Ichiro: A Baseball Artist Reaches 3,000

At 42, Ichiro Suzuki is just a few hits shy of becoming the 30th player to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. He could get there as early as this weekend and, in his sixteenth big-league season he will become the second fastest to achieve this, behind only career hits leader Pete Rose. When he does crank out hit number 3,000, he will join Hall-of-Famers Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor as the only players with at least 3,000 hits, 500 or more stolen bases and a career batting average over .300. That, ladies and gentleman, is what is known as select company. Reaching 3,000 hits speaks to both talent and endurance and is an achievement rivaled only by 300 wins for a pitcher, or 500 home runs for a slugger. It's always marked and celebrated, but Ichiro's case is special, more of an historic landmark that goes beyond the boundaries of baseball norms. He will become the first non-American player to reach this rarefied plateau. And, more importantly, he will become the first - and likely the only - player to do so after beginning his major-league career at the fairly late age of 27. He came to the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 after a sensational nine-year career in Japan with the Orix Blue Wave, which made him that country's most famous athlete, known simply as "Ichiro". He began his pro career in 1992 at 18 and might have become a star sooner, except that his hidebound manager Shõzõ Doi refused to accept his unorthodox batting stance and "pendulum" more [...]

Taken, Given

Two important musicians - pianist Don Friedman and trumpeter Erich Traugott - died in late June. I was late in hearing about both because I was unconnected for a few days, off playing at the Rochester Jazz Festival. It's often said that bad news comes in threes, but in this case these two losses were counteracted about a week later by some good news: major donations of jazz material to the Sound and Moving Images Library and the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University, celebrated by a very nice reception. And so it goes in jazz: an ebb and flow of loss and gain, give and take. Don Friedman. Pianist-composer Don Friedman died at 81 on June 30 in New York, of pancreatic cancer; by all reports it was quick. He was an intelligent, challenging musician with a style by turns rigorous and gentle, but always thoroughly original. He was perhaps better known and regarded by fellow musicians than the jazz public at large: it always seemed to me he was less recognized and appreciated than he deserved except in Japan, where he had a considerable following. He was born in San Francisco and took up the piano at four, studying for ten years with the same teacher and showing a natural aptitude for classical piano. This was later reflected in his jazz work, which showed technical brilliance, but with a disciplined sense of structure and form even when he was playing "free". When he was fifteen, his family moved to Los Angeles just as the West Coast jazz movement more [...]

Jazz String Theory

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" - William Shakespeare, from Hamlet. Yesterday a friend sent me a YouTube clip of Paul Gonsalves and Chick Corea playing Corea's signature "Windows" in 1966, with Aaron Bell on bass and Louie Bellson on drums. No, that's not a typo.......... even before listening to it, I was astonished by its mere existence. I mean, Paul Gonsalves and Chick Corea?!? They're not a pair you'd put together in a million years; they're at least a generation apart and would seem to be oil and water, musically speaking. When you think Gonsalves, you think Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Newport '56, Billy Strayhorn, Clark Terry, Sam Woodyard, innumerable scenes of wanton inebriation and one of the most relentlessly original tenor saxophone voices of all time.Think Corea and you think Blue Mitchell Quintet, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, NOW HE SINGS, NOW HE SOBS, Return to Forever, "Spain", the Elektric Band and many other things, none of them remotely Ellingtonian. And yet, here they are, from a four-tune Mercer Ellington session (Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney are on the other three numbers.) Here's "Windows" - the only thing wrong with it is that, like most good things, it's too short: This is the first recording of "Windows", a full year before Corea and Stan Getz tackled it on Getz's SWEET RAIN album. There's a Microsoft joke in there somewhere, think of this as Windows 1.0. The song was more [...]