|Maceo and the Perfect Jam|
|Recently I drove down to D.C. to spend the weekend with my wife, Jessie, who has three months left of a one-year stint working there for the feds. My trip south from Brooklyn was moving apace until, 45 minutes to completing my sweet errand, I hit a series of torturous back-ups on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Not once, not twice, but four separate times traffic was narrowed to one lane as various crews tended to some critical roadside beautification. After a twenty-minute slow roll through the first jam, I finally hit the merge and things started to speed up, when -- snarg! another bottleneck reared up and vaporized what was left of my good mood. It was just past noon, the overhead sun was beginning to really crank it up for the first time of the season and there I was creeping along again locked in a queue with dozens of ridiculous sport utility vehicles. Keeping one eye on the back fender of the Subaru ahead of me and the other on a batch CDs splayed across the passenger seat, I thumbed through the jewel cases, hoping to find something to take my mind off the moving parking lot. From the bottom of the pile I pulled out Doing Their Own Thing, a collection of funky tunes by Maceo Parker's post-JB's outfit, and eased the disc into the magic slot.|
A few years back, Jessie and I were planning a drive to Maine and it was my job to replace the car's broken radio in time for the trip. When she suggested we splurge and get a CD player for the car, my reaction was immediate and negative. I'd spent my entire adult life (and some of my childhood, no doubt) scorning bourgeois excess and wasn't about to rationalize a desire for creature comforts. Jessie asked, "why not, you've got a nice stereo and tons of CDs, what's wrong with having great music in the car?" A couple of days later, what seemed so simple to Jessie, came to me as a revelation. Why the hell not? So I was remembering all this and that trip to Maine when a few angry horn blasts and the glare of brake lights brought me back to the hideous state of my current excursion. Traffic was barely moving, kids were screaming in a neighboring mini-van and the heat coming off the pavement was so thick it would've looked fake in a movie. Then, thank God, the music kicked in.
The first cut on the album, "Maceo," is a phenomenal mid-tempo instrumental. Following a vocalized M-A-C-E-O intro, the band proceeds to throw down seven minutes and forty-five seconds of the sweetest, grooviest, funkiest soul jam you could ever hope to hear. The sound literally makes you be happy. The second I heard it I realized I didn't care a lick about the traffic. I didn't care about being late. I didn't care about the heat or the turd who just crossed in front of me even though both lanes were moving two miles an hour. In fact, I decided to enjoy myself. I would keep playing "Maceo" for as long as the Parkway remained a clogged mess. It would be a battle of the jams and my jam was gonna win. I turned off the A.C. and rolled down the windows, cranked the volume and hit the "repeat" button on the CD player, and the contest was on. Through two more merges and two more long delays Maceo & All the King's Men just kept looping back and back and back, propelling wave after wave of intensifying, breathtaking music. By comparison, Ravel's Bolero sounds like a peck on the cheek. Sometime during the tenth repeat, the band and I edged past what had been blocking the right lane. A huge yellow truck paired with a cherry-picker and a team of workers were trimming tree branches overhanging the roadway. Just like that, spacing widened between the cars up ahead and in a few minutes I was in fifth gear for the first time in an hour and a half. The rest of the trip was uneventful. I made most of the lights on Route 50 and, in a manner of minutes, was edging into a space in front of Jessie's rental. Jessie met me at the car. I got out, gave her a big kiss and thanked her for convincing me to get that CD player.