The man hears that his grand-daughter is doing well on the saxophone in grade school.
I’ve got a record in my room, he says.
To his surprise, in the stacks of albums, he finds John Coltrane.
He shows her how to — ooh, carefully — place the forefinger under the tiny bar, drop the stylus on the outside border. Coltrane starts honking.
I used to listen to jazz my first decade on the road, he says, thinking about Horace Silver in one joint, Marian McPartland somewhere else, the night Richard Pryor and Jack Jones held a scat-singing duel during a Johnny Hartman gig in L.A.
Coltrane motors away from the melody, doing riffs with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Roy Haynes — "My Favorite Things," from Newport, 1963. First time he heard this album was over at Sam and Faith’s.
The girl is listening and talking at the same time. She is a quick study. The best part of vinyl, he says — well, two: even with the scratches, the sound is better than an iPod — is the liner notes.
The quartet veers back into the melody and the girl catches it. They’re playing the first song over, she says. No, it’s jazz, he says. It’s all the same song.
He shows her the credits for the other side, where Coltrane is joined by another tenor sax, Pharoah Sanders. I like that name, she says, repeating it a few times.
When the first side is over, she turns the vinyl over — two tenor saxes prodding each other on the title song, Selflessness.
I’m going to tell my teacher about Pharoah Sanders, she says.
After she heads home, the grandfather locates his Billie Holiday anthology. Next time she is over, I’m going to play "Georgia on My Mind." (They used to live in Atlanta, and she will know this song.) It’s got young Eddie Heywood on piano and Lester Young on tenor sax. Gorgeous liner notes. He thinks, I’m glad I kept my albums.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.