Monsieur Le Chevalier

It may not be unusual for daughters to think of their fathers as knights (as in shining white armor), but in contemporary times how many of us have fathers who really are Knights? My dad — yes, I’m talking about the world renowned guitarist Jim Hall — has been given an award of great distinction by the French Minister of Culture and Communication. He is now a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), a decoration given to eminent artists and writers who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. It is one of the highest honors the French government can bestow upon a civilian

Word arrived by mail, a letter in French from the Minister and a corresponding letter in English (though not a literal translation) from a Cultural Counselor in the Ambassade de France aux Etats-Unis. Also in the envelope was some background information that I supplemented with a little web searching. Chevaliers are entitled to wear the insignia of the Order, a medal suspended from a colored ribbon of white stripes against a green background, on their left chest. According to a wiki entry:

The badge of the Order is an eight-armed, green-enameled ‘asterisk’ in silver; the obverse central disc has the letters ‘A’ and ‘L’ on a white enameled background surrounded by a golden ring bearing the words “République Française.” The reverse central disc features the head of Marianne on a golden background, surrounded by a golden ring bearing the words “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.”

You’d think I’d be able to find a good picture of it on the Internet, but this is the best I could find, for now. Alternatively, a more discreet lapel pin might be worn in lieu of the medal. My dad is not the strutting sort, so I can’t quite envision him sporting such a medal, but that decision doesn’t have to be made yet as the medal itself has not yet been conferred. That is likely to happen in January.

He joins a fine cadre of artists, of course. Among his jazz compatriots so honored in the past are Lee Konitz, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. Other honorees in recent years include Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, and Beverly Sills.

(Okay, someone is bound to want to answer the rhetorical question I posed in the opening. Such an enterprising person will point out just how many people are knighted by the Queen of England each year, not to mention other governments with similar honors, but please don’t burst my bubble while I’m enjoying the moment imagining I am among the few whose father is a real Knight.)

Too Hot To Trot

For those of you have been following my horseback riding escapades, it’s been too hot to trot in recent weeks. An article on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times has the California death toll at 130, higher than the deaths caused by the Northridge earthquake and fires combined. The effects of heat on multiple sclerosis are well documented and each MS-related publication is full of ads for these flack-jacket-like apparels with pockets in which you can insert ice-packs. I can’t imagine carrying around added weight of ice in this heat, but whatever works for those who need it is a good thing. Thankfully, I have air conditioning and, while surrounding neighborhoods have been hit with major power outages, my immediate vicinity has suffered nothing more than momentary interruptions. Of course such interruptions are supremely annoying for no sooner do I reset all the clocks and answering machine and re-boot my computer than another surge hits and I have to start all over again, but not worth complaining about in the face of others who are powerless for hours if not days on end. I have friends who have decamped to local movie theaters or the homes of friends and family.

So thankfully, my personal neural network has remained relatively cool. But such has not been the case at the data centers housing the servers on which my web sites reside. In addition to and I also run and a new site for Nancy Wilson that was to have launched already but has been set back by these power struggles. (More about Miss Nancy next week.) Status reports from my hosting service spoke of dead shorts, ram upgrades, over-taxed generators, core router upgrades, system disk problems, network cards gone bad, a broken Power Distribution Unit, and a filer crash causing a chain reaction heavily affecting other parts of the network and saturating network interfaces. That last one was on July 19th and nothing has been functioning properly since then…until now. Hope that I do not speak too soon; each problem report over these last ten days was followed by an “all fixed” report that was too good to be true. No, they weren’t telling tales, but the problems were cascading and no sooner was one thing fixed than another failed. It looks to be pretty stable now…I hope.

Enjoy your weekend — I know I will — and if I remain empowered, I will be back with you on Monday.

Soul Music

Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. — Victor Hugo

Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has the power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to music and must be educated in it. — Aristotle

Music is an outburst of the soul. — Frederick Deluis

Music is the vernacular of the human soul. — Geoffrey Latham

Education in music is most soverign, because more than anything else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace, if one is rightly trained. — Plato

Mathematics is music for the mind; music is matematics for the soul. — Anon

A Heavy Heart

I don’t know the derivation of this expression denoting sadness, but feeling that sadness I’m not much in the mood to look it up right now. Regular readers know that I recently reconnected with my elementary school class and that I flew to NYC for a reunion a few weeks back. Two of our classmates, twins, live in Israel, so they were not at this dinner. They moved to Israel during our high school years and stayed on even after their parents returned to the U.S., marrying and raising their own families there. I have seen them a handful of times over the years and was delighted when our Yahoo group allowed them to connect with us even though so far away.

