Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Birdland, 1949-1965: Hard Bop Mecca

First, happy birthday to Barry Harris (b. 1929) and Curtis Fuller (b. 1934)!  (Two stories for future posts!)

61 years ago, December 15, 1949, a basement club -- following (I'm not sure of the order) the Ubangi, the Ebony, and The Clique -- opened as Birdland: The Jazz Corner of the World.  Its birth coincided with the demise of  "The  Street," i.e., the serendipitous concatenation of jazz clubs that sprung up on 52nd Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenues in the wake of Prohibition. (For a complete history, see Patrick Burke's scholarly Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street.  Arnold Shaw's 52nd Street: The Street of Jazz makes an excellent companion reader.)

A daytime shot of legendary 52nd Street -- on its last legs in the late '40s.

The upscale jazz club and restaurant on Manhattan's West 44th Street possessing legal title to "Birdland" is therefore not topic of this post.  (On its home page, take the "History" link to a fact-filled page about its historic predecessor.) With all due respect to that venue for the great music and food it offers, it is not the historic Birdland that was effectively the House of Hard Bop from its first stirrings in the early '50s to its ripening in the early '60s.

The address is 1674 Broadway, at the corner of 52nd Street . . .
A view of NE corner of Broadway & 52nd Street

. . . but Birdland had its own number, 1678 (probably to expedite delivery of the great volume of mail it must have received compared to that of other tenants), as can be seen on this flyer from 1955, every detail of which is worth savoring:

Above, left pane: Broadway looking north, fans line up for Sarah Vaughn; 
right pane: looking south.  
Below: This is what awaited them:
Above, right pane: George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland," the club's theme song is noted.
Below: cover of contemporary sheet music for "Lullaby of Birdland."

Above: notable guests included: Duke Ellington, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, . . . and Harry Belafonte, who helped open Birdland on December 15, 1949. Just a sampling of the stars who regarded Birdland as the place to see and be seen -- and hear - great jazz.  Yet nothing marks the spot.

The cover of Birdland's menu:
For the first few weeks of its existence, Birdland's guests were greeted by birds in cages suspended from the ceiling.  They were a nice touch, but the poor things could not survive the combination of smoke and air-conditioning.

The current occupant of that basement is Flash Dancers (part of its awning is visible, next to Leone's Pizza Pasta) -- of which I will say no more:
Here's a daytime shot, 1960, by William Caxton:

Clearly the inspiration for the cover art for Birdland Stars 1956:

At All About Jazz, Bertil Holmgren sketches a portrait of Birdland as he  experienced it one night in June 1962, when the John Coltrane Quartet was "on duty":
A rather small club, maybe 150 square meters, after descending down the stairs from 52nd Street [that makes no sense to me; but in our exchange of comments, Mr. Holgren stood by his memory], which is a side street to Broadway at Times Square [Birdland was situated in the Times Square area, but Times Square, where the New York Times was once published, like Longacre Square before it, was ten blocks south of Birdland], the room opened up with the bandstand right in front and with a bar along the left wall.  
 Behold, the left wall (that's Jay McNeely on tenor sax):

[Holgren continues:] To the right, on the opposite side from the bar, as well as just in front of it, there were rows of chairs reserved for listeners only, and in the middle a number of tables, maybe ten to fifteen, were placed where certain solid and liquid nourishments could be taken.  
Behold, the right wall: Erroll Garner and Art Tatum
On stage: Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Art Blakey

Bird with Strings, 1951
[Holgren continues:] On the tables were nothing but white-and-red-chequered cloths and black plastic ashtrays carrying the words “Birdland - The Jazz Corner of the World” in white. . . .  
[Holgren continues:] Since the drinking age limit was 21, how I, younger than that, managed entrance belongs to the secrets you learn when you are desperate to gain admission!  Initially I would be sitting as far from the bar as possible (an imperative requirement by the door guard), but eventually I would slowly move forward and by the time Trane started set no. 2, I'd have him one meter in front of me, the McCoy [Tyner] piano to the left, [Jimmy] Garrison to the right and a steam boiler called Elvin [Jones] further back.  This felt to me a bit like being in the middle of the engine room on The Titanic . . . .  I believe they started playing at around 9:00 P.M., in forty-five minute sets interrupted by half hour intermissions, and the place closed at 5:00 A.M.
The roster for opening night is worth a study in itself:

