11/3/15

'DON'T YOU KNOW I CARE?' (OR DON'T YOU CARE TO KNOW...)


My mother passed away yesterday, age 87. This means she was born in 1928, which means that if she happened to be a teenager who hung out in jazz clubs on 52nd street, the years would have been around the mid to late 1940s. And that's who she was and what she did! She grew up in the Bronx but got hip (or 'hep' as the word was then pronounced/spelled) to jazz at a young age. She and a friend would take the subway to 'the street'--then the jazz haven of the world--and go to places like The Onyx, or The 'Famous Door or (she always mentioned this one in particular) The Spotlite (note the spelling--not incorrect). The jazz of that era--the big-bands and the small groups--were her thing and she somehow imparted her love of this music to me without ever playing it for me or forcing me to listen to it. How is that possible? I will go to the end of my days without an answer to that baffling question.

Above is the great (and under appreciated) tenor sax player Don Byas playing a great (and under appreciated) Duke Ellington song, "Don't You Know I Care?" He was one of my mom's favorites and whenever she mentioned Byas she always added "and he was a real gentleman". I don't know what that means, but for underage Jewish girls from the Bronx to be hanging out with black-dude jazz guys on 52nd street, it must have been code for something.

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