Sunday, September 25, 2022

Some thoughts after the passing of Pharoah Sanders

With the death of Pharoah Sanders, we’ve lost one more connection to that era of jazz and American music. I’m taking about the late 50s into the 1960s. The hard bop to free jazz, the new thing. I mean, who’s left?

(There are European composer/improvisors I could name, but I will stay focused on the Americans in this case.)


Marshall Allen is still carrying Sun Ra’s torch, who is 98 years old as I write this. I read that it was Sun Ra who told Farrell Sanders that his proper name was Pharoah. I saw Marshall with the Arkestra in Portland, OR last June. He and they are still kicking it.


Sonny Rollins lives on, though he is unable to play his instrument any longer.


Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock from the great Miles Davis Quintet of the 60s are still with us. I just saw Ron Carter live and he sounded great. Wayne, last I saw him on video, sounded frail and I’m not sure he’s playing any more. Herbie resurfaces now and then but I haven’t kept track of any current playing he might be doing. 


Benny Golson is still around, as are Charles Lloyd and Reggie Workman.


When you get to the new generation in the mid-to-late 60s, we’re still lucky to have some of those people around. Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette.


Pianist Dave Burrell is still with us, and I’ve read that he recently donated his archives to the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh.


Speaking of Pittsburgh, I know I’d be remiss in not mentioning Roger Humphries, best known for playing drums on Horace Silver’s “Song for my Father” from 1965. He still plays, and plays well. 


I’m doubtlessly forgetting many others deserving of attention. 


Drummer Anton Fier also recently died. I don’t know how. He was of a different generation than those listed above. A mutual friend made an online comment that he had gotten to know Anton in the past few years, and that Anton had given up playing the drums. The reason? Foot problems, back problems, and the physical toll of loading and unloading drums over and over to drive long distances for little money. That’s a young man’s game. As another friend, Lindsey Horner, observed once, “The cost of equipment and repairs keeps going up, but the bread at gigs remains the same.”


This addresses what broader point I have to make, besides recognizing these people. Being a musician can be a tough life with inconsistent work and pay. Even those who have lived the most comfortably, have still gotten there by working hard and for countless hours. You owe it to yourself, and maybe even them, to see these people perform if you have the opportunity. I almost missed out on seeing Ron Carter, and I would have regretted it if I had. 


I know someone reading this uses Spotify. I understand the appeal, but it’s an illusion if you think it’s helping the musicians. Yes it puts the music in people’s attention, but almost nobody benefits from Spotify except for the biggest name pop artists (and Spotify itself). If you’re still on physical media, buy a CD or LP once in a while, or a band t-shirt should there be any. That’s the way you directly benefit the artists. But most of all, get out there and experience the music live! It’s where the art truly lives. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Pierre Henry: Polyphonies disc 3

 Pliens jeux (2008) in four movements: Croissance, Expérience, Pressentiment, Plénitude

Kyldex (1973) in five movements: Ouverture/sirène, Danse électromatic, Erotica II, Crescendo, Continuum

The run time on this disc is 73:20. The editors are both clearly trying to present Henry's work in reverse chronological order, but also fit the maximum amount onto each disc. Like disc 2, the works jump around by a few decades. 

Listening to Liens jeux (Game links?), I'm reminded how important the piano is in Henry's musical world. It is rarely played in a traditional manner, or at least that's what I've heard so far. I'm going to have to study more of these recordings to conclusively state both of those things.

At least, I think it's the piano. It could be a number of other string and percussive sound sources, but I think I'm right. Maybe I'm being lazy by not relying on the notes provided; maybe I don't want to know anything about a particular work when it comes up on the disc. As they say a little of column A, a little of column B. 

Croissance (Growth) is at times a dense assemblage of percussive and string sounds. There's not so much the sort of audio manipulation going on here that one might associate with musique concrète (which I will henceforth on this blog refer to as MC), though there is filtering, panning, blending and balancing. This movement is built more through the layering of tracks, of which there are probably many here. 

Expèrience is noticeably less dense, with recognizable bell sounds mixed with the possibly altered piano sounds. The works in general, with the exception (so far) of Gymkhana from disc 2, have an improvisational feel to them.