For ninety-eight cents -- "including tax" -- one could have the history of jazz parade before one's ears "from Dixieland to Bop."  Imagine Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Lester Young on the same stage!  (Is that Max Kaminsky and Kenny Dorham on trumpets in the photo below?  And who's the fellow looking at the camera?  Where is he now?)

The "Roy Haines" listed on the poster is, of course, Roy Haynes, still going strong at 85.  He played the new Birdland on the original's 60th anniversary last year (and was there again last week)!

On August 25, 1959, on the Broadway sidewalk just outside Birdland, Miles Davis was beaten and arrested by police for insisting that they misapprehended his chivalry.  As the Wikipedia article on Miles summarizes the altercation:
After finishing a 27-minute recording for the armed service, Davis took a break outside the club.  As he was escorting an attractive blonde woman across the sidewalk to a taxi, Davis was told by Patrolman Gerald Kilduff to "move on."  Davis explained that he worked at the nightclub and refused to move.  The officer said that he would arrest Davis and grabbed him as Davis protected himself.  Witnesses said that Kilduff punched Davis in the stomach with his nightstick without provocation.  Two nearby detectives held the crowd back as a third detective, Don Rolker, approached Davis from behind and beat him about the head.  Davis was then arrested and taken to jail where he was charged with feloniously assaulting an officer.  He was then taken to St. Clary Hospital where he received five stitches for a wound on his head.  
Davis attempted to pursue the case in the courts, before eventually dropping the proceedings in a plea bargain in order to recover his suspended Cabaret Card, enabling him to return to work in New York clubs. [End of Wikipedia account.]

More details are provided on this blog post on last year's anniversary of the beating.  

A while back, with this event on my mind,  meandering near that spot, I was startled by a billboard-size advertising of VH-1's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards.  The huge poster hung on the north wall of the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel, just south of 1674 Broadway.  Startled, because as though looking down on the spot where he was humiliated, across the street and across half a century, was the triumphant visage of Miles himself, a Hall inductee.  I could not interest any passerby in this irony.

A collection of albums subtitled "Live at Birdland" would fill a shelf. Chronologically, this is probably the first:

Miles Davis' from 1951:

Here's "Lullaby of Birdland" composer George Shearing's from '52:

Bill Evans, 1960:

But this pair of 1954 albums (Volume 1 and Volume 2) turned Birdland into the Bethlehem of Hard Bop (which is, after all, what we're mainly about here):

I almost left out this classic from 1963!

Birdland still pleasantly haunts the memories of thousands of musicians and their fans.  Their numbers dwindle daily, however, and the few who do remember seem to wish not to be bothered about it.  

(One exception is Nat Hentoff who, during a phone chat, confirmed its location for me and related his brief encounter with Bird himself [once banned from the club named after him for want of a cabaret license] on the stairs between the club and a street-level eatery, which was probably where Leone's pizza parlor is.)  

For sixteen years the greatest music in the world was generated nightly within its walls until it succumbed to the accounting ledger logic that doomed The Street a generation earlier.  Birdland deserves its historian. May those of us who can offer oral testimony, artifacts, and other evidence be ready when he or she makes inquiry.  

