Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. Last year, to commemorate the occasion, I dedicated a playlist to my mother, the woman I’ve often credited as the biggest influencer of my jazz inclinations. You guys, the readers, seemed to really enjoy it, and so I wanted to make this an annual honor, and this year, I also wanted to reflect on my own experiences as a mother raising a child who, like me, is highly inspired by the music his parents play.
Coming in from my weekend errands a little while ago, I waved at neighbors, and admired the fruits of their gardening labors. Spring is certainly here. As I approached my house on this warm and sunny late morning, I hear the perfect syncopation of a beat that sounds like an ode to J Dilla. Wait…it’s coming from my house. I look up at the window. I’m certain it’s my apartment… and I’m floored that it’s my 3 year old son. I knew he was good, but whoa.
As I come in the door, my mother, who came to spend some quality time with him, reports that he woke up demanding that before he eat or do anything else, he must play his drums. Lo and behold, there he still sits, with his sticks (given to him as a gift from Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson), using his xylophone as the kick and a board game box which he propped on his piano as the snare, perfecting his set. He instructs my mother to get on the microphone and sing, specifically, “Blue Monk”. I can’t help but swell with pride at the honesty, genuineness, and frankly, at the incredibly budding talent exhibited by my dear son… and shake my head with reflection. He’s me all over again. I was the two year old tearing up behind the beauty of John Coltrane’s Ballads album, and singing Ray Charles’ big band arrangements verbatim. Now, my son requests Monk, and has Thundercat, Sade, and Stevie Wonder in his mental Rolodex as sure as he knows “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. What a trip.
Being able to have such a deep spiritual connection with my son which revolves around what we both treasure most… at this age, is something indescribable. The gifts of parenthood are so unexpected. When he was coming into the world, all I knew was that I wanted him to be healthy. You know, the ten fingers and ten toes cliche. Now, uncovering everyday that it is so much more…well, what more can a human being ask for? This Mother’s Day, with my son’s serenade swirling in my head, I’m grateful.
Music is the gift which must be payed forward. So, in honor of my mother, who started this musical ball rolling, here is this year’s playlist. All songs that she played for me when I was growing up. They’re being passed down to our son like the treasures they are, and he’s soaking in every note.
Aretha Franklin – “Holy Moses”
The Jacksons – “Destiny”
Stevie Wonder – “You and I”
Carmen McRae – “Reflections”
Ray Charles – “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”
John Coltrane & Duke Ellington – “Angelica”
Mahalia Jackson – “Didn’t It Rain”
Clifford Brown – “Willow Weep For Me”
Sarah Vaughan – “Trolley Song”