Summertime

Roberteaux

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Summertime... and the livin' is easy...
Fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high.
Oh, your daddy's rich, and your momma's good lookin'...
So hush little baby, don't you cry.


Last night I dreamt of Mrs. Wise...

She was my music teacher from kindergarten through junior high. She would have been my high school instructor as well, but she was getting old, and retired right as I entered ninth grade. It was a loss that I noticed right away. For as it happened, the great lady taught me a lot of very important things that had nothing to do with music, really. She was a philosopher of insight and worth, and from her came a great many of my more refined ethical notions. More than any drill instructor, that woman instilled a great deal of courage into my heart. And unlike anything the military had to offer, she also taught me the art of gita, to fight with a loving heart.

Despite all this, I haven't thought of her for years... almost forgot her completely, in fact. But somehow, my subconscious mind apparently knew better than to let her go. 'Twas she who inculcated a love of most all music into my flinty little heart, after all-- and that's in addition to the rest of the useful things she taught me along the way.

Mrs. Wise was one of a coterie of teachers in the Central Square, NY, school system who were all hired by my grandmother, who had herself been charged with the responsibility of locating and recruiting worthy teachers in order to bring the standards of that school system up to a higher level. As it happened, my grandmother was an educator of some forty-five years' experience and was an early feminist in that she graduated from Barnard College in 1912 with a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts at a time when most women were married before they ever made it past 10th Grade. I still have the leather-bound set of Shakespeare plays that grandpa gave my grandmother as a graduation gift, all those years ago. The old man was terribly proud of his fiercely intellectual wife, and the inscription he left in the index volume was proof of his support for her educational activities.

Grandma fished Mrs. Wise out of the New Orleans public school system at the end of the 2nd World War, in which Mrs. Wise had become a widow. Being as she was a rather discreet sort of person, the most I could glean from grandma was that Mrs. Wise lost her desire to remain in the Crescent City after she learned that her husband, a US Naval officer, had been killed in the Battle of Midway. As their only child had likewise perished a few years before the war, there was nothing left to hold Mrs. Wise in sunny Southern Louisiana. But I never did learn exactly how grandma found her, or by what sorcery she managed to lure the Southern Belle who was Mrs. Wise to come and live beneath the silvery-gray skies of chilly Upstate New York. However, Mrs. Wise never was married again after that. She told us she was too busy dealing with us to try and raise another family...

At any rate, early this morning Mrs. Wise popped up in a dream. In this dream, I found myself cooking fish-- a thing that was unusual, since I detest seafood of all types and would only eat fish as a matter of last recourse. But there I was, grilling salmon, while my cat looked on in apparent disgust. Strangely, my cat dislikes seafood as much as I do. Until Spooky came along, I never heard of a cat who didn't love fish. But he won't touch the stuff.

And then, Mrs. Wise was there with us. She was asking me if I enjoyed playing the guitar, and also wanted to know why I ever stopped singing. She reminded me of how well I had done when she forced me to sing the Gershiwn song, Summertime at an elementary school recital, so long ago. That crafty old lady duped me into singing it a capella, whereas I had rehearsed it as a cantata. She played the introduction on her piano, but when I cut loose she suddenly stopped playing. She sat there with a wolfish grin on her face as I concluded the number, all the while looking daggers at her. And as the crowd applauded I ran off stage, my face as red as Jezebel's hem. I felt betrayed, and was furious with her at first. But when I confronted her with the wretched nature of her treachery, she just laughed and told me I did fine and then poked fun at me for being so upset. Infectious as ever, she had me laughing about it myself in no time flat.

Mrs. Wise loved Gershwin, and apparently infected me with a taste for his music as well. At this moment, I am actually listening to Rhapsody in Blue for inspiration as I type this mess up. But then, Mrs. Wise had our entire class listening to old-school spirtuals, early blues, jazz, ragtime, and even introduced us to the rock opera, Tommy right after it first came out in 1969. As music lovers went, Mrs. Wise was something of an omnivore. And so am I, generally speaking... though I still don't like fish.

I tried to avoid answering her question as to why I stopped singing. The truth is, I stopped singing because there was nobody around to make me sing after she retired, and after that the booze and weed and cigarettes quickly took their toll. But in the dream, she didn't force me to answer the question and instead asked me what was wrong with my cat, that he doesn't like fish. She was speaking in that same distinctly lilting, dusky tone of voice that was all hers-- laden as it was with a Southern accent so thick that some people had a very hard time understanding her. The way she said it was, "So: wha doan yo' kat lahk fie-yush? Ain' ee got awl 'is mah-buls, they-yuh?"

What she had actually said was, "So why don't your cat like fish? Ain't he got all his marbles, there?"

I flapped a hand at Spooky the Cat, who was sitting upright at the edge of the counter with his legs crossed like those of seated human, dangling over the side. I was annoyed to notice that he had also fliched and fired one of my frajos, and was casually blowing smoke rings. I shook my head disdainfully and responded, "Like father, like son, I suppose... next thing you know, he'll be hammering whiskey shots and riding motorcycles." I could hear Mrs. Wise chuckling behind my back.

I looked back to regard her with a grin of my own... but she was gone and I suddenly remembered that my grandmother wrote to me while I was in airborne school to tell me that she had passed away. A melanchoic tsumami swept through me then, and I sat upright in bed as if stung. Spooky, who had been snoozing at the foot of the bed, bounded off into the darkness out of instinct, but quickly rallied to hop back up there with me after he realized that nothing really critical was taking place. That cat usually acts as though any sudden movement heralds the opening shots of the Third World War. I didn't name him "Spooky" for just nothin', ya know...