In the meantime, if you wish to share your knowledge about or memories of Birdland on this blog, by all means, do so!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Hard Bop and Its Critics": Now in The Jazz Annex

From the perspective of 50+ years, it is easy to romanticize, and thereby distort, the era of Hard Bop.  Jazz scholarship is the antidote.  To remind us what Hard Bop was up against, the late David H. Rosenthal wrote "Hard Bop and Its Critics," published in The Black Perspective in Music in 1988, the text of which is now available in The Jazz Annex.  (Take the link in the preceding sentence.)  It should whet your appetite for the book he produced five years later, Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Coltrane's "My Favorite Things": Recorded 50 Years Ago Today

“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.”— John Coltrane, 1960

Thanks to visitor Dave Lull, I was alerted to Robin Washington's reminiscence of that time, published a few days ago in the Duluth News Tribune.  The article refers to a wonderful radio documentary on Trane: this 29 minutes of heaven can be enjoyed here.   Hear Trane himself speak, along with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Steve Kuhn (Trane's pianist immediately before Tyner), and Harvard jazz scholar Ingrid Monson (whose perceptive comments heard in this documentary have moved me to put several of her books on reserve at my library).

In 1996, Scott Anderson wrote his thesis on Trane's revolutionary appropriation of that lilting waltz, which sets it in its late '50s context (Rogers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music"), analyzes its form, and provides copious information on Trane's main recordings of this classic (including the one that knocked me out in the early '70s, the performance at Newport Jazz Festival, July 2, 1965).  This study deserves the widest possible dissemination among Coltrane fans.

Two great documents, using the written and spoken word, to help make present to us what occurred fifty years ago.

Finally, my favorite video of "My Favorite Things," not least of which because it shows, not only regular quartet members Tyner, Jones, and Jimmy Garrison, but also Eric Dolphy (on flute) .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jimmy Ponder, In Depth

In the interest of bringing jazz guitarist Jimmy Ponder out of the "out of the background to the foreground of our minds," as I recently said I hope to do, I am happy to bring to your attention a detailed analysis and stimulating discussion of Ponder's career and music entitled, "Jimmy Ponder: A Case Study of Creative Processes and Identity Formation in American Popular Music."  It is the Master's Thesis of Pittsburgh-based guitarist Colter Harper, and the University of Pittsburgh has made it available online. 

In his introduction, Harper says that as
"a student and friend of Jimmy Ponder’s, I have been struck by the conviction of his musical values and their relationship to all aspects of his life. I am deeply indebted to Ponder for sharing his artistic vision with such vehement dedication and will carry his lessons in all of my artistic endeavors. This study is my offering of appreciation for his teachings and lifelong dedication to the art of music."

(In my previous post on Ponder, I opined that Pittsburgh "needs its counterpart to Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-1960.  Well, Harper, who is currently working toward his doctorate at Duquesne University, has chosen for his dissertation topic "Jazz in Pittsburgh, 1948-1968."  Something to look forward to.)

Although I needed nothing more than the title to be drawn to Harper's monograph, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more it contained than the usual thesis ingredients (biosketch, discography, bibliography, quotation, etc.)  Among the many topics he explores are: "Soul and Hammond Organ Jazz," "Race and Ideology," "The Chitlin' Circuit," "Authenticity and the Creation of 'Voice' in Jazz," "The Aesthetics of Soul Jazz," and "Ponder as a Band Leader."  Harper weaves the content of interviews with Ponder and his colleagues into an historical narrative supported by solid reading, and renders his synthesis with journalistic concision.  His brief forays into social theory do not derail but rather enrich his narrative. 

(One quibble: I find "meaningful" meaningless, but it seems to be Harper's his one verbal crutch.  He never defines it, but uses it seventeen times.  It is out of place in a scholarly effort in which he otherwise made the meaning of all his distinctive assertions clear.)

Harper's insights into jazz's social dynamics have forced me to think differently, and harder, about what I have to work on to further my own musical growth.  In themselves, one's practice materials, no matter how diligently attended to, can shed no light on the experience of "locking in" with one's fellow musicians or on communicating with the audience. 

Other writers have noted the difference between playing before an audience and recording in a studio, but Harper illuminated it for me in a few sentences:
"Part of the creative energy of the live performance is the close proximity of the musicians, which aids their ability to communicate musically, visually, and orally.  Separation in a recording studio removes the physical experience of creating music, replacing it with a purely aural one. . . . " 
"[M]usicians in a studio environment are conscious of the fact that the performance will become a lasting statement of their abilities and so are less likely to experiment with new ideas.  What may feel and sound like an inspired moment in a live environment may appear faulty out of context."
Don't be put off by the words "master's thesis."  Minus the scholarly paraphernalia, the text takes up about 90 pages of double-spaced typescript.  Think of it as a long magazine article about something you love.  Then tell others about it.  Jimmy Ponder will be in the foreground of our musical minds in no time.

