The Friday Morning Listen: Roy Eldridge – 1957 "Live" (1957)

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So it’s late and TheWife™ has gone to bed early and, because I’m kinda tired, I decide it would be a good idea to watch a movie instead of read. It seemed like a good choice at the time. My eyes were more than a little burned out from work so maybe a little passive entertainment would be the thing. The usual course of events when I look for a movie online is that I spend at least a half an hour going back and forth between “Oh, I’d like to see….” and “Crap, they don’t have it.” Strangely enough, I happened onto Adaptation almost immediately. Hey, sometimes you get lucky.

Or not.

I almost always dig watching films that are related to the creative-type people: musicians, artists, writers. And for the first chunk of the movie, that’s what I got. But then there was the silly Hollywood ending. OK, it was a purposeful parody of a Hollywood ending. Or maybe it was a parody of how Hollywood sells out and duct tapes a clichéd ending where it doesn’t belong. I guess I didn’t care. I hated it.

But all was not lost, because I got really interested in the book that the film was based on. That would be Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. From what I’ve read about it (including the original New Yorker article), the book is as much about passion in general as it is for orchids in particular. One review spoke of passion and “the amazing lengths that people will go to gratify it.”

It turned out that the very next day was the 55th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Jack might have had his foibles, but they couldn’t (mostly) dull his passions for both words and music. In fact, the on-the-spot creativity of jazz improvisation was a driving force for Kerouac, arriving at a style he termed “spontaneous prose.”

When I read about Orlean’s central theme — passion and the impetus for gratification — I realized that that was one of the main things that attracted me to Kerouac in the first place. It wasn’t the rambling prose (which I came to love). It wasn’t the way he romanticized life on the road (I do dig my road trips, though maybe not in the hobo style). No, it was the intensity of his focus and his recognition of that passion in others.

Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety – leaning into it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world.

So it seems that my experience with that crummy film wasn’t a total loss. I now have an even deeper appreciation for one of my favorite writers and I’ve added another intriguing book to my (always growing) to-be-read list. Hey, sometimes you get lucky.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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