Doing a little reality check, I offered him a cigarette from the pack on my night stand. But he ignored the cigarette and instead nuzzled the hand that held it. Everything was back to normal, then. But I haven't been able to stop thinking about Mrs. Wise since.

--R
 

Rich

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You know, Robert, you should really - and I mean REALLY - think about trying your hand at writing professionally. This wonderful piece that you just posted to a message board about guitars is absolutely beautiful! You paint a vivid picture while still filling in background information without being wordy about it. Man, if this is what you can do while just posting here, I'll bet you're capable of turning out a literary masterpiece.

Loved it and thank you for sharing! :)
 

Oranjeaap

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Wow. Just wow. Very impressed by both your story, and the way you wrote it down. The way you described how the cat was sitting there smoking reminded me of something that would fit right in 'alice in wonderland'. Good stuff.


And
+2 for Rich

+1 Because when I saw the thread title, also I knew it would be about that song.
and +1 because when I was reading I was thinking the same thing about him writing profesionally.


And +1 for myself for adding this awsome song to this thread:

1969, Dutch band called 'Brainbox'
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46gYx_QKbJ4]Brainbox - 1969 - 05 - Summertime - YouTube[/ame]
 

Rich

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And +1 for myself for adding this awsome song to this thread:

1969, Dutch band called 'Brainbox'
Brainbox - 1969 - 05 - Summertime - YouTube

Wow and holy crap! I was thinking of a different song! Obviously, the guys in Sublime must have heard it at some point.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF1628qACPM]Sublime - Doin' Time - YouTube[/ame]
 

Oranjeaap

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The song is from the 1930's and many people have covered it. Its one of those songs that everybody knows but dont know who wrote it or where it came from :)

by the way: the sublime song is horrible
 

cwness

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I agree with all the other posters. Just another great post from ya,
Thanks.

CW
 

Roberteaux

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Thanks, fellas! :)

I actually maintain a dream diary, but for some reason wished to post this one for others to see. I was feeling very emotional since that dream blasted me out of my sleep, and I guess I just wanted somebody else to hear about Mrs. Wise, who was such a wonderful person. It was almost as if I owed it to her, or something. She really did have a tremendous influence over me when I was just a little kid. Between she and my grandmother, I had hell to pay in school. Those ladies were extremely demanding of me, and though I sometimes resented it as a child, these days I am grateful to have been exposed to such a remarkable pair of women.

As for writing: my whole game plan involves me doing nothing but writing and playing guitar (with the occasional booze binge for punctuation) after I retire, 15 months from now. I have three perfectly insane novels already written inside my skull, but the business of reducing them to text will be the sort of labor that will require me to be fully dedicated towards the task of getting it all down. This is a thing that I dare not do until I am actually pensioned off and able to just sit there and write until I drop.

@Oranjeaap: thank you for posting the Brainbox version of Summertime! I have never heard anybody do that number in a way that I did not like, and the Brainbox version of the song is really very good. I especially enjoyed the sound of the keyboards rolling around behind the guitar work and those excellent vocals! To me it was sort of like listening to what might have happened had Bach and Gershwin collaborated, and the sound of it was unique and highly memorable. I book marked it, because I am sure to want to listen to it again.

One last time: thanks, guys. If it were possible for me to post a thanks to each of you on the board, I would certainly do so!

--R :)
 

Caoimhin

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[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKu2P8zT_F4]Summertime - The Zombies - YouTube[/ame]
 

Nicky

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Your post is lovely and poignant.

I played this arrangement on stage a hundred times in high school and college. Miles Davis was genius. My college band actually opend for Miles Davis at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in the early 70s.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N090STPx-2M]Miles Davis "Summertime" (1958) - YouTube[/ame]
 

Roberteaux

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Your post is lovely and poignant.

Thanks, Nicky! :)

I played this arrangement on stage a hundred times in high school and college. Miles Davis was genius. My college band actually opend for Miles Davis at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in the early 70s.

Did you really? OMG, I would have died to have been involved in that project! Heck, for that matter I would have been elated to simply have been part of the audience!

Did you get to meet Miles or any of that? To me, he was the very definition of the word "cool"... they just don't make 'em like that any more!

Thanks again, Nick-- and thanks also to everybody else who enjoyed my little account, or left a message!

--R :)

eta: thanks to you also, dear Idol... that is some heavy praise, right there... gracias, my brother! :)
 

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[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeWC59FJqGc]Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran - YouTube[/ame]
 

BlackStrat

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A great read. I'm sure many can relate to the aspect of that one teacher that made them want to pursue music for the rest of their lives..
 

Nicky

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Thanks, Nicky! :)

Did you get to meet Miles or any of that? To me, he was the very definition of the word "cool"... they just don't make 'em like that any more!

LabBandMontreux1973.jpg


We were the first college band ever invited to play at Montreaux. I'm in there somewhere! We played on the same program with Freddie King, Albert King, Carole King, Teddy Wilson, Stéphane Grappelli, Canonball and Nat Adderley. We met Miles Davis backstage. After we played, Mr. Davis told us that we were "Jazz monsters!" He was one cool muthafuka.

Two years later, we were nominated for a Grammy for this album:

Lab75-1.jpg
 

Roberteaux

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LabBandMontreux1973.jpg


We were the first college band ever invited to play at Montreaux. I'm in there somewhere! We played on the same program with Freddie King, Albert King, Carole King, Teddy Wilson, Stéphane Grappelli, Canonball and Nat Adderley. We met Miles Davis backstage. After we played, Mr. Davis told us that we were "Jazz monsters!" He was one cool muthafuka.

Two years later, we were nominated for a Grammy for this album:

Lab75-1.jpg

Damn! That's AWESOME!

Jazz Monsters!

Miles Davis called you Jazz Monsters!

<thud>

--R :applause:
 

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