Now sit back and dig Jimmy's tone and groove on "Jennifer" from his 1976 release for ABC Impulse, Illusions.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Art Blakey: 1919-1990, Jazz Dispatcher

For more than 35 years, from the mid-50s to his death in 1990, Art Blakey gathered around him the finest musicians in the post-Bebop era and crystallized a new sound, that of The Jazz Messengers. 

Art Blakey w/Messengers Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan and Jymie Merritt.
Zurich, 1958.  From Newstalgia.

There were previous incarnations of this idea, one of a rehearsal band called The Seventeen Messengers, the key term evocative of Blakey's conversion to Islam in the late '40s. The moving parade of stellar personnel over the years revealed Blakey to have been The Jazz Dispatcher.

Since to reproduce here the list of the messengers he dispatched to the four corners, and his discography, might shift focus away from him, I direct you to this page where Steve Schwartz and Michael Fitzgerald have laid it all out.  Wikipedia's shorter version is's Blakey page is also essential.  (My desert-island album picks? A Night in Tunisia, Mosaic, Free for All, and all three volumes of A Night at Birdland, which features the pantheon of Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson, and Clifford Brown along with Curly Russell on bass.)

There was, of course, Blakey's drumming, which seemed to announce the opening of Heaven's Gate:

Jazz has been blessed with many great drummers.  Art Blakey, however, was unique: one cannot imagine the history of Jazz over the last sixty years without his eagle eye for talent; his ability to motivate them to reach their potential; leadership skills that turned a half a dozen of them at a time into musically cohesive working units (and entrepreneurial foresight to keep them working!); and "tough love" that made room for new blood when it was "time," often regardless of whether the musician on the receiving end of the news agreed with the timing.  The Jazz Messengers never were, thank God, a "nostalgia band."  They were more like an Academy of Hard Bop, of which Blakey was the Dean.

Having worked with many of the giants of Swing and Bebop, including Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Eckstine, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker, Blakey was the conduit of that legacy to every young person who came under his wing, including Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, and Valery Ponomarev, all of whom create music to this day.  (Ponomarev cleverly pays tribute to his former boss by calling his big band "Our Father Who Art Blakey.")  Blakey personally represented to them living tradition while spearheading the movement that made Hard Bop, not an acquired taste as it is today, but one form of Black popular music. (David Rosenthal's Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965 tells the story.) 

One night in the mid-'70s I found myself standing in front of Art Blakey inside The Village Gate.  Having just finished a set, he was listening to two other musicians conversing off-stage where I happened to be.  He didn't speak while I was standing there, and as I had no particular reason to continue to do so, I moved on.  Once again, this was case of my not knowing then what I know now, and wishing I could have asked him something, anything.  In any case, I recall being struck by how short and stocky, relatively speaking, this man was.  (I'm taken aback when I realize that he was then as old as I am now.)  More pertinently, I had just been impressed by how thunderous was his playing, thinking for a moment that perhaps I could have saved a few bucks merely by standing outside the club and listening.  But that there was more to the experience than percussive power, this neophyte even then knew. 

In this rare color video from 1986, following (at around 3:00) former Messenger Bobby Watson's appreciation of the man, Blakey personifies not only the passion that must fuel commitment to Jazz as a way of life, but also the knowledge that music is a three-way encounter among the Creator, the musician, and the audience.  Finding this sermon -- there is no other word for it -- made my day.  I hope it will makes yours.

