God Bless America!

"God Bless America, land that I love..."
Born-raised in Kiev, I am no Slav,
Ethnic? -- Musician! Yes, people first!
I lust for learning quenching my thirst!

As this Century's ending, people join groups
Preaching same truths round the loops
I play my sax for the love, not the dime
In spite of what they think, and also do rhyme

Apples and oranges, themes and styles --
Who has the time to read poems in piles
In addition to laundry, exercise, diet
Add Internet?! - Hard to get quiet!!!

Some meditate, some shop for clothes
Some become famous, and overdose
Some do health food, chiropractors and such...
Who is to say?! To each their own crutch!

God Bless America, my final home
Where ideas are free to roam
Nothing is perfect on this tiny Earth
"God Bless The Child" with health, love and mirth!!!

Saturday, March 21, 1998, 5:28:30 PM

Copyright © Arkady

P. S. Have a ridiculous day!:)!

Think Different

 
 
Moscow - Kiev - On The Hudson
The Other Side...

Arkady's life has been occasionally compared to this wonderful movie -- "Moscow On The Hudson". Saxophone, from "Russia", Immigrant struggles in America -- those are among the obvious reasons why, but there are also other parallels, including this one...

Arkady's first job in the USA, was a dishwasher in Bloomingdales Department Store

in New York City...

 

More "Moscow On The Hudson" Video Clips here  

Recalls Arkady:

When I was interviewed for that dishwasher job, I was asked what my career aspirations were. So I said:

"I want to be a musician!"

"Do you like Jazz?", was the next question.

"Of course, I love Jazz!!!", I said. And so the lady asked me to name some Jazz artists that I liked.

I said that there were too many, but if I had to name a few, I would of course have to include Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan... Then I kept going with my list of Jazz heroes, and various other artist who have inspired me!

Similar to this very funny video excerpt from Moscow On The Hudson, as it was my first few months in NYC, my English was very primitive!

 

(or here is another copy of the same video clip)

So during that Bloomingdales job interveiw, I did my best to explain how hard it was "Back In The USSR" to get Jazz recordings, or even any recordings from the "West"! What people ended up with was mostly 2nd, or 10th generation reel to reel cassette copies of LP records. Those original LP's sometimes cost an equivalent of an average monthly salary of a Soviet citizen! We had to borrow and copy those treasured LP's very carefully, so that they would still look new, and maybe could be re-sold, traded etc! Having the Original LP's back then was considered a Status Symbol... 

With time I have collected a small library of my own cassettes, in addition to the cassettes that I have inherited from my brother Alex, trombonist, who came to New York a few years before me. It was a small eclectic collection which I treasured!

I listened to those recordings over and over again, shuffling the order of songs, and music styles, jumping from Charlie Parker to Herbie Hancock (Chamelion), to Ray Charles, to Mahavishnu Orchestra, to Deep Purple, to Stevie Wonder, to Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Otis Redding, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Aretha Franklin, Jesus Christ Superstar, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Wayne Shorter, Chicago, Dave Brubeck, Jimi Hendrix, etc, alternating all that stuff with Classical and Folk Music on LP's and on our old Black and White TV, whenever it was working, kind of..., after a few hits with a fist, or a hammer, in just the right spot...:)!

But those reel to reel tape machines were horrible! They "ate" those cassettes, which were low quality to begin with, and thus ripped easily! We had to use either glue, or some low quality scotch tape-like stuff, if we were lucky to have it, to put those reel to real cassettes back together, cause the tape often broke! Sometimes I had to get inside the tape machine! It would require taking that tape machine apart, and then slowly and gently untangling the tape out from its guts!!!

The Playback Speed was always changing, because the cassettes were copied from a copy, and somewhere in that chain of copies there were incorrect speeds! Or the belts on those tape machines would stretch, thus slowing down the speed, which would lower the pitch! The LP turntables were another obvious suspect too, as far the speed, and thus the pitch accuracy! I sometimes had to wonder what the real key of a song was! It was really annoying to know the actual key that a saxophone on a recording was playing in, as far as the notes fingerings, yet it would sound in wrong key, because of all flawed cassettes copies, and ailing tape machines, or turntables!

No wonder those ailing machines made me dislike transcribing music, which is considered one of the best ways to learn Jazz! The transcribing would have involved constant rewinding and stopping, and those tape machines were already on their last legs, barely holding up, "eating" tapes even more often, because the glue, or and scotch tape, that was used to repair those cassettes, would get caught in those machines!

But then, not all was lost, because, partially out of necessity, and because of my curiosity, I enjoyed listening to, singing and playing along with those recordings at half speed, so that I could hear and immitate every note, every breath etc. I got into that Slow Speed Listening habit through my brother, Alex, as I listened to him transcribe Jazz Solos, while I was practicing in another room! As I recall those days now, I appreciate that experience even more! It forced both of us to really focus on what we were listening to, and what specifically we were trying to hear! We had to tune out each other, and all else in our lives! Alex was focused on matching the playing that he heard on tape, while tuning out my practicing! I had to tune out Alex, and his Jazz stuff, as I was practicing my classical clarinet a few feet away in another room! There was no sound isolation, no earphones! It was just a matter of focusing on the source content, and tuning out everything else!

