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February 25, 2005: The music in my head

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When I was in high school, I was a band geek. I played the oboe in the concert band and the woodwind ensemble (and once even in field show). I played the flute in marching band, for parade routes. During field show I played all the non-drum percussion instruments, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba (with four mallets, no less) and once even an eight-foot tall copper gong. And because that wasn't enough band geekery for one person, and also because I happened to play piano, I was also in the jazz band.

The last one really never makes sense to me when I look back on it, for the sole fact that I have never been much of a fan of jazz music, and despite one might expect, playing it for four years did not make it any more endearing. Long drawn-out drum solos bore me to tears, and saxophone and trumpet solos leave me cold (although this might have more to do with the fact that pretty much every trumpet or saxophone player I knew who was given a solo had the big fat swelled head and ego to go right along with it). Being asked to ad lib on the piano terrified me. And yet I was in jazz band all through high school - all four years. Go figure.

The ironic thing is that even though I can only take about one or two jazz tunes before I start to gouge out my own ears, there were a few I didn't mind, and an even smaller selection I actually really liked. And my very favorite of our repertoire, the entire time I was in that little ensemble, was "Birdland." I have no idea who wrote it, nor do I know who did the arrangement we used. All I know is that I loved that song, and whenever the director asked us what we wanted to do for a performance, I'd flap my hand wildly in the air and ask to do that one. Of course, the rest of the band wanted to do other things, and over the four years players came and went. And when I graduated from high school I decided I'd had more than enough of jazz - both playing it and enduring it - and over the years I mostly forgot all about it.

NPR tosses little snippets of songs in between their news segments. On the way home from work yesterday I wasn't paying much attention to what they were talking about until suddenly the music started playing. And I recognized that song from the first three chords. Birdland! They were playing my song! And I did a very un-adult like squeal of glee in the privacy of my car and turned the radio up really loud, and then might have possibly done a little pouting when the snippet was over and they went back to news and more mundane things.

It's been lurking in my head all day today. If I let my mind wander those opening chords start up and if I'm not careful I find myself humming along. Birdland. It's the way jazz should be. Oh yeah.

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