World of darkness and light

Just as the world, from my point of view, seemed to be slipping into the handbasket for the ride to hell, and I’m wondering are my few shekels going to be worth anything in my dotage, I heard that Eddie Diehl had died. Just a day or so ago.

This was a guy worth knowing. And most certainly, the guitar community knew of him, the local musical gatherings spoke of him reverently. A sublime player, a jazz player, made you know, feel more to the music than you had heard before, effortlessly stroking his 1934 D’Angelico, an instrument that demanded expert driving, deep chordal solos, melodies, exquisite sweet sounds of standards, a bottomless be bop catalogue…

And he was the ultimate fixer, able to diagnose an instrument’s ills with few touches with the expertise tomaking it come to life again. If you knew where to find him.

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How hypocritical is it for the Republicans in the Senate to be crafting a health care bill in total darkness, with only a few in their caucus doing the writing, and then they’ll spring it on us in a late vote just before the holiday? Totally. Screw the people…cut $800 billion from Medicaid and give a big tax cut. Only 17% popularity, as the House bill was? So what. Ram it through wtihout telling them. Then they’ll have killed Obamacare in one fell swoop, rather than killing it softly by starving it for money. This one hurts. Know anyone on Medicaid? I do…and I know more that need it.

Hopefully, those senators and representatives will pay at the ballot box.

Eddie Diehl had just turned 81. On his 80th birthday, he played to a packed house at Smalls, in Greenwich Village. He played every year, sometimes it was his only gig, at the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase, and I never missed his set. Just him and bassist Lou Pappas, running through standards and making difficult twists sing.

There is an old Wall Street (the one in the city, not Kingston ) saying: “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” It’s a warning against excessive greed. Impatience, too. Some heads should be coming up about this. Look at subprime loans on automobiles. Check out how the repeal of Dodd-Frank is coming along in congress. Real Estate bidding wars. Speculators looking for short term flips for big profits. Oink.

“I have three gigs a year,” Eddie Diehl told me in 2013. “I came from a place where I used to have four gigs a week, now I have three a year.” He blamed his reluctance to venture out on “the dumbing down of the culture…the appreciation of the arts has been dulled down quite a bit. It’s hard to find people who stay in touch with creativity.”

And about his work: “I do major restoration on expensive instruments,” he said then. “It’s all grapevine. I’m at the mercy of, how is it, the kindness of strangers. I’ve learned to live on almost nothing and live by my wits for years. I have a fairly low overhead. I can go for weeks without any business, then get real busy. There’s no internet, no website. Some people say I should, some say I’m better off without it.”

Who’s in charge in the world? Let’s see, we’ve just shot down a Syrian aircraft, and an Iranian drone. Our mutual admiration society with the Russians is crashing, and we may not be able to get out of each other’s way in the Middle East without it. We’ve slammed the country, Qatar, that houses our largest military base in the region.

And there’s a sneaking question? Does Trump know about these things? He hasn’t really mentioned them, to my knowledge. Is it in the hands of…right, its in the hands of the Generals. Yahoo!

“When I caught the tail end of the real jazz thing, after you’re done playing, you’re back down on the floor. The celebrity thing didn’t mean shit. Now people want to be famous just to be famous,” said Eddie Diehl. “The medium is more important than the actual message. I realized back then that I was going to find out stuff I wasn’t to learn in school.”

He cited an old African proverb.

“One is born, one dies, the land increases. That’s the thing about jazz…I’m one of the people who think the word ‘race’ should have been eliminated a long time ago. There’s ethnicity and color, but there’s only one race, the human race.”

The reclusive, oft cantankerous soul “lived the way he wanted to live,” says his friend Larry Packer.

Rest in peace, Eddie Diehl.

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