As I walked down Varick Street in Tribeca this dark, rainy evening, a yellow cab splashed to a stop in front of me, blocking the crosswalk. The couple got out from either door as I stepped out into the street to get around the cab, and the broad overcoat with the long scraggle of white hair over the collar 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, regarding me suspiciously for a moment before looking down at my navy blue hoodie with the gold C.F. Martin & Co. logo. His eyes returned to mine and he gave me a thumb-up in front of one of his signature mustached, squinty-eyed grins.
When he came out on stage it was obvious he was quite ill, with a deep, aggravated cough. While it was all magnificent, he actually lost his voice completely by the end and apologetically had to let others take over the singing the final song. But he still sounded pure as an alto sax for almost the entire show, despite how he sounded between songs. [He cancelled the rest of the tour, as it turned out, due to walking pneumonia.]
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. The three blonde women who sat with them, two of which were obviously sisters, and probably the third, all under 40, were nearly as animated and as glowing as their daughters. At first, I tried to guess if they were Dutch or Scandinavian, when it became clear they were 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 near 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 talking about playing Jazz. And then, 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 late Great Agitator, Pete Seeger, by performing the Byrd’s version of Turn, Turn, Turn, and the 72 year old voice of Crosby 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)