A New Journey

I have spent my entire adult life as a professional guitarist. I achieved that by logging thousands of hours of practice along with seven years of studying music in college—which lead to two degrees from institutions of higher learning—not to mention being an active listener of any variety of popular recorded music that was ever played in the home of my childhood. It all lead to my obsession with and love for music and playing the guitar. That I have been able to provide for myself as a professional guitarist for some forty years is nothing short of a miracle.

 

But long before any of that ever happened, back in the 5th grade when I got my first guitar, I taught myself a handful of chords—by ear—and began writing songs. At first they were simple, earnest, probably very generic love songs written (without her knowledge) for a girl who sat in front of me in class. Then I moved on to trying to mimic various songs I’d heard on the radio, setting out for myself the assignment of “try to write a song that sounds like Insert Title of Pop Song from 1973 Here but isn’t.” I remember, once I was introduced to jazz chords and melodies that were more syncopated and chromatic than what I was used to, moving on to imitating songs from the “Great American Songbook” that my parents listened to.

 

Probably the most important thing to mention at this point is that all of the songs that I was writing included lyrics and would need to be sung, by a singer, which was something I never really thought of myself as being (in spite of spending hundreds of hours singing along to records, trying to match not only the pitches and rhythms but also the timbre, tone and gestures of the vocalists on those records).

 

This preoccupation of mine of writing songs—with lyrics—began to fade during my later teens as I immersed myself into the study and practice of jazz. This is not to say that it faded entirely away, but it definitely became something I did only on rare occasion. It is also noteworthy at this point to say that, as the years went on into my early adulthood and my first marriage, the fruit of this preoccupation was something that I rarely—if ever—shared with anyone. It became a secret. As my career as a professional musician took off, and as my reputation as a jazz musician took form, it became ever more important for me to keep this secret. As a result, my forays into songwriting became more and more infrequent; to the point where most years would go by without my having written a single song. The year in which I would write a song became a rarity.

 

All of this is to say—to the few fans out there that I may have—that I am embarking on a new (or old, as it were) journey artistically. For the last year I have been allowing myself to write songs; several of them, about a dozen in fact. I am now in the process of recording these songs. My next record will be of mostly original songs on which I will sing and, of course, play guitar. The musical styles presented will be things to which I was attracted when I first started playing music. Those styles will be many and varied. My northern star is emotional honesty and my highest self seeks musical integrity. Wherever those things take me is where I will go. I hope that you will go with me. It could be quite a ride!

 —August 9, 2018

No Goodbyes: An Essay

In the immortal words of the late, great lyricist Hal David: what’s it all about, Alfie?

All of our major religions address, in some way, shape, or form, the meaning of life. They also attempt to assuage our fears about death; for, if life is only for a little while and then it ends, what’s the point?

To me, the thing that really gets to us is that, in this life, we make connections with one another, and sometimes those connections feel so deep and so profound that we simply cannot fathom that those connections merely end. I think that this is the spring from which hope flows.

To me, hope is the feeling that, although our bodies may cease to exist, whatever it is that one may call what’s inside each of us continues to live on in some way, shape, or form; and so too will our connections between one another live on.

So, we tell ourselves, when we part company, “See you later.” Of course we have no way of knowing whether or not we will see each other “later,” but that’s not the point. The point is that we continually guard against that most lethal of human afflictions: hopelessness. So, what we’re really saying is: “I hope that I’ll see you later.” And the response is basically, “Yea, I hope so, too.”

And I think that this hope extends to everyone we have ever known, even those whose presence in our lives may have caused us pain and anguish. We hope that in some other less earthly realm all of our petty differences and human failings will not matter to one another, and that we will be able to forgive each other. I believe that this is especially true of our most intimate connections. So what we are doing when we part company is promising to one another, through our faith and belief in something we cannot name or describe, that we are not really saying “goodbye,” that, in fact, we never, ever say “goodbye,” only “goodbye, for now.”

To me, this is the ultimate promise that we make to one another, one that I think provides an answer for the question Hal David proposed. Without hope, what indeed is the point of living? But with hope, there’s always a chance, always a possibility, always a reason to see if tomorrow will bring with it something better, something good, something more to hope for. Hope that there will truly be, come what may, NO GOODBYES. I believe that this is the hope of all of us: that we will always meet again. Somewhere. Somehow. Someday. No goodbyes.