Friday, October 31, 2008

Die Platte, die mein Leben veränderte

Die Zeit
has a weekly feature called, "The Album That Changed my Life." This past week's contributor wrote about John Coltrane's milestone, A Love Supreme. It's a great album and it might have changed my life too, but it didn't, because my life was already busy being changed by McCoy Tyner's Expansions. Mr. Tyner was the pianist in Coltrane's quartet when the Love Supreme recording was cut in 1964, so I'm not far off. Expansions was released in 1968 and I probably heard it for the first time in 1970 or so. It was a time in my life when I was pretty malleable and some days my life got changed twice before breakfast. Still, McCoy Tyner's album really was an important puzzle piece for me and I was musing about it this morning as I noticed that on the same page as the Coltrane tribute, there was a review of a new CD by McCoy Tyner: Guitars.

American jazz performers have often found a broader audience on this side of the Atlantic than at home, and it still seems to be the case. One of the performers on Tyner's new CD, John Scofield, will be touring in Europe this winter and I'd like to see him at one of the smaller venues in December. It's been forty years, but I think I might be ready to finally bring the incident with the apple core on Middlebrook Farm Road to a close.

In 1968 I was attending Wilton Jr. High School and Mr. Scofield was driving Bus 22, which brought me there each weekday morning. I tended to sit toward the back of the bus and often got into a certain amount of mischief with a group of like-minded delinquents. There were intense interrogations after the incident in question, but we never gave up the jerk (Eric Steinleicht) who actually threw the apple. I saw John Scofield perform at the Village Gate in 1978, but somehow the time wasn't right. Meeting now on neutral ground in Germany, maybe we can put this thing to rest.

McCoy Tyner's Expansions probably isn't as great an album as A Love Supreme, but my exposure to jazz was random and no one provided me with a hierarchy for listening. So I heard A Love Supreme for the first time performed by John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana on a collaborative album titled Love, Devotion and Surrender recorded in 1973 while they were both were devotees of guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy was running an organic bakery at the time on the north edge of Wilton (I'm not making this up) and I bought a loaf of bread or two from him. But if Carlos ever drove a school bus, it was never my route. And in the long run, the experiences that form us don't have to be the most culturally significant. What I learned from Expansions I might just as well have learned from John Coltrane, but the important thing is that I learned it. I'd like to think that John Scofield might have similar feelings about his time as a junior high school bus driver. It could be that kids like Eric Steinleicht and me are the reason he finally got his ass in gear and got that first gig with Miles Davis.


Will G. said...

Why, after 22 years, has my mother never mentioned the fact that Sri Chimnoy ran an organic bakery in Wilton? Life-changing.

Christopher T. Terry said...

you must remember, the Terry family while not unusually large by the standards of the day, was amazingly wide. Your mother is about 7 years older than I am and was either in Boston or perhaps Kasangani while Sri was baking his bread on Danbury Road.
When I was in 9th grade, one of my friends was a health food nut and he bought the bread frequently, but the reason I really know about the bakery is that I was working for Mrs. Gaston and there was a Wilton cop who was moonlighting working for her as well. We often wound up working on a project together and he loved to tell war stories. It seems Sri Chinmoy was running the bakery in a non-commercially zoned area, and he never could pass a health department inspection. So my buddy, Officer Tom McKee, would go by and shut him down. After a while he gave up and went somewhere else to bake bread, and Wilton was the poorer for it.