Monday, October 23, 2006

The Jawa: Horn Player

Everyone sing along:

Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns

I still place the saxaphone within the paradigm of Hawaiian shirts and Rob Lowe's seminal performance as troubled rock and roll horn player Billy Hicks in "St. Elmo's Fire." You all can shake your heads in disapproval and argue the unrivaled cool of the Charlie Parkers and Sonny Rollins's of the jazz world. I can't get the image of Brian Setzer's brass and woodwind section, clad in their matching Hawaiian shirts, performing choreographed moves and wearing "shades."

Despite this, I feel some pride at the seriousness with which the Jawa is approaching his new musical instrument. We just spent a half-hour in the bedroom while he practiced, playing along to the CD given to him by the BHDS band teacher, Ms. Seigal.

Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns
One a penny
Two a penny
Hot Cross Buns

So far, his interest has not flagged. In fact, I'll put myself out there and say that the half-hour he just spent playing the saxaphone represents his second-greatest sustained period of concentration today. The greatest came when he realized his new "Star Wars" miniature was waiting for us when we got home from school and the dentist.

I'd been trying for years to get him interested in a musical instrument, dating back to the day I noticed he was singing along to the Pixies' "Space (I believe in)" on the way home from preschool.

Jefrey with one F Jefrey

At the time, I imagined him ripping out Kurt Cobain-esque distorted riffs as I looked on proudly. Though my own guitar-playing barely reached the campfire stage, I would pick up the instrument again and he would become a low-fi father-son indie band, a la The Spanic Boys.

Then I thought he would play the drums, which was the worst kind of wishful thinking and projection of what I think is cool onto an unsuspecting child. To begin with, there is nothing in his genetic makeup that suggests he would be able to play the drums, and besides, The Mack Daddy's daughter has been pounding out a serviceable beat since she was in kindergarten. If he was going to be a drum prodigy, we'd know by now.

We went so far as to buy him a guitar last Christmas. (As a sidelight, the celebration of winter holidays is a complicated matter in our home, as Sandra Bullock was raised in the great tradition of grand Christmas celebrations, the kind that only non-religious white people can truly appreciate.) Rather than buy him a "toy" guitar, we bought a 3/4 size student model with steel strings, apparently forgetting the four-week period in 1973 when the 8-year-old me, interested mainly in emulating my older sister and thus receiving from her the acceptance that had eluded me since she tried to exclude me from the 1968 Crest Drive Veterans Day Parade, spent consecutive Wednesdays in the downstairs studio of a youthful, moustachioed guitar teacher until I realized that I had no interest in actually learning how to play the guitar at age 8.

The guitar has sat in his room, unused in its handsome soft case. Sandra Bullock and I nagged the Jawa about it through March, and then gave up. Sometimes the family credo -- pose first, learn later -- can have dangerous repercussions.

And then -- thanks to the free 4th and 5th grade band program implemented last year -- the Jawa has chosen an instrument. It is the same instrument Lane Meyer used to romance the French exchange student. It is the instrument the legendary Dr. Bandeau played in high school, marching past us in his cardinal and gold band uniform on his way to perform at half time as we drank Cokes and ate 25 cent hot dogs in the stands.

To a -- to me, at least -- surprisingly large demographic, it is, in the words of the preternaturally groovy Dr. Melfi, "Sultry, like John Coltrane. Picture a guy leaning out a window of a tenement, playing in the night." If you add Melfi's inimitable Detroit accent, it sounds really funny.

He's interested, at least. Whether this means he will grow up, move to New Orleans with the Shaman and begin a jazz combo, as the latter child has promised, is up to him. And I've tried to be supportive. I like 1950s doo-wop music, and some of it has saxaphone parts. And I was a Springsteen fan before he went all political, so I can encourage the Jawa to don a flashy white suit and a Panama hat, like the Big Man, and dance around snapping his fingers. And I appreciated the inclusion of Saxa, the aged, mystical horn man, in the 1980s-era music of the English Beat.

Maybe it's as the sainted Chaim Heller, respected Head of School, says when he refers to the Hebrew our children learn every day. Heller says that learning a second language, any language, has been proven to aid in brain development and make learning a third, fourth or fifth language that much easier. Perhaps we will some day be the proud parents of a multi-instrumentalist.

Then again, Heller's kid is the lead singer of a "punk goth" band in Santa Cruz. And you know, I'm pretty sure the band includes a saxaphone player.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

Dude. It's "Pixies". No "the". Like "Skydome". Not "the Skydome". Sheesh. Has Butter Goat taught you nothing?

The Jawa definitely has the cheeks for the sax. I look forward to a show.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

I didn't know that the boys were starting a band in NOLA. What fun. Think of the fun family visits. Little did we ever know that our summer vacation to NOLA would lead to such aspirations.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

Dude. I wasn't going to say anything but since flush puppy is already ripping on your grammar I am going to chime right in with a spelling correction. It's saxOphone, not saxAphone. Weren't you an English teacher at one point?! Come on now.

4:41 PM  
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