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LULLABY 

the smell of the rain 
the sound of the train 
my dog by the fire 
home again
 

As a boy in rural Tennessee, Billy Matheny slept in an attic bedroom, the slanted ceiling only a few inches above his bed. The Matheny house had a tin roof that sang when it rained, and the sound of raindrops would serenade young Billy to sleep. So Billy treasured the rain. And when he grew up, he passed that treasure along to his own son like a beloved family heirloom. 

The rainstorms in Georgia were magnificent.  

At the first thunderclap, Daddy Bill would throw open all the doors and windows of our little apartment, so we could enjoy the breeze and wait for the rain. If I close my eyes, I can still see him, puffing his pipe in that wingback chair, his legs crossed casually, unlaced hushpuppies hanging off the ends of his narrow naked feet.  

Sometimes there would be soft music playing on the turntable -- James Taylor perhaps, or Miles Davis -- but usually we would just sit and listen to the rain as it came down out of the clouds, into the pines, and onto the red clay just outside our open door.  

I remember hearing the peaceful, percussive patter of raindrops on the kudzu, accompanied by the low rumble of distant thunder. The aroma of Daddy Bill’s cherry blend tobacco. The fresh scent of damp earth. A sensory symphony of sounds and smells. 

As the storm grew more intense, Daddy Bill would cheer the crescendo, appreciating nature’s performance.

Then he’d look over at me with twinkly eyes and say, “Welp, it’s really coming down out there, Little Bub. Let’s go for a walk.” 

And just like that we would venture out into the storm, splashing along the sidewalk together. No umbrellas. No slickers or galoshes. Just the two of us, man and boy, in our street clothes, soaking wet and laughing. The neighbors must have thought we were out of our minds.

Dad and I moved from Georgia to Arizona in the summer of 1977, just in time for monsoon season.

The Arizona heat was exactly as advertised -- damn near unbearable -- but those dramatic summer storms were something else. They cleansed the land, revitalized flora and fauna, and replenished our spirits. 

We knew that rain-walking would be a bad idea in the Sonoran Desert around Tucson. The topography is flat, vegetation is sparse and low to the ground, and lightning routinely strikes anything vertical.

No matter. We were thrilled to appreciate the monsoons from the safety of our screened-in patio -- an exhilarating, fully immersive experience.

The rain would pour down all at once in a heavy torrent, punctuated by brilliant flashes of crackling electricity that filled the sky, turning the saguaro cacti into stark silhouettes. The river beds filled up and overflowed their banks, flooding the roadways. Sheets of rainwater pelted our windows relentlessly. Peals of thunder rattled the adobe walls.

It was glorious. 
 

Over the years, no matter where I happened to live or travel, the rain has remained a loyal friend.

At Interlochen I would sit on the dock and watch raindrops dance on the surface of Green Lake. In San Francisco, where I lived for 20 years, it wasn't uncommon for the entire month of January to be wet. Even in Boston’s Back Bay, where winter weather vexed my college years, thunder showers were a rare gift. I would sit at the Trident Bookstore Cafe, writing letters, drinking coffee and daydreaming as stormy skies benevolently baptized the red bricks of Newbury Street. 

Rainy weather has been my welcome companion on the road, throughout the Americas, and around the world. Whether gentle or tumultuous, her arrival always feels like a personal message of support from the universe, assuring me that everything is going to be just fine.

Here in Washington State, where I now live with my girlfriend Sassy and our dog Scout, I have fully embraced my birthright as an avowed pluviophile! We receive about 73 inches of rainfall annually -- nearly twice the national average -- yet folks here seldom carry an umbrella. In the Pacific Northwest, rain is simply a fact of life. 

Now when I go storm-strolling with Scout, the neighbors don’t even bat an eye. They just wave to us as we splash along happily from puddle to puddle.  

Last month, we lost my father to Parkinson’s Disease. I miss him terribly, but I also feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything he was and will remain, in memory. Among his many life lessons, Daddy Bill taught me to love the rain.  

Shortly before he died, I received a surprise early birthday gift from Sass: my very own tin Rain Roof, professionally installed, affixed to the awning over my bedroom window.

Such a thoughtful gift. What a tribute! What a solace!

No one knows what the future may bring, but at least for tonight, all will be well.

Tonight the rain will come, and she will sing us a lullaby.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Michigan Tour Diary — Day 14 

Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR
Michigan Tour Diary — Day 14
April 24 Midland, Linden

Gave two Melodic Mastery jazz improvisation workshops today:
a morning clinic at Herbert Henry Dow HS in Midland,
and an afternoon session one hour south at Linden HS in Linden.

I love presenting these workshops at high schools and colleges around the country.
It's such a pleasure to hear and meet so many talented young musicians,
encourage them in their development as jazz soloists and ensemble players,
and pass along some of what I've learned about music and life from Art Farmer.

