Writing about music, Part 1

From time to time, I’d like to point out some passages of writing about music that I especially like. Here’s one from Stuart Dybek’s superb short-story collection (more of a novel told in stories), I Sailed With Magellan. A stage adaptation of the book will run June 8-July 15 at Victory Gardens Theater, which I wrote about for the June issue of Playbill’s Chicago edition. The wistful final story in Dybek’s book, “Je Reviens,” includes this wonderful description of the protagonist’s uncle performing with a wedding band:

I walked thinking about Uncle Lefty, my godfather. When I was little and he was just back from the POW camp in Korea, he used to take me along on his rounds of the neighborhod taverns. I was considered good therapy for him back then. Later, after he started playing in public again, I’d sometimes go to hear the Gents play wedding receptions held in the back halls of corner taverns. I’d wait for the moment when Lefty switched from his cheap metal clarinet to the tarnished tenor sax that had spent the evening on the bandstand, armed with a number 4 1/2 Rico reed and draped with a white towel Lefty called his spit rag. Swaying drunkenly at the edge of the bandstand, Lefty would launch into a solo with the Bruiser behind him slamming the foot pedal of the bass drum as if flooring the gas and driving his red sparkle Ludwig kit over the edge of the stage, taking the rest of the Gents with him. The dancers whooped and whirled and stomped, but finally were defeated by the tempo and stood on the dance floor gaping and panting while the bridesmaids stumbled dizzily in their disheveled taffeta like deposed prom queens. Lefty blew, possessed and oblivious to the rising imprecations of the wedding guests, who stood on their folding chairs shouting for dance music. Even the pleas of his fellow Gents, all of whom with the exception of the Bruiser had stopped playing, couldn’t silence him, leaving them no recourse but to drag Lefty, still wailing on his horn, off the stage.

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