nadir, n. the lowest point.
On July 29, 1946, Charlie Parker was arrested in Los Angeles, after starting a fire in his hotel room. Earlier that day, unable to score heroin, scratchy, drunk on whiskey, he recorded this track, which, depending on your point of view, is either one of the worst records he ever made (Parker’s view) or, despite (because of?) its raggedyness, among the greatest (Charles Mingus’s opinion). After his arrest he was confined, for six months, at Camarillo State Mental Hospital.
Charlie Parker, “Lover Man” (CP, alto saxophone; Howard McGhee, trumpet; Jimmy Bunn, piano; Bob Kesterson, bass; Roy Porter, drums), rec. 7/29/46
rewarding the deserving
So often, it seems, when arts awards are announced, my initial reaction is: “Huh?” Not this time. The National Endowment of the Arts just announced their 2012 Jazz Masters Awards, which recognize, with Lifetime Honors, “living musicians for career-long achievement.” And the winners are Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Owens, Charlie Haden, Sheila Jordan, and Von Freeman.
The cafeteria in the hospital’s basement was the saddest place in the world, with its grim neon lights and gray tabletops and the diffuse forboding of those who had stepped away from suffering children to have a grilled cheese sandwich.
The next day, I set up an iPod dock and played music, not only in the willfully delusional belief that music would be good for a painful, recovering brain but also to counter the soul-crushing hospital noise: the beeping of monitors, the wheezing of respirators, the indifferent chatter of nurses in the hallway, the alarm that went off whenever a patient’s condition abruptly worsened.
One early morning, driving to the hospital, I saw a number of able-bodied, energetic runners progressing along Fullerton Avenue toward the sunny lakefront, and I had a strong physical sensation of being in an aquarium: I could see out, the people outside could see me (if they chose to pay attention), but we were living and breathing in entirely different environments.
—Aleksandar Hemon, “The Aquarium: A Child’s Isolating Illness” (behind a paywall), New Yorker, 6/13 & 20/2011