A few weeks after our NYC dinner, one of the twins came to NYC for a happy family event and a second dinner was held, one that I could not attend, though I did call to say hello to everyone while they were all together. That was last week, and two days later I was on a plane to Chicago, where I remained without access to email for three days. I did see the television news that night, and as I watched the escalating Middle East conflicts I found myself remembering an evening in October of 1973 when sitting in my unremarkable college freshman dorm room, I was trying to understand the Yom Kippur War (that was when Egypt and Syria invaded the Sinai and Golan Heights that had been captured by Israel during the Six-Day War six years earlier) and wondering if my friends were safe.

This time I was troubled for the world in general but not specifically worried for my friends. They are no longer in military service and they live in an area that has so far remained safe. But I was not thinking about their children and did not take “reserve duty” into account. My friends children are alive and well, but the lifelong best friend of one of the sons is not — Eyal, a young Israeli reservist in the Israel Defense Force was on his last patrol along the Israel-Lebanon border in a convoy of two Hummer jeeps when they were ambushed by Hezbollah. Two soldiers were abducted into Lebanon. Eyal was killed.

When the horrors of war take place so far away, even though we may see the gruesome details televised into our living rooms, it is too easy to remain emotionally removed. We don’t know these people, they are not we. But that is not true. They are ordinary people just like us, with friends and families and plans for the future. Eyal’s reserve assignment would have ended Wednesday afternoon and he had planned to visit his girlfriend that evening and meet up with his best friend the next day.

My classmate and his family caught the first flight home, arriving in time for the funeral. Afterwards my friend wrote: “Eyal was a member of our household, and was like a fourth son, and an “extra” brother for all of our three sons. His loss affects us all immeasurably.” No matter what side of a conflict you may support, and regardless of where these atrocities take place, the loss of ALL lives should weigh heavily on us all.

A Quick Trip

Off to Chicago early Wednesday morning. Thursday there’s an early evening concert in Millenium Park honoring Johnny Pate. Coincidentally, it was a year ago this Thursday that I posted a piece about a Johnny Pate tribute concert that had taken place two years prior (in 2003). This Thursday’s concert starts at 6:30 PM at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and features a big band conducted by Johnny Pate and Henry Johnson’s Organ Express, plus Nancy Wilson as a special guest singing two tunes with Henry’s group and two with the big band. It should be a lot of fun. Then I’m heading straight home on Friday morning, and with the time change should get home mid day, just in time to finish the liner notes for a 2-CD compilation of Jim Hall tracks for Concord Records. What a life!

To whom does one belong?

Yesterday’s Rifftides post Good Old Good Ones: Davis and Tjader includes the following tidbit:

In a pickup date while he and his bassist Eugene Wright were in Hollywood, Tjader brought in pianist Gerald Wiggins and drummer Bill Douglass. Everything clicked.

My tongue-in-cheek heading “to whom does one belong?” refers to Eugene Wright (a/k/a The Senator) being referred to as “his bassist,” meaning Tjader’s bassist. What was not mentioned was a small fact that gives “but of course” understanding to why “everything clicked” — Bill Douglas was Wig’s drummer and they’d been working together alot in the few years leading up to the Tjader recording. Here’s a snippet from my Gerry Wiggins bio:

Not only was Wig in demand as a sideman to play and record with jazz legends such as Milt Jackson, Art Pepper, Cal Tjader, Benny Carter and others, but during that same period he also recorded several albums as leader of his own trio. Wig’s first trio album, aptly titled “The Gerald Wiggins Trio,” was released in 1953. Wig, along with bassist Joe Comfort and drummer Bill Douglass recorded six standard tunes and two of Wig’s own original compositions. This same trio also recorded “The Loveliness of You” (Tampa, 1956). In 1957 both albums were re-released, the first by Dig Records under the title “Wiggin’ With the Wig” and the second by Motif Records under the title “Reminiscin’ with Wig.” Joe Comfort, who was working frequently with Nelson Riddle at the time, was not always available. On a date with Cal Tjader, Wig had met and worked with bassist Eugene Wright. Eugene may be best known for his later work with Dave Brubeck, but his musical contributions as a member of the Gerald Wiggins Trio were thankfully recorded on two albums: “Around the World in 80 Days” (Original Jazz) came out in 1957 (some sources say 1956) and “The King and I” came out in 1958 on Challenge Records.