Once again, not relying on the notes (which I will read some time in the future), I'm envisioning this: there's Pierre Henry, alone or with an assistant in his home studio. He has an idea for a piece, or a set of pieces. There's his long-suffering piano, which has been scratched, strummed, hit, pounded, and prepared many times over the years. He's surrounded by various bells, percussion, beaters, mallets, glasses, string bows, iron rods. Pierre starts to record, with a general sense of what he wants to capture, without worrying too much about the individual events. He's capturing a texture. And then layers in more, and more still. Some things are manipulated through processing and editing, some things brought forward, other ideas left behind as the piece develops. Improvisational in source, compositional in development. 

There's a good chance that I'm completely wrong about all of that. 

Real time comment as I listen to the final two movements. I'm seriously sleep deprived as I listen to them. Once or twice I found myself drifting off, not because I find the pieces boring but because they're hypnotic in a way. There are some short repeated figures that peak in and out, but mostly they're two pieces of escalating and de-escalating densities with little in the way of traditional musical content.

The Ouverture to Kyldex starts up, and we're in a different category. Electronically generated sounds!

I shouldn't be that surprised. I think it was Pierre Schaeffer, who coined the very term MC, who tended to be more the purist on these matters. All sounds captured by microphone, manipulated through recording technologies. Henry was perhaps less dogmatic in these matters.

It is a little startling to hear this work pop up in this collection however, when everything has been so clearly acoustically-based sound sources. 

The electronics are not "pleasant" in the traditional sense; I'd even go so far as to say, maybe intentionally annoying. I find the history of such things interesting, in that he's working with. sound palette similar to maybe some of the Buchla noisemakers of the later 70s, but creating it earlier on.

I found this listing when searching for the title online:

I noted the name of Nicolas Schöffer. I have an LP of Schöffer's electronic music, and I remember not liking it. Could he be the reason the work took this direction? He's not co-credited on the disc.


Erotica II brings in a female voice (or voices), further removing it from the piano-based works on this collection so far. The second half of this movement clearly brings some pre-composed elements into the mix, similar to Gymkhana. 

Crescendo is just that, a crescendo MC-style, and Continuum is purely pointillist sounds. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Pierre Henry: Polyphonies disc 2

 Études transcendantes pour piano imaginaire (six movements) 2015; Grande Toccata 2006; Gymkhana 1970

If I had any reservation about the Chroniques terriennes of disc one, that goes away with the  Études transcendantes pour piano imaginaire (2015). Transcendental Etudes for Imaginary Piano.  

The title of "transcendental etudes" dates back to Liszt. It was later taken up by Sorabji and Ferneyhough. I have a CD of the so-called transcendental etudes, switching between Liszt and Ligeti.

The title immediately clicks for me, when listening to the work. It's mostly piano sounds of some sort, in some ways harking back to the "Bidule en ut" of 1950. The sounds originate from the piano (prepared and not played traditionally), are layered, and mixed with other extraneous sounds occasionally.

Since the piano is imaginary here, and the etudes transcendental, I am picturing this as being Henry's own imaginary piano. His piano would able to play all the things readily at the keyboard. The preparations, knocking, resonances, combinations of sounds, and so forth. I'm picturing the eight-armed being surrounded by 1,000 keys and a variety of gadgets and whatnots, that be required to perform these etudes.

The final movement gets weirdly funky. 

I will mentioned that there are notes, but at the moment I'm not particularly interested. 


Grande Toccata: A toccata, traditionally speaking, is a freely composed work intended to demonstrate virtuosic ability on the part of a keyboardist. This definition is in stark contrast to the sound of this work, which is neither keyboard-based, nor does it have a virtuosic quality (except for perhaps the beautiful production).

It demonstrate's Henry's love of the recorded sound, and the various things you can do with it. There's an atmosphere here: breathing sounds, tapped metal bowls, slamming doors, elevators, digitally manipulated piano sounds. There's some synthesized sounds in the mix, perhaps. It's difficult to tell. It could be natural sounds digitally drawn out over time. 

I could easily draw a comparison to Nurse With Wound on this particular work, though perhaps less emphasis on the voice than NWW tends to be. The problem is, that's like comparing the work of the teacher to the student, and not the other way around.

So what is the commonality? Maybe there's more of a narrative character to this work than the previous one, something I associate with NWW. Musique concréte can take on a storytelling quality, even if that quality is obscured. Our brain naturally makes connections between what we see and hear in the moment, and our previous experiences. If we recognize something, we associate it with memory. If we don't, our brain tries to.

Something's happening here. It's dark, builds, it's sometimes in an elevator. I try to resist such things, but I can't help believe there's a horror movie vibe to the work in the latter third. What's happening?

