Since I started Lubricity last week, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of the word and, ironically, how this space will define itself in its own non-definitional way. One way of going about this has been to think about what won’t be happening in this space. Expect more soon on what kinds of things you WILL be seeing, as well!
One thing that I am planning to leave off this site is the obituary. Perhaps the most difficult part of being a member of the jazz community as a young man with a whole life in jazz ahead of me is being constantly surrounded by the reminder that everyone of import in the jazz world seems to be either dead or dying. In my last post, I talked about being raised by ghosts. That will continue to be true without having to take note of the passing of every next jazz musician (today it was Wes Montgomery’s brother Buddy.)
Lucky for me, most of my favorites are already dead anyway. My man Jack Teagarden kicked it 20 years before I was even born. Miles Davis met his maker when I was 7 and hadn’t even heard of jazz. I remember hearing news of JJ Johnson’s death in high school, but I never had a chance to hear him play live. Who knows, maybe this is about my own fear of death more than it is about any kind of editorial decision. But when I read the news of bassist, retired basketball player and inspirational cancer-battling amputee Wayman Tisdale’s death this morning, I realized that I’d have to make an exception in my non-eulogizing policy.
Allow me to interject that in addition to being a jazz trombonist and aspiring academic, I am an uncompromisingly allegiant follower of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. I follow as many basketball blogs as jazz ones, and so when jazz shows up in a story at ESPN.com in lower-case letters — no, we’re not talking about the most-ironically-named franchise in sports history here — I notice. Mr. Tisdale’s story is one worth knowing, whether you’re a basketball fan, smooth jazz lover, or any other kind of human being.
I can’t profess to know Mr. Tisdale, nor am I familiar with his work. A very personal and touching remembrance, however, can be found here. I remember hearing his name occasionally when he played against my Portland Trail Blazers in the early ’90s — “Wayman Tisdale” has quite a memorable ring to it. Then I started learning more about him. Playing bass and writing music hepled him through a terrifying struggle, and it is very sad to learn that his remarkable recovery from cancer was so short-lived.
Another reason why I was inspired to write about Mr. Tisdale’s passing today is the fact that it was not marked by any of the big players in the jazz blogging community. Ironically, today’s jazz news was all about the up-and-coming generation of jazz musicians being celebrated at the 2009 National Jazz Awards in Toronto. Obviously, the coverage is warranted. As are some of the other interesting things up around the blogosphere today. I just want to provide a link and a place for those of us in the jazz community to reflect on the passing of someone whose musical career gave him the strength to fight cancer — to lose his leg and ultimately his life in that struggle.
I know that part of the reason that Tisdale doesn’t show up in the jazz blogroll today is because many of us wouldn’t agree to call his music “jazz.” I mean, the stuff is pretty smooth. We’re talking track titles like “Summer Breeze” and “Early Morning Drive.” He may not be Jaco Pastorius, but he wasn’t a bad slap-funk-bassist-type. He could lay down some nice grooves, call them what you will. And whether or not you dig his music, he still belongs in our thoughts today as a part of this big, strange neighborhood we call jazz. I hope that his surviving family members receive some of the good vibes.