The original liner notes for Around The World In 80 Days by John Tynan include this:

“By dint of many hours playing together, they have fused into a brotherly groove, the common bond of which is a mutual desire to “always keep it swingin’.”

So Eugene was Tjader’s bassist, Wig’s bassist, and Brubeck’s bassist, to name a few from the top of the list. Now, thanks to reissues, these groups all belong to us. Check them out.

PS: Writer Scott Yanow pronounced this recording “pleasant and swinging but predictably lightweight and not too substantial.” I know I am biased, but I love these recordings, so you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Amazon (use the link above) has audio clips for the 80 Days CD, as does

Ten Good Years

A few weeks ago I mentioned a few of the things that helped me during my cancer battle. (You can read that post here.) I had planned to write something in commemoration of my ten year anniversary, but had not yet decided what date to commemorate—the date of diagnosis, the onslaught of simultaneous chemo and radiation treatments, the end of treatment, the post-treatment evaluation conjoined with another biopsy that supported a tentative pronouncement of “cured,” the date I felt “recovered,” or the date five years later when the doctors feel confident enough to use the word “cured” without caveats.

What I neglected to mention in that earlier post were some of the people who I saw and/or spoke to during that time. In addition to John, and my best friends, Phil, Susan and Tison, who stuck by my, chauffeured me, visited me, took me to doctor appointments and handled myriad other details for me, a few highlights stay with me always. Joe Williams singing Here’s To Life over the telephone, a phone call from Sonny Rollins (he told me that I wasn’t going to die), and hospital visits from Nancy Wilson and Lynn & Gerry Wiggins.

Then there was the time I was paroled from the hospital to be treated as an out-patient, discharged with a 24/7 iv chemo drip (they call it a pic line) with daily visits to the radiation center and to the lab for blood work. It was mid-June and Marian McPartland was in town to record. I drove myself to the O’Henry Sound Studios in Burbank and spent the day bathed in the sounds of Marian’s trio (Andy Simpkins on bass, Harold Jones on drums) plus a 20-piece string orchestra conducted by Alan Broadbent. It was a beautiful session with lush arrangements, a more perfect medicine for the mind and soul I cannot imagine. I spent a lot of time in the 1970s hanging out with Marian and listening to her play almost nightly at The Cookery and Bemelman’s Bar, so listening to tunes like Ambiance and A Delicate Balance took me back in time.

Then came the Playboy Jazz Festival, Joe was performing and I wasn’t going to miss it. Despite Sonny’s reassurances, I thought it might be the last time I’d ever see Joe. So John took me to the Festival in my big-brimmed hat (radiation treatments and sunshine are not a good mix) and chemo drip taped down to my side.

Outpatient treatment is a great idea, but I was getting too weak to handle it on my own. That’s when another girlfriend gave me a tremendous gift – she risked her job by taking a 2-week unpaid vacation and used up her frequent flyer miles to come in from Hawaii to stay with me. This friend had lost her husband to cancer so it must have been more than difficult for her, but she did not hesitate.

So what should I commemorate? The date of diagnosis has already slipped by me. The first biopsy was on May 15th and within a week I was in the hospital, had a tracheostomy, and “treatment” had begun. I could wait until July 29th to post this, that’s the day the treatment ended, but that’s also when the doctors tell you that they don’t know yet if the chemicals and radiation worked or not. Come back in six weeks, they said. I went to New York. It was mid-September when a third biopsy led the NY docs to say the cancer was completely gone, but that’s when they tell you they want to monitor your progress every month for the next year, every six months for two years after that, and then once a year; when five years have elapsed cancer-free then they might use the word “cured.”

By now, the dates are no longer important; maybe they never were. The moral of this story is that people and music can make life better.

ps. Yes, Ten Good Years is the title of a song that Luther Henderson and Marty Charnin wrote for Nancy Wilson’s show at the Coconut Grove in 1964.


Sunday, July 9, from 11 p.m. to midnight (Eastern Daylight Time) “Jazz From the Archives” features the music of Eddie Harris. You can hear it online, or if you are in the New York City metropolitan area you can tune in to WBGO-FM (88.3). Producer Bill Kirchner writes:

Eddie Harris (1934-1996) started his professional career as a pianist, but he became one of the most distinctive post-bebop tenor saxophonists, with an appealing airy sound and virtuoso technique. He achieved popularity through a number of commercial hits, but those who knew his playing well were aware that he was a first-rate jazz improviser.

