SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Medley

Jan. 4, 2010

I'm gingerly working back to food reading, since that's what keeps my interest piqued. Last week, I read Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl's delectable memoir of "growing up at the table." She is the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and, as you may recall, I blogged recently about her memoir about her eccentric mother.

Of the two books, I prefer Tender at the Bone. It's like the difference between a smorgasbord and a plate of scrambled eggs with everything tossed in -- I'll take the buffet. The smorgasbord includes portraits of the charming and wise Mrs. Peavey, a great cook from Reichl's early childhood days; the beautiful and proud Serafina, Reichl's college roommate and best friend who learns as an adult that she is both Black and adopted; Doug, the sculptor Reichl marries who turns out to be much like her father; and the indelible charm, Milton, who is the quintessential tour guide. You will find recipes in this book relating to each period of Reichl's life, and you will enjoy the read, appreciating the delectable characters as much as the recipes.

In case you think I'm limited to reading just one book a week, I'm going to confess that I read more than that. And would read still more, if I could. I'm also halfway through the 500-page Practicing the Path, A Commentary on the Lamrim Chenmo, by Yangsi Rinpoche, to which, you, reader, may now be responding --Huh? What? And, to which I will reply -- Exactly. You have to be there when it comes to this one. Still, I urge you to explore it and any other Buddhist texts you are moved to read. You don't have to be Buddhist to read about the religion or agree or disagree with its tenets. And thankfully, Buddhists don't sell their religion.

Segueying further, I also read Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, and pretty much annihilated a section of a jazz encyclopedia, reading about jazz pianists. If you don't know by now -- and why would you, you haven't been listening to what I hear as I type -- jazz of the 40s and 50s, bebop and hard bop, is a kind of obsession.

Evans was a hard bopper, the first "modal" pianist, an American Chopin. Jersey-born, he was known for his classical touch and his ability to make the piano "sing." He explored modal language with trumpeter Miles Davis, whom he joined in 1958. Evans had the gift of being able to communicate his feelings on musical instruments -- and was able to create a singing vernacular with his left hand on the piano. Downbeat magazine ranked him second only to Thelonius Monk, that great spontaneous jazz pianist. Evans was a member of a few trios and quintets and was well-respected internationally, particularly in France. He worked with the talented bassist Scott LaFaro, whose death in a car accident in 1961 not only ended the trio that included Evans, but devastated Evans so much, he didn't play for months. Evans himself died in 1980 from bronchial pneumonia and a hemorraghing ulcer, but really from drug abuse that had plagued him for two decades, resulting in bouts of malnutrition and hepatitis. A friend of Evans' once observed that his "was the longest suicide in history."

As is true with so many of my jazz faves, once you read about them, you have to set down the stories and return to the music, which, thankfully, continues to "sing."

And, while you're listening to the likes of Fats Waller, Art Tatum or Monk, grab yourself a piece of fine chocolate. It's the new year, after all, and resolutions were meant to be broken. I was just perusing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble and came upon the most delectable image of a chocolate dessert...

Reading is like eating. One good thing leads to another, and another. And another.

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