My favorite saying attributed to him is that "music washes away the dust of everyday life," for which dust the Shakespearean metaphor is "mortal coil."  [Note: I've just learned that this revises an aphorism of poet Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882): "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."--T.F. 2/8/11]  Art Blakey, born 91 years ago today, shuffled off his twenty years ago this Saturday.  I can only imagine that he is in heaven preparing to accompany The Second Coming.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

John Coltrane Fifty Years Ago: "Giant Steps," First Quartet, and Beyond

That tone . . . that cry, from the depths of his soul . . . that aural taste of the divine, gladdening our hearts . . . that signature lead-in to every solo ("Green Dolphin Street," "Blue Train," "Black Pearls," and others too many to list), breaking down our defenses and carrying us aloft, allowing us to soar with him above the mundane, and in doing so wash away, as Art Blakey observed, the dust of everyday life. 

The mortal vessel of John William Coltrane, this pneumatic and therapeutic force, emerged into the light 84 years ago today in a hamlet called Hamlet, North Carolina, and was raised in that state's larger municipality of High Point.

At 19, roughly 65 years ago, Trane (and thousands of his contemporaries) experienced the musical equivalent of an epiphany in the form of Charlie Parker, with whom he would soon practice and perform.

". . . the first time I heard Bird play [June 5, 1945], it hit me right between the eyes."
[Bird, Diz, Trane, Tommy Potter on bass, at Birdland; this pic is from 1951]

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of both the landmark album Giant Steps and of his first quartet, which included pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones.

The multi-tonic revolution he had introduced to the world in the late '50s with "Blue Train" and most assertively with  "Giant Steps" helped jazz musicians re-interpret the ii-V-I cadence

Trane had been one of the apostles of Hard Bop, but after he had said all he had to say (and arguably all that could be said) in that subidiom of Jazz, he went on to help found an idiom or two of his own.  From 1960 to 1962 he explored the soprano sax with such creavity and intensity -- most famously (and perhaps ironically) on Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" -- that it was almost as if he gave the world a new instrument (no slight to Sidney Bechet, whom Trane's admired, intended). 

From 1962 to 1965, both his continuity and discontinuity with Hard Bop were on display, through the modal explorations.  (The chord changes maybe have been fewer, but the groove and drive were unmistakeably urban and Black.)   

The sound whose development he spearheaded during this period (with Eric Dolphy, it must be noted) found outlets even in Hard Bop hot houses like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.   (I adduce as "Exhibit A" Wayne Shorter's "Free for All" on the 1962 album of that name.  That track's Trane-ish spirit points forward and harkens back.)

Then there's the aptly titled Transition, the classic A Love Supreme and its free-jazz aftermath, Ascension, compared to which the first two sound downright conventional.

While Trane lived in Philadelphia ('43-'58: from '52-'58 in the boarded-up house on the right, below, 1511 N. 33rd: story here and here) . . .
. . . he studied musical theory under the guidance of Dennis Sandole, as did a much younger Philly native (and my former teacher) Pat Martino (who learned as much from observing Sandole's interactions with his students as from his teaching). From the earliest sketches of Pat's life we know that when he was 14 (and therefore in 1958), Trane once treated him to a hot chocolate after lessons.   

Thus Trane's last year in Philly was also Pat's: in 1959 the Hard Bop generation-straddling kid would leave home to enter the world that Trane was about to dominate. 

"During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music." -- John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, liner notes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On Bird's 90th, a Stop at 151 Avenue B

Before meeting my wife in the seating area near the stage inside Tompkins Square Park, the site of an annual (since 1993) musical birthday tribute to Charlie Parker (1920-1955), I asked a gentleman standing on the park's east side (a three-block segment of Avenue B christened "Charlie Parker Place" in 1992), if he happened to know which of the buildings across the street from where we were standing housed Bird and his family from late 1950 (no source to my knowledge is more specific) to September 1954.  (As the chap was sporting a black tee shirt with Lester Young's image, I guessed rightly that he wouldn't respond with, "Who?")  He wasn't sure, and as it turned out his educated guess was off only by one building, for neither he nor I could see the plaque noting the landmark status of the 1849 Gothic Revival townhouse at 151 Avenue B. 

Later that night at home I found this unambiguous graphic:

There's the plaque between the two staircase-level windows.

