Haynes continues to walk the earth is a gift to humanity, and this, his 94th birthday, is a particularly opportune time to acknowledge that. His innovation, creativity, and technical mastery would already put him on the short list of drummers who’ve walked the planet. Factor in his longevity and the correspondingly long and diverse list of vital artists with whom he has played and there is really no parallel that I can think of. That I came up with 10 favorite tracks this happening is one thing, but it’s just kind of ludicrous that I did so while neglecting several of the most seminal albums in jazz history (Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” Chick Corea’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” etc.) and other noteworthy music by Lester Young, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, and so on. So here are just a few tracks that I particularly enjoy, both in totality and as examples (covering a span of over 50 years) of the wonder of the drumming of Mr. Roy Haynes.

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Dr. King and the Value of Constructive Obliviousness

Today I am focusing on how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. modeled for us the hard work in the short run that can lead to dramatic differences in consciousness for subsequent generations. While obviously remembering the struggles our forebears endured is vitally important, my dream today is that by continuing the work, my great grandchildren can be as oblivious to outdated social and philosophical scourges as I am to what life was like without ever experiencing electricity or indoor plumbing.

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Note to Younger Self on PC speech

An open letter about political correctness to my 20 year old self on the occasion of finding a since-shredded copy of his poem “ya figured me out, a**hole” Dear me, First, I really appreciate the spirit behind this poem. I remember how frustrating it was that virtually everyone in your poetry class at Rutgers assumed…

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Top 10 Favorite Randy Weston Tracks

It’s hard to frame the loss of a 92 year old man who was productive and healthy virtually to the end as tragic, but we will greatly miss the great pianist, composer, and visionary Randy Weston all the same. He was a major figure in jazz and a huge influence on my own conception both sonically and conceptually. His powerful and ruggedly individualistic piano style was an underpinning force throughout his music, his partnerships with distinctive arrangers modeled effective collaboration, and his exploration of the cultural and musical roots of Africa were ahead of their time and unprecedentedly deep for someone whose jazz bona fides were also so unimpeachable. And if you ask me, he never lost any speed off his fastball, as his output in his 80s was as potent as that of his 20s. Safe passage Maestro Weston, and for everyone else, here are 10 of my favorites tracks of his, listed chronologically.

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Top 10 Favorite Aretha Franklin Tracks

Aretha Franklin, the appropriately named Queen of Soul, has battled health problems for years, but it is still jarring to hear that she is gravely ill at this point. While she is still with us, let’s all “Say a Little Prayer” for this regal and exceptionally potent artist, whose singing, piano playing, and overall conception have inspired and taught me like few others have. Here are some of my favorite tracks.

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