And it has a degree of drama. It's intense towards the end. It's not meant to be math sound without effect. There's also a tiny little coda at the end.


Gymkhana (1970, remixed 2016). My daughter, when quite young, went to the Gymkhana above the East End Food Co-op. I never gave much thought to the name, besides having the word "gym" in it. 

I looked up: it's a location where various gymnastics and other sporting events are held. Okay. 

This work is markedly different that the previous ones. The sounds are very clearly based on acoustical recordings, and there is a large degree of scoring going on. It begins with slow, irregular percussive sounds. They're filtered but definitely not synthesized. It feels and sounds more Asian than anything in this set (so far). 

Then the instruments enter. Definitely piccolo, flute(s), oboe, bassoon high register (?). Maybe others, some horn perhaps? 

Again, without referring to the notes, I get a very strong gagaku flavor from this. What is gagaku? It's the oldest extant orchestral music in the world, Japanese imperial court music. It's always slow. There are mouth organs (sho) playing cluster chords, percussion, some sort of transverse flute, biwa, nasty double reeds. I forget all the names of the instruments. It's weirdly both dreamy and strident. 

But there's a twist in the work 3/4 of the way through, when brass instruments are introduced. They are similarly irregular as the woodwinds before, with the piccolo being the last to interact with them. 

All the while, there are the percussive sounds, clearly manipulated through recording and processing techniques.

Pierre Henry: Polyphonies disc one

 I was deep in conversation with my friend Adam MacGregor Wednesday night. Bombici (with me) was on a bill with Microwaves (with him) at Brillobox prior to them playing some dates on the east coast. The talk between us comes fast and varied. We share various interests, musical and otherwise. I mentioned this blog, and how I'd written blog posts about the 32-CD Messiaen set I bought at the front end of the lockdown. Also, the Morricone vinyl postings I made after Ennio's death. When I told him I had bought a 12-CD collection of Pierre Henry's music, he suggested I blog about it. Yes, well, why not? 

I like it in part because of the discipline. Find a collection of recordings, listen to it all, and regularly comment on them. I've stated before this is not a serious musicological dig, just the impressions of one musician as he digs into a library. 

So, I found a 12-CD collection of Henry's music at Half Price Books. About $30 for the set. Not bad. Do you know Pierre Henry's name? He's probably eclipsed by that of his associate Pierre Schaeffer. Schaeffer coined the term, musique concrète (MC). MC has come to be known as, technology-based composition in which the sound are drawn from the real world. What I've read is that it referred to the music existing in a corporeal form, as in a disc or tape that one could hold in one's hand. Whether this is true or not, nonetheless, Schaeffer's music was based on the manipulation of natural recorded sounds.

Schaeffer was making his first works in 1948. Soon thereafter he was joined by Pierre Henry, and more traditionally trained composer/musician. There are various works credited to the two of them. It was Pierre Henry who had the much longer, more varied career and body of work though.

The box is presented in reverse-chronological order. Start with the most recent and work backwards. All of disc one is taken up by Chroniques Terriennes, or Earth Chronicles according to Google translations. The first release of this work. It's twelve "moments" of varying lengths. On the surface, there are natural sounds, instrumental sounds (prepared or at least muted piano), and some small degree of processing. 

What are his intentions with this work, I ask myself as I listen to it. I would ask that of a student if that person was to submit this to me. (Though not to worry, nobody's submitted anything at this level.) He wrote a description, but I won't rewrite it. He considers the word chronicles in a more journalistic sense. The work has some strongly improvisational elements, as he attempts to find connections between environmental sounds and his piano. 

There are recurring sounds, such as cicadas, mixed with his piano. The piece overall has an atmosphere. Things come and go, occur and reoccur, slide in and out of our perceptions. 

I don't think I consider this to be among Henry's most essential works. But, it's Pierre Henry. He achieved so much, that when he created something, you pay attention just because it's him. This is not to say you can't be critical, but you have to trust the voice of experience. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Charles Mingus at 100


I have long advocated for April 22 to be designated a national holiday. It is Charles Mingus’ birthday, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.


Why recognize Mingus in this way? Why not Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker?  The evasive answer is that they all deserve it too. Of course it’s absurd to even consider that a holiday would be set aside for this artist’s birthday, no matter how deserving. The more specific answer is that it’s both intuitive and personal. 


