Right now, this very moment, something normal, something comfortable, something so very ‘Family’ is happening: Dad is blowing his horn. After weeks of fooling around with re-organizing his music, the bane of us musicians which can become more procrastination than need, Dad’s got his groove on. He is blowing long tones on the mouth piece, testing out his own custom hand-shaved reeds, adjusting tension on the ligature; just about all the stuff a sax-man needs to get ready to start in on a serious practice session. Ahh, the riffs, the scales, the bits of favorite tunes, with squeaks here and there as attempts are made to blow those flashy odd harmonics, reachable only by a select and sacred few like my dad.
Even with those super sax-man lungs he’s developed over the years, at age 90 Dad’s biggest hurdle at the moment is more with the stamina required to play a full set. And yet, I’d give it a couple weeks at the most for him to break through that temporary barrier.
Dad is my inspiration as a musician. Dealing with skin cancer on the top of his bald head, he loves to recount the story of how he got it in the first place…all my friends had to work days, but I got to lay out on the beach along Lake Michigan and sunbathe since I worked the clubs and joints at night. It’s almost a badge of professionalism for him, though he advises this generation to stay out of the sun.
For the six years since Ma passed away, he put his sax down. While he kept up a semi-regular practice routine, his (he)art just wasn’t in it. In this difficult stage of his life, he laced up his dance shoes and began stepping to the music of others. An odd juxtaposition as the pull to play the music was ever nipping at his cha-cha heels.
Just two days moved into this Independent Living apartment and I get to listen to the sounds of my childhood, the background noises of everyday living in our home, the ever present music. Not from some recording or old radio show, but coming from the (he)art of our Family’s home: Dad’s horn.