Friend Gene composed a sweet verbal lullaby to jazz and musicians who make it sing. It goes like this . . .
THE ROCHESTER CONNECTION
Writer: Gene Clifford
About ten years ago, Joyce and I enjoyed a short—”this winter’s too long”—vacation in New Orleans. We had been there before but had such a good time we wanted to return and enjoy more of the wonderful things that city has to offer. We did just that, including a visit to Café du Monde—a New Orleans café renowned for its chicory coffee and beignets.
We were sitting at one of the tables outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun—which had not yet made an appearance in Rochester that spring—when a street musician came up to our table and asked if we had any requests. I immediately responded, “How about “’Round Midnight”, a Thelonious Monk composition which has always been a favorite of mine. He responded very enthusiastically and immediately began playing it on his saxophone. His talent was obvious and reminded us of the fact that the street musicians in New Orleans are not only plentiful but frequently very talented, as well.
After finishing “’Round Midnight”, he came back to our table to schmooze a bit and—I’m sure he hoped—to receive a tip for his trouble. He asked us where we were from and, of course, we replied “Rochester, N.Y.”. When we did so, a big smile came to his face and he said “ROCHESTER! Rochester is why I do what I do!” He went on to explain that, when he was a teenager growing up in New Orleans, every night as he lay in bed he would tune his radio to “clear channel 1180-WHAM”. He would then proceed to listen to a jazz DJ named Bill Ardis, who had a jazz program called “Ardis Against the Night”—a show that I listened to but, I confess, not as faithfully as our street-musician friend. The program turned him on to music—specifically to jazz–and he decided THAT was what he wanted to do with his life. So, that is what he IS doing with his life—playing jazz in the place where he grew up, which just happens to be a hotbed of jazz and the birthplace of jazz. And why does he do that? Because of a DJ in Rochester, N.Y., a city which NOW has one of the best jazz festivals in the world but which in Bill Ardis’ time was better known as the home of the Eastman School of Music and classically-oriented music.
So, the next time you’re wondering whether your life has really had any meaning and whether you’ve had an effect on anyone, just remember this story and be assured that there certainly is someone out there—who you may never have met or communicated with—who’s a different person than he or she would have been without your influence. And if you’re still not convinced, take a trip down to New Orleans and look for a street musician playing saxophone at the Cafe du Monde.