Mingus is to me all things American. The good and bad, the achingly beautiful and coarsely ugly. He could be tender, sweet, loving, and mercurially harsh and abusive. His own ethnic heritage was African, Asian, and European. He was the great melting pot. 


I believe America is a country of immense potential, often great optimism, and crushing letdowns and ugliness. Mr. Mingus isn’t as bad as the latter, but it could get bad. Jimmy Knepper once said something to Mingus that made Charles so mad, that he punched Jimmy in the face and knocked crown out. Jimmy said he lost part of his embouchure and the top octave of his range on the trombone. And yet, they worked together again later. Charles was serially unfaithful to his girlfriends and wives.


These things fade into the distance as the people are gone, but the work continues to thrive. His transgressions pale in comparison to, say, those of Bill Cosby. Cosby is unredemptive and irredeemable, and any positive work he may have made will always be tainted by his private behavior. Mingus’ behavior wasn’t serially criminal, and while sometimes bad, is understandable. He had reasons to be angry. And he was a hothead.



I don’t know if you can picture this, but there’s Ben Opie, aged 13 or so, in his corner room in an old farmhouse in Pleasant Valley, PA. Yes, Pleasant Valley. I had started playing clarinet in the 5th grade (I liked how it looked) and picked up my first tenor saxophone in the 9th. My father had a nice collection of records, which I listened to often, but had a far larger collection of 7.5” reel-to-reel tapes. This was before cassettes were commonplace. 


Dad taught at Louisiana State University from 1965-1970. We lived in an historic plantation house in Port Allen/West Baton Rouge. That’s a story for another time. 


Dad would borrow records from anyone, students and teachers alike, and dub them to those reel to reel (R2R) tapes, usually at slow speed. He could slap on a tape in his painting studio, and let it play for an hour while he worked. I had one of his old portable R2R players in my room, and would go exploring through his collection.


I don’t remember the order, but I discovered some great stuff in that collection of tapes: Cream, the first Led Zeppelin records, and more importantly, a tape entirely of the original Mothers of Invention.

Aside from the Mothers and Hot Rats, one tape really caught my attention. It opened with Mingus Ah Um: no song titles, just the artist and album title . That record turned me on my ear. The opening gospel cries of “Better Git It in Your Soul” sounded instantly catchy. I was drawn in. Follow that up with the dryly, sadly lyrical “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, and I was hooked. (That one note with the two saxophones a half step apart!) Turns out, Dad had a physical copy (now in my possession) which led me to know the composition titles.


I consider it to be the single greatest record ever recorded. It’s a concept record before such a thing existed. Every piece is some reference to another artist or style, even in jape (“Fables of Faubus” is both my favorite work on the record, and a huge middle finger to the racist governor). So much of what I am today as a musician, comes back to the tapes of Uncle Meat and Mingus Ah Um I studied in my youth. 



I taught at CAPA High School (High School for the Creative and Performing Arts) in Pittsburgh from 1998-2008. During one of those early years, I was asked (told) to run the school jazz band for a single period (45 minutes +/-) after wind ensemble once a week. There was a hole in the schedule and it needed to be covered. This was basically an impossible task; run a dedicated ensemble for so little time each week?


The Charles Mingus: More Than a Fakebook had been published prior to that, and I thought, let’s just do a Mingus deep dive. The multi-part pieces translated to a big band easily. 


As we were digging into the repertoire, one of the trombonists asked me a question rehearsal. He was rather formal: “Mr. Opie, why does Mr. Mingus write so many wrong notes?” I had to stop for a moment to respect the question. “Maybe he isn’t writing the wrong notes,” I said, “Maybe you just haven’t heard what he’s doing yet.”


At the end of academic year, we played an entire Mingus program, and I insisted we do “Better Git It in Your Soul” entirely from memory. That was the Mingus way. 


I salute you Mr. Mingus. Despite your flaws, the world is a better place from you having been in it. I hope that those who follow me can say the same. Thank you.


Monday, March 28, 2022

Autobiographical ramblings

Facebook will occasionally place an old posting in your feed that is a "memory" from X years ago. One came up for me from nine years ago, something I wouldn't have remembered otherwise: "From a recent dream: I was told I have a secret name. The name does not form itself as words in the normal sense, but is closer to a musical sound, sounding something like a series of vowels. I was also told that playing the saxophone in the way that I do has been a subconscious attempt at recreating that name."

