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November 23, 2012


Last time it was martinis and (probably) Stravinsky. This time old fashioneds and Ellington. Wine writers with nothing better to do regularly crank out 1500 words on matching this wine with that food to the enlightenment of almost no one. Yours is a far more promising field based on much empirical evidence; most pre-Coltrane jazz goes effortlessly with bourbon and on the sleeve accompanying my brother's 45 rpm flexi-disc of Bird's definitive Embraceable You it was said that he needed a quart of booze to get through the 3 min. recording. The brand was unspecified but since I believe Bird was less than a year away from the eternal gig elsewhere, no doubt he wasn't all that choosy.

The best Bird anecdote appears in the biography, Bird Lives, in which he turned up for what must have been his first paid performance and asked what key the rest of the ensemble had in mind. Everyone shrugged because they'd never played in anything other than B-flat. Whereas Bird, self-taught, had thought it had to be a professional requirement to play in any or all of them.

Look here I am, starting off with one of my enthusiasms (booze) and sliding sideways into another, at least alliteratively. I am sure the event you allude to was decorous even though an indecorous question arises: halfway through the second old fashioned ("This will definitely be the last.") did that trained voice get the better of you, resulting in a soprano line (G in alt), impeccably on the beat, to the accompaniment of The Mooch? No? How about Christmas then?

Oh, lovely, Beth!

RR: no, didn't sing, except humming along to "Perdido" as I cooked (my own bird, a chicken!) because I have a slight cold and am still recovering from Monday night's upper-register Handel marathon. I got the inspiration to make old-fashioneds as I thought about the many holidays hosted by my maternal grandparents, where this (and martinis) were the drinks of choice. Upstairs, where we lived, my WWII-veteran father preferred to make Manhattans, but of course I was too young for either. Yesterday my husband and guest obliged me -- we had been given a bottle of special blood-orange bitters, another inspiration - but neither of them grew up in WASPy, whiskey-drinking households like I did. We had orange slices, but no cherries, and graduated to wine with the meal, but I privately enjoyed the music and booze combination quite a lot, and your comment made me feel like I had some good company in it! Personal musical history note: somewhere there's a picture of me, as a very little girl, meeting Duke Ellington, who is bending down to shake hands with me. My grandfather was part of a group that hosted him, and he got a Christmas card from Ellington - a real gentleman - every year after that.

Gee I knew you sang like an angel, painted like - hmm, like a Europeanised Gauguin - and that your diary must be choked with scribbles. But I didn't know you were a celebrity.

A celebrity I am most definitely not, Roderick, and I apologize for the name-dropping! (Thank you for these flattering compliments, which are also exaggerations from reality, but cheerfully accepted!)

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.