An excellent place to start one's research on the Charlie Parker Residence is this site, which has a page on Charles Lockwood's Brick and Brownstone, which used an elevation of 151 Avenue B's fa├žade for one of its many illustrations.  According to Chan Parker's memoir, My Life in E-Flat, "Before Pree was born [on July 17, 1951], we moved to a large apartment on Avenue B and 10th Street.  For the first time in his life Bird had a stable family life.  He played his role of husband and father to the hilt."  (Page 31)  For what it was like to live there with Bird, one could hardly do better than this interview with his step-daughter Kim.

The site of the original Birdland is now a strip joint, but at least the townhouse wherein Bird did his utmost to be husband to Chan and daddy to Kim, Baird, and Pree has suffered no such indignity. 

I mean no disrespect to the fine musicians who played their hearts out in the park today from 3:00 to 7:00.  Their virtuosity notwithstanding--and there were a few transcendent moments--by the tribute's end, all I longed to do was to don my headphones and lose myself in something like this:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Clifford Brown, First Recording as Leader, August 28, 1953

Clifford Brown Memorial Album, Blue Note 1526
Tracks 10-18. Audio-Video Studios, NYC, August 28, 1953.

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Gigi Gryce (alto sax, flute), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Art Blakey (drums). 

Track 10. Wail Bait
Track 11. Hymn of the Orient
Track 12. Brownie Eyes
Track 13. Cherokee
Track 14. Easy Living
Track 15. Minor Mood
Track 16. Wail Bait (alt. take)
Track 17. Cherokee (alt. take)
Track 18, Hymn Of The Orient (alt. take)

From Stuart Broomer's Review on Amazon:

Clifford Brown emerged fully formed in 1953, a trumpeter gifted with an ebullient swing and technical skills that added polish and precision to fresh invention. Foregoing both the manic pyrotechnics of Dizzy Gillespie and the laconic introversion of Miles Davis, he also provided a stylistic model for jazz trumpeters that has never gone out of style. This CD combines Brown's first two recording dates as leader, placing him in quintet and sextet settings with some of the core musicians of the New York bop scene. The first nine tracks [recorded June 9, 1953] have Brown in an inspired quintet, prodded by the twisting, off-kilter solos and comping of the brilliant and underrated pianist Elmo Hope and the sparkling complexity of drummer Philly Joe Jones. While altoist Lou Donaldson is deeply in the sway of Charlie Parker, Brown sets his own course, whether it's the boppish "Cookin'" or the standard "You Go to My Head."
The final nine tracks [recorded August 28, 1953] have Art Blakey's drums driving the sextet, while altoist Gigi Gryce's understated concentration acts as an effective foil to Brown's joyous, dancing lines. Taken at a medium up-tempo, "Cherokee" is one of Brown's most effective vehicles. The alternate takes from each session highlight Brown's spontaneous creativity, while Rudy Van Gelder's remastering adds fresh focus to both his gorgeous tone and the explosive drumming.
From Bob Blumenthal's liner notes (2001):

. . . It was at this last session [trombonist J.J. Johnson's first for Blue Note] that [Blue Note founder] Alfred Lion offered the trumpeter a date of his own, which was held on August 28.  By that time, Brown had become a member of Lionel Hampton's orchestra.  he included another Hampton sideman, Gigi Gryce, on alto sax and flute,

as well as Charlie Rouse on tenor.   
Heath was again on bass, together with one of his partners in the recently-formed Modern jazz Quartet, pianist John Lewis.  The drummer was Art Blakey, who would feature Brown on the memorable A Night at Birdland recording for the label six months later. . . .

The final two years of Brown's abbreviated career were spent in partnership with Max Roach and produced his most famous recordings, yet the present performances are in no way inferior.  On the contrary, they announced the musician Blue Note justifiably failed when the sextet session was first released as a New Star on the Horizon--a star that unfortunately shone all too briefly.
Beside musical delight, this recording has personal significance to me: it took place the very day I emerged from the womb into the light. 

I sometimes romantically imagine the synchronicity of Brownie's wailing in the studio and mine in labor and delivery.

C'mon, by how many hours could I be off?