I like the poetry of that statement. I can't solely lay claim to having a dream of having a "secret name." Don't many religions, including Judaism and Catholicism, involve taking a (at least partially) new name when fully entering into the faith? It's an element of the novel Dune.

My mother, unusually (strike that, uniquely) responded via Facebook. My father has an account but only reads from it, and Mom must have access. She wrote, "You were a wonderful and mystical child, with your own language that we could not understand. You also gave us written messages that we could not decipher. You called the grandma who lived next door "Guda Guarda" and her attempts to be called Nema failed. Love, Mom."

She's told me some of this before (if not all). As a young child (between 2-5 I'd guess) she's told me I would speak in a chirping unintelligible language, and people would ask what dialect I was speaking. I don't remember hearing about the undecipherable written messages before, though I was always inclined to draw given the chance. Both of my parents being artists, there were always professional quality art supplies around. My compulsions to draw were deeper than just having good quality materials around the house, though.

Guda Guarda, or Nema, or whatever her real name, was our neighbor in West Baton Rouge/Port Allen, LA. She rented to my family the large plantation house where we lived from 1965-1970. The Sandbar Plantation House. You can look it up, it has an historical marker at the end of the driveway now. There was, no lie, an extant slave house in the back. It must have been built a short time prior to Emancipation. I was told by Dad that I was, in no uncertain terms, to never enter that building. The most I ever did was crane my neck to try to see in the window. It was dusty, dirty, and even my 5-6 year old self had enough sense to know it was dangerous. I assume it no longer exists. Some years after we left Sandbar, a hurricane blew the roof off our old house, and it needed extensive repairs. It would be hard to believe the slave house could have resisted such winds.

One of the last times I saw Guda Guarda, I was seven and in swimming trunks going to my first swimming lesson. I was running up to her house to show her, when her dog ran up to me and aggressively bit me full jaw on the ass. The doctor checked me out, I was generally fine, just some small puncture marks on my cheeks and thighs. I later spoke to Guda Guarda on the phone, who told me her dog was now "sleeping." I asked, how long? "For a very long time" she said. This confused me. Was he going to wake up years from now? I think I was ambivalent, because I didn't want this dog who attacked me unprovoked to wake up. It wasn't much longer before we packed up and moved to eastern Pennsylvania. 

As an adult, I am irreligious, non-mystical, and supposedly grounded in this world. Secular humanist. And yet I'm given pause. Do I have a secret name? Have I been searching for that name as a musician? Is it why I've been drawn to music my entire life, and more specifically to woodwinds? My mother has long commented on my innate musicality as a child. I loved to sing, and would, as she put it, learn the most complex TV commercial jingles. I still remember the Apple Jacks cereal song. When I grew older, I was far more drawn to the sound of the instruments than the voice. The instruments generally speak to me far more than any words or voice.

Perhaps my early attempts at language and writing were imitations of what I saw and heard. I was imitating writing, speaking, without getting the particular "notes" correct.

Yet, despite my atheistic ways, what if I'm wrong? What if there's something to be rediscovered? What would happen if I actually found a way to unlock my true name in my playing? Would I achieve Zen enlightenment? OR...would I unlock the hellscape beings such as in the movie Hellraiser

I know the latter has a lot to do with my particular taste in movies.

I think I'll take this attitude: I don't think there's a secret to be unlocked by my playing, but I will continue to try. I'll play often, play hard (I always play hard), and I'll keep searching. 

But, who was Guda Guarda? Not the actual person who lived next door, but who I perceived her to be?

Me, captured at the Bop Stop in Cleveland, searching for my secret name. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Jerry Weber in memorium

 Damn. Damn damn damn damn damn. I'm taking to this medium again after someone else important has died recently. He wasn't the creative force of either Betty Davis or Bruce Anderson, but an important person nonetheless. 

Jerry Weber, Vinyl Man. Jerry of Jerry's Records, previously of Garbage Records and (I'm told, before my time) the Record Graveyard.

Jerry was the sort of person that gives a city its character. Every city, every town of a certain size, has at least a few. Someone you don't meet every day.

Everyone who went to Jerry's Records on at least a semi-regular basis will probably at least one or two Jerry anecdotes. I've been sharing Jerry stories on Facebook, and will repeat and add a few here. 

I found a Stefan Wolpe album on Esoteric Records there. Stefan was a pretty good mid-century academic avant-garde composer, if that sums him up correctly. When I took it to the counter, Jerry looked it over and said, "You don't see that every day. I don't know what the hell it is, but you don't see it every day!"

