The Playboy Life, Part 2

Integral to The Playboy Life is music, and for me, that’s jazz. Now, to clarify, The Playboy Life is not my entire life. The rest of me often gets tired of jazz. It’s an intellectual music and I am functionally an idiot, so I retreat to the comfort of more conventional tunes that rarely stray outside 4/4 unless it’s a waltz. I joke that I can’t count past 4, therefore I don’t play jazz.

Of course, like Rock, Jazz is not just any one thing. I love a good spray of Dixieland, a la Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, and Sinatra sings with such ease I hate him. Too smooth. But if you want to pour maple syrup on your ears and hear lyrics and melody seamlessly welded together, none top Frank. Mmm… maple syrup…

There is, though, good reason why Kind of Blue is largely recognized as the greatest selling jazz recording in history. And its beauty is like walking into a huge cathedral or synagogue or Wrigley Field. It might not be your choice of religion, but it’s easy to see a shrine when you see one. Such is Miles Davis’s 1959 album.

He was breaking away from both jazz standards and the forms of bebop and hard bop he’d been exploring, into modal jazz, with improvisation built around particular scales. Now to my buddy Saxmanic that makes some sort of sense, but to me it’s finger snapping cool while going blahblahblah over the details. There are 12 bar blues cycles in some of the tunes which probably lends an accessibility through the more advanced layers, so us dummies can like it.

I know. I’ll never be this cool.

But here’s what it boils down to in my vision of The Playboy Life: It’s after midnight, candles are lit, it’s a cool night outside, the martinis (or their more palatable replacements) are drunk and things are winding down. The needle is lowered into the groove (The Playboy Life pre-dates CD’s) and the sassy brass So What issues forth and a little cocoon of warmth envelopes the room. It’s a bubble that Bruce Cockburn succinctly described as a “suddenly compact universe of skin and breath and hair,” and that’s it exactly. This is music for Digging at its finest and how better to Dig The One You’re With than alongside the intimate horns of Davis and Coltrane? This is not cold brass. This is music for lovers, baby. Viagra for the ears.

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 9:16 am  Comments Off on The Playboy Life, Part 2  
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The Playboy Life, Part 1

Iwonder if there are others of my demographic who, by virtue of their father’s subscription to Playboy Magazine in the 60’s and 70’s, have a vision of their adult life that they aren’t living. In my own case, as a voracious reader, a new issue meant more than simply an influx of fresh, airbrushed T & A. No, I am not going to try, for a second, to tell you I didn’t look at the pictures. Of course I did – I knew exactly where each of the 3 pictorials were located. I remember there was an ad, full page that delineated where boobs would start popping up. If I remember, it was ad, Playboy Interview, first pictorial. The centerfold was right in the middle, of course, convincing many young boys, I’m sure, that staples are a part of women’s anatomy. Finally there was the last pictorial, often a feature like Sex in the Cinema. I knew even how to slide the magazine out of its brown paper sleeve, then back in so that I could get some viewing time before mail was officially “received”.

Yes, I knew the magazine. That I read it and absorbed the editorial comment had at least as much impact on me as the female anatomy lessons. There was a vision of life as a grown-up imparted that I’ve never fully escaped.

Not-Hugh-HefnerSo what I call “The Playboy Life” is a vague vision of me as an eligible bachelor (check), sophisticated and urban (check), who smokes a pipe (no check), sips martinis daily (no check) who lives in a swank apartment (well… it’s an apartment) in Manhattan (decidedly uncheck) who has some sort of vague and unidentified job in advertising (vague and unidentified, yes, advertising, well yeah sort of). So geographically and substantially I am a failure. I’ve not even been to Manhattan as much as I would like, though a manhattan is the closest I come to enjoying any martini-like drink. I’ve never smoked – still waiting to grow up enough – and somewhere along the line I’ve lost the desire for “stuff” that seems required to support the swank urge.

There are other elements of this imagined life that I think I have incorporated just fine thank you into my actual adult life, things I can attribute right back my formative years studying the between-the-pictures copy of the Greatest Men’s Magazine Ever. I think, from time to time, I’m going to write about some of these things that make me feel like a Playboy Man. I even know where I’m going to start, as his name has come up a lot – Miles Davis.

It’s funny – I have no recollection of Miss February 1969, the reason I snuck the magazine out of its wrapper, but I’ve grown to love a black man with a trumpet. That is the Pretty Awesome power of that magazine. And, I guess, a Pretty Awesome analogy of how women can lead men places, by the simple virtue of being women. I can live with that.

Next Up: Kind of Blue

Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 9:04 am  Comments Off on The Playboy Life, Part 1  
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