Friday night is our final Michigan performance at
the legendary Cliff Bell's in downtown Detroit.
It's my first time at the celebrated venue, and
I'm really looking forward to the show.

It's been one hell of a tour:
In 2 weeks we did 13 gigs (4 performances, 9 workshops),
covering over 3,000 miles throughout the state of Michigan.

With Sassy behind the wheel, we made it safely through snow, ice and rain,
along many crocodile-cracked and pothole-laden roads,
past big stands of scrubby winter oak, hickory, maple and pine trees,
across icy bridges over rivers and muddy fields of grass and cattail,
beside frozen grey lakes that stretched to the horizon.

We drove through dozens of picturesque towns and weary cities
with names like Arcadia, Cadillac, Pontiac, Garfield, Gaylord, Inkster and Ypsilanti,
each name proudly emblazoned on a water tower beside the lonesome road.

We saw wild turkeys, black crows, seagulls, nervous deer,
fat squirrels, badgers, beavers, possums, all manner of roadkill,
and curiously, dozens of giant wooden bears, carved by chainsaw.

We saw clapboard houses with green shutters and wrap around porches,
antiques dealers, country stores, machinist shops, Christmas tree farms,
trailer parks, modular homes, farmhouses and churches,
ramshackle barns, silos, low stone walls,
and lone brick chimneys where houses used to be.

Michigan Tour Diary — Day 3 

Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR
Michigan Tour Diary — Day 3
April 12 Traverse City MI

On a rainy Saturday night in the warehouse district of Traverse City, Michigan,
a killer jazz band plays classic film noir themes for a roomful of attentive, enthusiastic listeners.

The atmosphere is alive. Everyone feels it.
The musicians, audience, sound man, bartender, everyone.

The bandleader, a big, bespectacled, beret-wearing horn player,
looks around the room and smiles.

'This is it,' he thinks.

'It doesn't get any better than this.'

Photo by Myrna Jacobs

IN THE EMERALD CITY 

It's so satisfying to be back in the soulful city of Seattle, sitting in a cafe, enjoying a great cup of coffee, listening to the rain.

On the wall across from me is a Michael Dailey original, one of his spectacular landscape-inspired abstractions. I've always loved his work. These color field paintings are particularly arresting, like desert sunsets, yet somehow evocative of the Pacific Northwest. Similar to Mark Rothko, Georg Gudni and Hiroshi Sugimoto, Dailey was able to conjure atmospheric windows to a misty horizon, conveying a sense of longing for something just out of reach.


RAIN by Don Paterson 



I love all films that start with rain:

rain, braiding a windowpane

or darkening a hung-out dress

or streaming down her upturned face;

 

one big thundering downpour

right through the empty script and score

before the act, before the blame,

before the lens pulls through the frame

 

to where the woman sits alone

beside a silent telephone

or the dress lies ruined on the grass

or the girl walks off the overpass,

 

and all things flow out from that source

along their fatal watercourse.

However bad or overlong

such a film can do no wrong,

 

so when his native twang shows through

or when the boom dips into view

or when her speech starts to betray

its adaptation from the play,

 

I think to when we opened cold

on a starlit gutter, running gold

with the neon of a drugstore sign

and I'd read into its blazing line:

 

forget the ink, the milk, the blood –

all was washed clean with the flood

we rose up from the falling waters

the fallen rain's own sons and daughters

 

and none of this, none of this matters.

LOVE 



"I have loved to the point of madness;
That which is called madness,
That which to me, is the only sensible way to love."
—Françoise Sagan

"Love is an irresistible desire
to be irresistibly desired."
—Robert Frost

"Love all, trust a few,
do wrong to none."
—William Shakespeare

"When love is in excess, it brings a man
no honor nor worthiness."
—Euripides

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love."
—Mother Theresa

"The ultimate choice for a man,
in as much as he is given to transcend himself,
is to create or destroy, to love or to hate."
—Erich Fromm

"I love lamp."
—Brick Tamland

LEARNED FROM A RAINSTORM 



"There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything."
—Ghost Dog

THE VOICE OF THE RAIN ~Walt Whitman | Leaves of Grass 



AND who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower, 

Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea, 

Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed,
  and yet the same, 

I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe, 

And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn; 

And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
  and make pure and beautify it
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering, 

Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)

THE NOIR CITY 

The Noir City is a mysterious labyrinth of smoky bars, lounges and nightclubs, blind alleys, abandoned factories, shadowy train platforms, fog-filled parks, austere detective agencies and darkened gambling dens. An ominous urban maze where it's always night and it always rains.


MEMENTO MORI 


"The human animal is a beast that must die.
If he's got money, he buys and buys and buys
everything he can, in the crazy hope that
one of those things will be life-everlasting,
which it can never be."
—Big Daddy Pollitt

"It's too bad she won't live!
But then again, who does?"
—Gaff

"You don't need anybody
Nobody needs you
Don't cry, old man, don't cry
Everybody dies."
—Randy Newman