Jerry would tell me occasionally of the celebrity shoppers he'd had. One person was Robert Plant. Jerry: "I shoulda had him autograph his solo albums. Maybe then I coulda sold them!"

I came in one day, and Jerry told me the day before DJ Jazzy Jeff had shopped there. Jerry: "He spent $1,000 on weird stuff. Children's records, stuff like that."

Like many a good shop owner, Jerry learned his customer's tastes. He knew I liked the avant garde, independent jazz records, and the like, but bought a broad range of things. He said he had names for different types of customers. He called me a "grazer," someone who bought a little bit of everything. Once I purchased a weird primitive noise rock band album (I'd have to look up what it actually was), and he seemed a little embarrassed. He offered to buy it back from me if I didn't like it. Of course I didn't do that.

Walking into the store one day, he asked if I could identify a particular artist. He put on a 7", a kind of hollerin' blues recording. It took me a moment but I recognized it as "I'm Gonna Unmask the Batman," a Sun Ra single. It was barely playable, and he said the reverse side ("The Perfect Man") was completely unplayable. He wondered if he could get anything for it. I said, a collector might give him a couple of dollars, being an original Saturn Records issue. I didn't make an offer. The next time I saw him, he gave it to me free of charge. On the blank sleeve, he wrote: "To Ben Opie 'The Perfect Man' from Sun Jerry and his Gastro-Intestinal Fookestra". Jeez, I get choked up a little even recalling that. 

 Jerry sold his store in 2017. I was talking to Mike Prosser about Jerry a few days ago. Mike worked there, has worked for Get Hip Records, currently works at Eide's. I know him from working at Borders. Mike recounted how Jerry said, "There used to be days when I'd want to talk to this many customers [holding his hands two feet apart] and there'd be this many assholes [holding his fingers two inches apart]. Lately it's been the exact opposite." According to Mike, "That's when Jerry knew he had to get out."

Jerry continued though, running a low key store out of his Swissvale warehouse. I'd been to that location only two times. The first was when he held a classical sale on a weekend, upstairs, when he still had the Jerry's Records store. I bought some Stravinsky, as I recall. The second was after he sold his store and was running Vinyl Man's Clubhouse in the bottom floor. He was selling most stock for $5 apiece. I bought: a live Don Byas collection which included some early Thelonious Monk; Keith Jarrett's "Spirits"; and on a lark, a picture disc copy of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells." (I'm not proud.) Jerry said he still had a huge collection of classical albums upstairs, knowing my interesting in 20th century composers in general. He gave me his phone number and said he'd let me in to browse for things if I wanted. 

Well, regrets. I never did follow up on that. It wasn't so long ago, a year and a half +/-? COVID-era.

If you were a customer of Jerry's, you knew he would write with a Sharpie on the outer record covers sometimes. "Great. Buy it! -J" would be typical. "Very rare," "Rare Blue Note," "Great import," etc etc. These miniature missives seem like gold leaf cast into the wind now. I have many, and like others familiar with the Jerry's experience, they seem as vital as some of the records themselves.

Two last anecdotes. 

Jerry sat on his throne in Squirrel Hill when I came in, as he usually did. He enjoyed telling me stories. "There was this young couple that came in, musta been in their 20s. He bought a record, and I said, this is a fifty year old record. You're a young guy, you'll live at least fifty more years. So if you keep this, you'll have something 100 years old. It'll sound just as good at a hundred as it does now." I think I cynically said, "Yeah, it'll be just as scratched up then as it is now." But I love Jerry's sense of continuity. We are passing through this world, but the artifacts we make and collect live on. 


I shared this on Facebook. This is 100% Jerry: I walked into the store one day and he said, "Hey Ben, I gotta play something for you." He put on one of the most bizarre things I've ever heard: Clarence (Sawdust) Kelley, "Twin Singing Saws On The Sawdust Trail." Imagine a bowed saw performance, with gated reverb, playing a solo rendition of "Amazing Grace." It gave me a headache listening to it, so of course I asked him how much he wanted for it. "Oh no," he exclaimed, "this is going in Jerry's 'weird pile.'" I would have given him whatever he asked. Some months later I asked about the saw record again, and he said, "Oh that? I think I sold that months ago." 

Jerry, you jerk! I still love ya man!

Below, Ben & Jerry.