We’re all Partners in Time. And our music makes time our friend, not an implacable foe. This music makes time an endowment, not a stress-inducing limitation.
In the early 70s, when Dexter Gordon would come back to my office at Keystone Korner after his Quartet had sold out three cookin’ sets at the club on a Friday or Saturday night, he used to love to say, “Well, Toddsy, I think we paid the light bill tonight.” Our House of Jazz has an infinite number of lights and windows and all kinds of swinging doors with lots of levels to explore and many living rooms and a gloriously big ole kitchen with the pots on around the clock.
This warm and inviting home of our music could only have been built (and is still being built upon every day!) by the supreme song of Jazz Masters like Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny, Joanne Brackeen, and all the other Jazz Masters, sung and unsung, whose inspiration, dedication and living legacy are the lifeblood of the work we try to do for this most democratic and-at-the-same-time most singular music --which builds both homes and bridges for people while it erases borders between them.
Thank you, Jazz Masters, for playing and living the love which most often can’t be spoken, but only felt, and danced, and sung. Thank you for playing the love that feels like a hug even when it’s tight enough to mold our souls back back together when they’re broken, to somehow heal and surprise our hearts at the same time.
No matter what generation we are blessed to be born into, we all stand on the shoulders of our teachers, parents, heroes and all those elders who have lit the path for us.
Just as Michelangelo saw an angel in the marble of a cathedral and carved and carved, and then carved some more until he “set the angel free,” so the eternally-renewing miracle of our music can make our dreams a reality, and our reality a dream.
When will we ever know, and how can we ever show, what’s real, what’s really in our hearts? The universal language of our music, born of both deep sorrow and wide-eyed wonder, of great pain and inextinguishable joy, is also a prayer of thanks for the gift that gets us here, and the grace that lets us stay, re-telling a story as old as the ancients but as brand new as the life of each new journey through time.
Extra special thanks to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones who joined forces to help us build Keystone Korner by performing together for a benefit concert at the Oakland Paramount Theater to help buy the club a hard liquor license in 1973. And I also want to give special thanks to Miles Davis for handing me back $2500 in cash from the fee I had just paid him for a week at the Keystone in 1974, “you and the club need this money a lot more than I do at this point.”
Profound gratitude to the NEA Jazz Masters Program, and to my longtime mentors Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Jack Whittemore, Dexter Gordon, Cedar Walton,…. and to my beloved wife Ilene. After every set that Johnny Griffin played at the Keystone Korner, the Little Giant signed off by telling us to “keep hope alive, keep jazz alive.”
My recognition as a 2018 NEA Jazz Master both deeply humbles me & inspires me to re-double my efforts to take care of the music so that it can take care of all of us. Hope swings eternal!
Thanks to all of you for being such an essential part of paying the light bill, of keeping the lights on.
Love does find a way…
—Todd Barkan, April 16, 2018
at the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert at the Kennedy Center