Originally it’s a love song, and a walking song. But Edwin Starr’s 1968 hit “25 Miles” is also from Motown’s Golden Era which means it has that steady “on the four” beat that makes it good running music for anyone in our little local road race today.
What makes it great music for running the Boston Marathon is that ecstatic, exhilarating “Woooo!” Starr’s character lets out (at 3:02) when his destination is finally in sight. That moment for today’s runners comes here—when they make the little left turn off Hereford St. In Boston’s Back Bay onto Boylston St., into a tunnel of deafening sound from the tens of thousands of spectators cheering them on to the finish line less than 1/2 mile ahead, finally in view.
I don’t know enough about literature and literary categories to say this with any certainty, but after reading Ann Patchett’s lovely, entrancing first novel, The Patron Saint Of Liars, I wonder if magical realism is just another phrase for a certain kind of Catholic fiction.
And now I realize “just” is the wrong word in that sentence. What I mean is that there’s a kind of layering and depth and ambiguity to Catholicism (e.g., the body of Christ is simultaneously Jesus’ resurrected body, the Church at large, the congregation gathered at Mass, and the wafers they consume at communion; so rationally speaking you end up with a kind of self-cannibalism with the body of Christ eating the body of Christ…neither of which is to be confused with the original body of Christ. Do you get the point?) that fits comfortably with Patchett’s writing, just as it does with, say, Isabel Allende or Gabriel García Márquez.
There’s an ecstatic, erotic tradition within Christianity that stretches at least as far back as the Song of Solomon. And yes, I’m implying that you wouldn’t be wrong to locate the late, great Andrae Crouch’s “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus” firmly within that tradition.
I came to Jesus just as I was; I was weary, worn and sad;
But I found in Him a sweet resting place, and He has made me glad.
It does nothing to spoil Daniel James Brown’s sprawling and gripping (a rare combination) book, The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans & Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics, to tell you that the University of Washington (UW) men’s eights crew team succeeded in their quest, first winning the right to represent the United States at the national Olympics trials, then upsetting their German hosts (who won five of the other six rowing events) to win gold by the narrowest of margins. The information is right there on Wikipedia, and footage of the actual race from Leni Reifenstahl’s brilliant propaganda film, Olympia, is easily found on Youtube.
So how, despite traveling down a path well-trod by books such as Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, and movies like Chariots Of Fire, does Brown make The Boys In The Boat such an absorbing read? Well, several ways, in a combination of luck and authorial skill.
Let’s end our (unexpected) Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra week here at MassCommons World Headquarters with a throwback to the Count Basie Orchestra, where Thad Jones cut his chops and learned how to lead a big band. That’s Jones taking the first trumpet solo on this 1962 version of the oh-so-sweet-and-swinging, bank shot off the 9-ball and straight into the “Corner Pocket”.
Let’s face it—5/4 is not a funky time signature. It’s clever; it’s fun; it’s interesting. But just by the nature of tilting back and forth between two and three beat intervals, it’s not a time signature that lends itself to getting down into a deep groove and settling there so the whole sound can swirl together and marinate for a while as it works its way down into your entire being, body and soul. Unless, of course, it’s in the masterful hands of a composer like Thad Jones and a band like the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra on a song like “Ahunk Ahunk”. Then 5/4 can be as funky as it gets.
After the subtly elegant and swinging opening solo by Sir Roland Hanna on electric piano (backed by as tight a rhythm section as there is), the other sections of the band gradually add in, until two minutes into the cut the whole song is a swirling, cascading, deliriously exhilarating ball of jazz-funk rolling downhill that just won’t stop…and doesn’t until the final note.
The endlessly versatile and inventive Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (and their brilliant bandleader/arranger Thad Jones) bring joy to the hearts of all aficionados of this little blog’s First Rule Of Cover Songs (“You’ve got to bring something new to it.“) with their utterly delightful, swinging cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”. About two minutes in, the record practically lifts off the turntable (children, ask your grandparents) in ecstasy when every section of the band (rhythm, reeds, trumpets, trombones) kicks in at once behind a flute(!) and then a soprano sax(!) solo. Enjoy.