Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gift from a stranger provides countless hours of joy

In the lives of  many of us — you, me, most others — music is a common denominator.
It takes all kinds of people to make up a reasonably sound society, and there are all kinds of music easily available for us to enjoy.
So if your thing is popular music, classical, jazz, country, blues, polkas or whatever (make your own choice) music makes the world go ‘round.
We don’t all have to agree on what we like, as long as we are able to identify with something that pleases our senses.
If you like music that is soothing, you are one of the millions who appreciate pleasing sounds.
If you like music that is grating, abrasive and offensive, well, enjoy it if you wish, but don’t expect me to come to a house party that features raucous sounds.
With that as preamble, let us now proceed with the topic of today’s sermon, which is about the ability of some people to enrich the lives of others they don’t even know, or haven’t even met, simply by offering to them a bevy of musical treasures to appreciate and enjoy.
In the Merry Month of May I received an email from a gentleman I had never met. His name is Rich Jordan and his address is Chardon, which could be a neighboring community, given the fact that the post office may serve surrounding areas.
He started out by saying, “For years I have read your editorials and agreed with you 98 percent of the time (little scary.)”
I have never intended to scare anyone, Rich, but I am glad it was editorials you found scary, not columns. I don’t know that I have ever scared anyone with a column, but you can never be certain.
He immediately clarified his meaning, however, by saying, “In your columns that you write now I notice that you enjoy jazz music.”
Yes, indeed, to coin a phrase. I most assuredly do.
“A friend of mine,” he wrote, “gave me the following CDs:
“The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, a boxed set of three CDs with a nice booklet.
“Big Band Jazz from the beginnings to the 50s (Smithsonian), a boxed set of four CDs with a booklet.”
As I read on, my breath began to arrive in short pants, which is fine for this time of year. But I digress.
“Jazz Piano, a Smithsonian Collection. A boxed set of four CDs with a booklet.”
Rich’s following comment ensured me that he falls into my classification of Great Americans, and that we could become friends forever.
“I will most likely never play these myself,” he said. “If you would like to have them they are available for the low, low price of free.”
All I could do at that point was gulp. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“Honest, I would like to give them to someone who will appreciate this music. Please let me know if you are interested.”
His phone number was at the bottom. Do you know how long it took me to reach for the phone? The time span could be measured only in nanoseconds.
A few days later he showed up at the college with an armload of boxes containing a dozen or so CDs with some of the finest sounds ever captured by sound engineers anywhere.
Some of the titles were already in my collection. Others were familiar to me but I never owned them — until now.
Others were brand new entries in my world of jazz.
All of them now repose in the back seat of my car. I have been playing them over and over. I love them. The lady of the house enjoys them. They are, to me, priceless.
And to think Rich gave the to me for not even a farthing.
The “Classic Jazz” collection is accompanied by a 120-page booklet.
The recordings begin at the beginning of jazz, with Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” and continue with Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Sidney Bechet, James P. Johnson and Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, and Frankie Trumbauer.
And that is only the beginning.
Other artists in the collection include Fletcher Hendeson, Fats Waller and the Benny Goodman Trio.
Later we hear from Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Lester Young. But let’s move on, to “Big Band Jazz.” There is another fabulous booklet. Artists include Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and too many others to enumerate here.
The third collection, “Jazz Piano,” accompanied by another fine booklet and recordings by the greatest names in piano known to mankind.
All the greats are there: Oscar Peterson, Dave McKenna, Art Tatum, Lennie Tristano, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Errol Garner — they are all in there.
I can’t thank Rich Jordan enough for his kindness in giving to me this marvelous collection.
I shall continue to play them in the car virtually everywhere I go.
Fortunately, this is all hands-free playing. So it doesn’t interfere with driving. It merely puts a smile on my face.
In two weeks, I’ll let you know how Rich Jordan came into this treasure trove of jazz. I’m reserving next Sunday for some personal remembrances of Classic Chevrolet’s Jim Brown.


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