Sunday, April 15, 2018

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (at Howard’s Party)

I'd originally posted this on April 3, 2011. Last night, April 14, 2018, I attended Howard's jam, again. And we played “Knocking on Heaven's Door", just like we had that time almost 20 years ago that I wrote up in my book. Another good version. Some of the same people were there, I'm sure. And some new ones. A good time was had by all.

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Last night was Howard’s Annual Jam and Birthday Bash. He’s been doing this for twenty-five years, though I’ve only been going for about ten or so. As always, a good time was had by all.

And this year was especially good, perhaps the best I remember – though I don’t remember everything that happened this time, so it may have been even better than I think it was. Here’s a passage from Beethoven’s Anvil, my book about music, that recounts an incident from ten about years ago (pp. 69-70):
A couple I know threw a big party to celebrate their new house and her pregnancy. As he is deep into the Hoboken folk-music scene, about a dozen guitars were there, and some other instruments as well: a flautist, a few pianists, a woman who brought a dozen or so shakers that folks could play, a soprano saxophonist, and me, on flugelhorn and clavé. We played one or two songs as old as dirt, but also lots of Beatles, van Morrison, Bob Dylan—very Sixties.

The front room on the ground floor served as the music room. The music would start and stop, musicians of all levels of ability came and went, and the boundary between players and others was wonderfully fluid. The music was ragged and rambling and occasionally confused and the rhythm would get lost every now and then and all that. From an evolutionary point of view it was just a bunch of apes hanging out and grooming one another while munching on some choice leaves and termites.

But there was at least one moment quite unlike anything exhibited by bands of apes. It was 1:30 or 2 in the morning and we were jamming on Bob Dylan's “Knocking on Heaven's Door.” I took a flugelhorn solo early in this long jam and then, when I was done, went to the bottom register of the horn and started a simple repetitive swelling figure which I played more or less continuously to the end. The soprano sax played harmony to my line, and I to his, and sometimes did a little obbligato, and a guitar solo floated up here, a piano solo there, vocal choruses and refrains happened as needed. At some point I decided to see how much I could drive this train by leaning on my simple line and bearing down. A half minute or so later, four or five or six voices chimed in on the refrain at the same time. A lump came to my throat. There we were, knocking on heaven's door.

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