Monday, September 04, 2006

Mea culpa

I feel an excuse is required for having neglected posting blogligations.
I’ve been on Death Row. I don’t think I can explain that: the person second-most involved will – if she ever gets a free moment.
To celebrate Rembrandt’s 400th birthday there are all sorts of things going on in Amsterdam and throughout the world. One of the more bizarre is that, in the Rijksmuseum, you can buy a print of his 1642 work – the vast 12-foot-wide The Night Watch – with your own picture as one of the watchpersons. I thought of ordering it with the DG in it, but she’d think it naff. Meanwhile I am on release from the Row for some business/DIY projects in the Riviera town we know and love, accompanied by the guilt of having left her on The Night Watch, alone.

Malcolm Muggeridge said ‘I always read the obituaries section first to make sure I’m still alive’.
This week I saw one that proved that I was. Not mine, but just as revelatory. It was that of Rufus Harley, deceased, aged 70.
I’ve been an unquestioning Sonny Rollins disciple since puberty, (he's had more farewell appearances than Frank Sinatra and I've been to most of them), but of all the wonderful tracks he did – St. Thomas, To a Wild Rose, etc – the one that always knocks me out after all these years is his Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, on which the accompaniment is - bagpipes.
Yes, bagpipes. It starts off gently, straight melody, a bit like Wild Rose, then breaks away, ups both tempo and improvisation, and then the bagpipes come in, trading riff for riff with Rollins until the whole thing explodes in your head.
You don’t get much discography on a tape cassette – especially bootlegged ones bought in Italian markets – so I've spent years wondering who could make bagpipes swing like that. And now I know.
It was a Philadephia tenor sax player of Cherokee descent with a name like a motor bike, whose life changed completely the day he saw the Black Watch playing the pipes at JFK’s funeral.
So, belated but no less heartfelt thanks, Rufus Harley, up there swinging in your sweet chariot. I hope you told them you won't be needing the harp.

Ate at Chez Michel last night. Michel (his wife is also Michele) thanked me effusively for the plug in the France Today article - so much so I thought a cognac might appear with the coffee. Ah well.

1 comment:

Ed R said...

Hang in there RW.