When Dave Brubeck died, I was reminded of our friend, Don Bogdan, who was a lover of good jazz. Don believed in the underlying hope offered to us by music, especially jazz. On clear, balmy nights he would sit outside on the terrace enjoying his last cigar of the day while listening to the raspy voice of Billie Holiday, the earthy tones of Ella Fitzgerald, the progressive sounds of Stan Kenton and the always dynamic Dave Brubeck.
He told me once that jazz made it easy for him to unwind from a particularly stressful day. He could relax, he said, while soft musical themes and moods waltzed through the night air as if holding hands with some of his fondest memories.
Don had loved music for such a long time that he knew which songs could make us sad, yet in the next moment make us glad. Music, he said, has its own language. It has no doctrine, no borders and no reason to do anything but attach itself to our senses.
Don believed that it had the power to draw people together even when it was unfamiliar. His appreciation for the originality of Stan Kenton and the creative genius of Charlie Parker had been honed over many years and many hours of listening. He knew jazz because he felt it in his bones, which is the same as knowing that the universe eventually carries us all toward joyful reunions. Don giggled when he was happy and he was happiest when listening to jazz.
Thinking of him today, I picture him lounging on a celestial terrace. The night is clear and balmy, he puffs on his last cigar of the day while surrounded by his chosen guests: Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Rosemary Clooney, Ella, and Charlie “The Bird” Parker. He smiles while familiar melodies flutter through the air holding hands with his memories. And he giggles.
If it is true that jazz is the sound of God laughing, then I have no doubt that God, our friend Don and Dave Brubeck are listening to it together... and they are all laughing.