By the time Alex left for a America, I have inherited not only his beat up tape machine and the cassettes, but also some priceless memories! Such Selective Listening was essential for those Jazz Transcriptions sessions, which involved: hearing and matching every nuance by playing it back at slow speed along with the tape, aiming for a flawless unison with the soloist on that recording, and then transcribing it with a pencil and paper notation! That was before computers, Finale Music Notation Software, and various Transcription Software tools that exist today!!! Of course all that Rewinding and Slowing Down of tape took its toll on that tape player! By the time I inherited it from my brother, it was pretty beat up, chewing tape, making transcribing very unappealing!

As I did my share of such Slow, "Magnifying Glass" Type of Listening, I would stare at the photos of my musical heroes! I've taped those photos to my walls, and I'd study every grin, every shoe lace, every tie, every wrinkle on each face! I tried to imagine what those artists might have been thinking or saying in those photos! I didn't know how famous they were, how well they did in polls, and whom I was supposed to like, and why! I didn't know how many records they sold, which awards they won, whom they dated, and other trivia about them that had little, if anything, to do with music!

Since I didn't have photos of all musicians that I listened to, never mind having magazines, or newspaper articles about them, most of the time I didn't know what they looked like, or if they were even alive! I often didn't know the names of the songs, and albums that I was listening to! Why? Because I rarely even glanced at the original LP's of those recordings! It was illegal for the citizens in the former USSR to own Xrox type of copying machines! Such technology could have been used for spreading forbidden literature, and thus one could go to jail! So I don't even recall seeing photo copies of those LP's most of the time, never mind being able to read the Liner Notes!  

I just loved the music I heard, the notes that were being played, and what those notes did to me! I was dreaming about America (USA)! I craved hearing those musicians live, being able to meet them, and talk with them! I wanted to go where that music was from - USA! That is what was on my mind back then, as I was starring at those photos. I also used to stare at my mono speaker, and my mental image was that, if I could only get inside that speaker, and walk through a long tunnel, I would come out on "The Other Side", somewhere in Manhattan!  But, if nothing else, I just wanted to be with my brother, Alex, again, and he lived in NYC!

Such was my childhood's "MTV, YouTube, Disney World, sports, computer games " etc!!!

So those was some parts of the story that I tried to tell that lady in Bloomingdales, who was interviewing me for a job of a dishwasher! Silly me! She probably didn't expect such long Dostoyevsky Novel type of an answer... :)!

Then that lady asked me if I liked Gerry Mulligan!

"Of course"!!!, I said, and then I immediately hummed a melody from one of a few Gerry Mulligan cassettes that I listened to back in Kiev, Ukraine, my home town -- the song was "Makin' Whoopee"!!! My assumption was that, if I knew that song in Kiev, where it was hard to get, then surely in America everybody would know all those songs that I heard in Kiev, plus much more music!

That "Makin' Whoopee" was "it" for her! The lady smiled, and hired me on the spot, right there and then!!!!

I was so happy to be hired! It felt as if I just won a lotto! It was my first job in America! Minimum wage, W2, $3.25 per hour, minus taxes, of course:)! I was making my own money!!!

The Bloomingdales gave me a few T-Shirts to wear as uniform. I was happy, because that part time job worked with my schedule, as I attended Mannes College of Music, that was also on New York's Upper East Side. I could walk to work, which saved me a Subway token! And it allowed me time to practice!

But that job didn't last too long, because I ate too many of those delicious Bloomingdales Quiche Pies, drank too much Fresh Squeezed Bloomingdales carrot juice, shhhh:)!, while practicing my English with the customers, who were eager to hear me talk about Life in the USSR! So I got fired! But then soon after, I was re-hired by Bloomingdales to fold shirts, and arrange them by sizes and styles.

Hey, I had to start somewhere...

Maybe one day I'll do what everyone has been telling me  -- write a book! But then it would be too long! And who's gonna read it, unless I am famous:)!? Plus it takes time to write a book, so then who is gonna practice for me, and look for gigs etc?!

But, if my dream comes true, and I get to travel the world, playing my original music, then I'd have more time to type on my Macbook Pro, or iPad. I love using those joyful devices, particularly when I fly!!! Thank You, Apple!

For now, I'll just say this:

There are many stories that could end up in my book! I don't know if I'll call it "Moscow, or Kiev, On The Hudson -- The Real Story", or "Moscow - Kiev On The Hudson -- The Arkady Story", or just simply "The Arkady Story", or something else ... We'll see... Some of those stories are "Can't Make It Up" type of stuff!!!

One of the greatest privileges of my life was that I had an honor of sharing some of those stories with one of my biggest heroes, the late Saxophone Giant - Michael Brecker, during his Big Fight! That "Michael Chapter" became a huge part of my life! It is enough for a book by itself, at least... "Can't Make It Up" was one of the "themes" between Michael and I....

What matters to me, more than anything these days, is to play my own music, and, if I do it well, then my stories will come out through my music!!!!

If you ever run into Robin Williams, please tell him that he is one of my Heroe's, and give him a big hug for me!

That's all...

Thank You for your Time, and Support!

God Bless The Child!!! God Bless America!!!

Please stay tuned!

    -- Arkady, NYC, USA 

Last Edited on July 4, 2013

P.S. It's Tuesday, August 12, 2014 3:28 AM, and I am among MILLIONS of people, who are HEARTBROKEN from the news of Robin Williams' passing yesterday! R.I.P.

 

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