Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Amazing Birthday Present

Two days before my 50th birthday, hopped the B-2 bus to my friend Bill Jenkins' for a vegetarian potluck and jam in Mt. Rainer. The evening was delightful-- highlights included improvising a raga-like number on violin with Bill's flute and Leslie's drumming, dancing and singing.

After the party, went to the bus station carrying my rectangular violin case, and a young man in a wheelchair asked me if it was a saxophone. I said "no, it's a violin, but I'm learning blues and jazz." Just then, a guy (wearing expensive looking sneakers) came up and asked us for spare change. I politely declined, but my companion dug into his bag, pulled out a plastic bag, scooped up his change and poured it all into the beggar's hand. Amazing generousity.

The bus arrived, I got on and the man in the wheelchair boarded with help of the driver and his friend. He sat across from me near the front, so we continued our conversation about jazz. He sang a melody in a jazz chord progression that I haven't learned yet, (II-IV-I) and I asked how he'd learned. He said he grew up with jazz musicians but didn't play himself. "Oh, but yes, you do," I said.

I asked his name. He said "Wayne Roney."

"Wallace Roney's brother?" I asked?


Told him I'd heard Wallace at a Smithsonian concert a few years before: the program mentioned that Wallace had been awarded full scholarships to Harvard Law and the Julliard. He'd chosen music. So I was sitting on the bus across from Wallace Roney's brother! I mentioned that my 50th birthday was coming up and Wayne said he is turning 50 this year too. We chatted about jazz until the bus approached my stop, I pulled the cord, started to say goodbye and got ready to get off the bus. Wayne reached into his bag saying "just a second," he had something for me.

He said, "I have doubles of this, so here's a present for you." And he handed me a cassette of Lester Young and Roy Eldridge recorded 51 years ago in 1956! He said, "happy birthday" and I hopped off the bus.

Is that a sweet birthday present or what? It's a great recording too. I especially love the rendition of "I didn't know what time it was." Kinda of fits my sentiments about turning 50.

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