We’ll hear some of the best of Harris’s Atlantic recordings of the mid-to-late 1960s, featuring him along with pianists Cedar Walton and Jodie Christian, bassist Ron Carter, drummers Billy Higgins, Bobby Thomas, and Billy Hart, trumpeter Ray Codrington, and others.

Jail or Jerry’s Kids

A warrant has been issued for my arrest! I have been charged with having a big heart and will be apprehended on August 17th. As one of the “Most Wanted” I am going to be “Locked Up” to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. You can help by contributing to my bail. They may even let me out on good behavior. My bail has been set at $1800, just enough to send three children to MDA summer camp. They tell me that I have an opportunity for immediate release for good behavior if bail is raised prior to the court date.

Don’t get confused. I have Multiple Sclerosis, not Muscular Dystrophy, but I have never felt right raising money for my own causes. And quite honestly, there are so many causes that I am usually immune to these solicitations. But these people got my attention with their novel approach (I think they are actually planning to send a car to “pick me up and take me away” on August 18th), and it is for children who would otherwise be denied a wonderful summer camp experience, an experience I loved but took for granted as a privileged and healthy youngster, so I agreed to participate. I can accept cash, check, or credit card donations (contact me via email if you want to send the donation c/o me), or you can donate online by going to this special page on the MDA website that is encrypted and protected by Verisign.

I promise that fundraising will not be a regular feature at DevraDoWrite, but it would be great if just this once you’d like to help out some kids who really could use a little joy in their lives.

Missing In Action Again

Sorry to have gone missing. I could plead pity for my infected jaw and my week on antibiotics, true and painful, but not so much so as to stop me from reading and writing, much of which this past week had to do with my ongoing class reunion — we now have a yahoo group and the conversations are many and varied, ranging from “do you remember so-and-so?” to how to save the world.

One of the topics I raised was actually a question my dad recently asked me: why aren’t today’s young people protesting against the war and the government? I mentioned that not having any children I feel rather far removed from “today’s young people,” but then wondered in writing, “and why aren’t we [protesting]? Are we too old, too complacent, too disillusioned….?” (As youngsters we were extremely political and outspoken. Not only did we attend marches in Washington and rallys in Central Park, we staged ourown mini-marches outside of FAO Schwartz protesting the sale of war toys. “GI Joe Must Go!”)

In response to my question, one classmate, an educator, reported having “escorted and travelled with groups of college-aged folk to several of the anti-war demos in the last few years. The demonstrations are FULL of young people; but there are way, way too few people, period. They are also full of people of our parents’ generation — but sorely lacking in folk of our own.” We ‘talked’ about our physical limitations, family obligations, and responsibilities that preclude the risk of jail for civil disobedience. Many of us sign petitions and discuss politics via the Internet, but as one classmate opined “I think we’re wasting our time getting distracted by the internet, when we should be on the streets. The kids are waiting for us to lead them there, and to join them there. They are waiting for us to organize the demonstrations, while we’re waiting for them to do so.”

I was glad to hear that there is more activity than is on my radar screen. I think the media downplays the protests today, at least I don’t seem to be as aware of them. Or maybe it’s just that they seem much smaller. Or maybe more activity on the East Coast? I’ve seen the occasional Los Angeles news report of some protesters, usually in Westwood (near UCLA), but they show only a handful of people with placards and drivers honking in support as they pass by. [Of course this is not counting the two recent immigration rallys and marches, but that was predominantly the Latino community mobilizing themselves…which is also a good thing] There are small protests against all kinds of things (movies, for example), and the opposers somehow find it easy to dismiss — “oh, it’s just them, not important, no big deal.” Also, those big protests back then were news while today they seem passe, a relic of an idea from the past, an idea that did not work…

I tell myself that there are many things I would do if I were single…part truth, part excuse. My husband, even though he is not about to join any picket line, says that when the middle class really starts hurting, then there will be a true revolution and we will all take to the streets. He figures that by then he won’t be here. Quite honestly, I find myself hoping that I’m not either. (I know that’s selfish, and easier for me to say because I have no children.)

That being said, I am not sure that protests in the street are any more effective than Internet petitions. Votes used to equate to power, but if They are controlling the elections (whether by lying or lobbying, rigging results, or just employing scare tactics), then even our votes don’t count. It’s a power and money game, and those who don’t have either can’t play.

Correction: A friend wrote in: “freudian slip?!?: “I mentioned that having any children I feel rather far removed from “today’s young people,” but then wondered in writing, “and why aren’t we?” Hmmm, I reply. Grandma always said “haste makes waste.” In a hurry to post, I failed to edit. The above has been corrected acordingly.