50 Years Ago – CSN

Three unique voices joined as one for the first time, fifty years ago today… and became CSN

As the story goes, David Crosby listened to Stephen Stills and Graham Nash singing a song at a small dinner party, and asked them to sing it one more time…

As can often happen one half century later, Stills and Crosby differ on the exact where and when it happened. The important thing is, it happened.

New York Story – David Crosby, a Passel of Guinneveres, and Faith Renewed

As I walked down Varick Street, in Tribeca this evening a cab stopped in the intersection. The couple got out from either door and the overcoat with the long scraggle of white hair partially obscured my vision of the woman retrieving something from the trunk. But even then I thought she looked an awful lot like Jan Crosby.

So, as I passed David Crosby in the middle of the street, just outside City Winery, I said, “Have a good show, man!”

He turned quizzically, and regarding me in my navy blue hoodie with the gold C.F. Martin & Co. logo, gave me a thumb-up in front of one of his signature mustached, squinty-eyed grins.

After the show I hopped on the 1 train. And there before me were seven blondes, each with that natural barley fading to flaxen hue, dropping like waterfalls around each girl in abnormally long tresses. Aged 7 through 16, they joked and giggled amongst themselves and the three blonde women who sat with them, two of which were obviously sisters, and probably the third, all under 40 and almost as animated and glowing as their daughters. At first, I tried to guess if they were Dutch or Scandinavian, when it became clear they were all speaking with typical American accents, and got off at Chambers Street, probably heading toward the P.A.T.H. and Jersey.

I crossed over to the 3 train where I plopped down next to four boys, aged 11 to 14 or there abouts, embroiled in a lively conversation over experimental harmonies. Each was able to speak of adding a B-flat or dropping to a minor fifth, and the others could instantly imagine exactly what he was talking about, and disagree or nod approvingly. I thought I was onto the next big heartthrob Boy Band, since they were all Ivory Soap flawless with quaffed hair and adorably silly ears, and heading into Brooklyn apparently unchaperoned.

But lo! They were actually horn players, as it turned out, talking about playing Jazz. And an older couple, far too dated in their hipness to be anything but chaperones of fledgling Jazz cats, appeared out of nowhere when it was time to change trains.

And so, from David Crosby and his band paying homage to the Great Agitator, Pete Seeger, by performing the Byrd’s version of Turn, Turn, Turn, and the 72 year old voice of Crosby, still as pure as an alto sax, singing his own agitating song about America’s ignoring the slaughter of innocent families in OUR military’s drone strikes, to the promise in that gathering of golden Guinneveres, to the fresh-faced lads exploring the exciting possibilities within Joseph Kosma’s 1945 hit, Autumn Leaves, my faith in humanity and American values was restored.

So here, as we head into Super Bowl Sunday, is my personal favorite version of Autumn Leaves, written by a European, but perfected by the Americans Chet Baker (flugelhorn), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Hubert Laws (flute), Bob James (keyboard), Ron Carter (contrabass) and Steve Gadd (drums)