Knot Joy and Jo Joy

August 20, 2013

Tonight at a neighbor’s, I was all ears listening to a young college professor talk about her field of pure mathematics. (Didn’t know there was such a thing, but I was interested and engaged because she was excited about her subject, and about knots – not the bowling, square or half-hitch kind, but the math kind. And gosh, did you even know – or care – that there was such a thing as math knots? But you would’ve, if you could have heard her talk!) It was her passion that pulled and persuaded and I wanted to hear more. Plus it made me really like her. (I did already, but hearing the way her heart came bursting out into math – of all places! – made me a believer and fan – a happy one, full of the joy of math-promises.)

It was in Kansas City in the 1930s that Jo* found the promised land. The music never stopped in Kansas City. Literally….’You never knew what time in the morning someone would knock on the door and say they were jamming down the street.’

And at work, ‘it wasn’t unusual for one number to go on for about an hour or an hour and a half. Nobody got tired. They didn’t tell me at the time that they used to change drummers [during the night], so I just sat there and played the whole time for pure joy.’

As he spread the joy, Jo often took you unawares. One night in Boston, he left the drums, left the stand, and with just his hands tapping a chair started to take his listeners out of ordinary time.

Moving around the room, playing with his fingers or with the palms of his hands or his knuckles, he drew rhythms and melodies from tables, chairs, the floor, the walls, the very air. Grinning fiercely, Jo mesmerized his listeners for nearly an hour without going back to the bandstand. For them, straight time had stopped; they were in his time. (p. 38, Listen to the Stories, Nat Hentoff On Jazz and Country Music, Hentoff

Spreading the joy. It’s what I want to do, too.

* Jo, or Jonathan David Samuel Jones, a jazz piano great, who, “along with Chick Webb, set the standards by which other drummers were measured during the heyday of the swing era.” (p. 17, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues, Keith Shadwick.)

Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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