The other day I subscribed to a streaming jazz channel via Amazon Prime (yes, I understand Amazon is the quintessence of evil but it's also something I've come to rely on). I'm not going to give them free advertising here, but if you're interested, it's easy enough to find on the Amazon Prime site. The channel mostly comprises videos by young European musicians, some of them quite good or at least interesting. However, I was mostly attracted to the fair number featuring jazz greats of yesteryear: Mingus, Dolphy, Coltrane, Hawkins and more ... it's not a comprehensive list, but there's enough to keep you engaged for an hour or so, here and there.
It occurred to me while I was watching a 1960s Belgian performance by Rahsaan Roland Kirk that, as a jazz lover, I've been especially lucky. I thought about how I never got to see Kirk in concert, which in turn got me thinking about all the great musicians I have seen. In fact, it's almost as easy to name greats who I didn't get to see, as those I did.
I didn't see Kirk, but I saw Dexter Gordon.
I didn't see Coltrane, but I saw Ornette (in fact, I got to jam with him in his home a couple of months before he died).
I didn't see Paul Desmond, but I studied with Lee Konitz. (I even jammed with him in his Manhattan apartment: I played soprano, with pianist Yuko Fujiyama ... and Lee on drums!)
You get the idea.
I saw Chet Baker, Clark Terry, Miles Davis, Phil Woods, Count Basie, Fitzgerald, Weather Report, Michael Brecker, Stan Getz, Ray Charles, Oscar Peterson, Milt Hinton, Woody Herman, and others I've probably forgotten ... all before I moved to New York in 1986.
After I moved to New York, well, the list is so long, I'll just hit some highlights: Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor (whose rehearsal big band I played in, circa 1996 or so), World Saxophone Quartet, Julius Hemphill Sextet, Evan Parker, Sun Ra, Don Cherry, Dave Liebman, Paul Motian, Max Roach, Anthony Braxton, Lew Tabackin, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Art Ensemble of Chicago. And so many others. That's not to mention all the lesser-known but exceptional musicians I've had the good fortune to play with over the years.
I don't mean this to sound like a humble brag. That I was born when I was and lived in an age when so many great jazz musicians of different eras walked the earth simultaneously owes nothing to me. It was just luck. It's something to think about when I'm taking inventory of my life.
All in all, it's been pretty, pretty, pretty good.