Niagara Gazette


September 1, 2013

SINGER: Plunking along like Mr. Basie


Niagara Gazette — Thence he went to Kansas City, worming his way into Benny Moten’s ensemble–and now really learning how to use his limitations and accentuate what he would one day become: a talent-nurturing, flexible, but disciplined band leader. On the way up he assimilated more in Chicago, St. Louis, and even in a then heavily-segregated South.

You sank or swam, and Basie more than did the latter, which is why he got where he did with Sinatra et al. He hung in, doing what was best for him, and eventually became a unique producer of American music. (You still hear his classic version of “April in Paris” on radio, and might also check out his “Shiny Stockings” or “L’il Darlin’.”)

Speaking of plunking along, when I played youthful hockey, I often felt that other guys out there were doing more, skating faster. Same with other efforts in various domains ... But again, you have to persist and ignore this horrid environment we have today of grading virtually everything — you know, of sportswriters going after top golfers for not winning majors each time out (easy for those who don’t try it for a living), etc.

People even do numbers on themselves physically just because such and such a person looks this or that way in mass magazines or on TV. But hey, apples are beautiful, and so are peaches, pears, artichokes. Put another way, mountains are nice, but so are beaches, woods, oceans, lakes, and yes, tumbling falls!

Sure you have to respect masters in your discipline and learn from them, no question; but at the same time you also have to find out–as Basie did–what’s right for you, providing a useful service thereby. Sometimes you take unforeseen detours, and “find before searching,” as one philosopher put it, locating destinations en route that weren’t what you initially aimed for in life.

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