Music takes the boredom out of long drives

A car ride without music can be an exercise in tedium.

Fireworks arched over the Catskills ahead of us as our daughter Pisie drove Ellie and me home on Saturday night, drawing us northward with slow, silent blossoms of blue, red and silver.

We’d left Assateague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore in mid-afternoon, the last beach time of our vacation. The miles wearied us despite a Starbucks recharge. Pisie said, “It’s boring to drive with no music in the car.”

I tuned around the radio, seeking something, anything, to keep her un-bored. But the radio signals played hide-and-seek among the mountains, surging like a parade coming around a corner, then fading, fading. A smooth-classical station played “Venus” from Holst’s “The Planets” and almost put us out.

We got lucky for a few miles with WDST, cracking up when the DJ introduced some commercials then vetoed them to play more music instead. Then she faded like the fireflies darting along the shoulders of the Thruway. Lame commercial pop came in, out, and when they whispered in again, I tuned away, annoyed.

Then we got seriously un-bored. Bebop burst out on WAMC. “The Tim Coakley Jazz Show” kept Pisie and me interested and awake the rest of the way home as Ellie dozed in the backseat.

Rescued by radio

Pisie was right, of course: “It’s boring to drive with no music in the car,” and I remembered other radio-powered road trips.

Wolfman Jack on XERB from Monterrey, Mexico, tugged me and Jack O’Donnell all the way from Monterey, Calif., to L.A. once, shouting with the music, intoning dedications in a fervent voice for those hoping just this one song might bring back the love.

When I left Pueblo, Colorado alone after a summer of backpacking in the Sangre de Christo Mountains, I followed a thunderstorm heading east, like me. I drove into and through it and tuned in an Indianapolis station, playing the good stuff. Hour after hour, that same station compassed me toward home. When I hit Indianapolis, I found my way to the station. In its one lighted room, a thin, long-haired, fidgety guy was up out of his chair yelling along to “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. In the car, passing by: me, too.

But, I digress.

Back to the “Tim Coakley Jazz Show” on Saturday. I don’t remember the songs, intros or themes that united his show. But I regretted turning it off to drag ourselves inside when we got home after eight hours on the road.

Tim, also a Gazette copy editor, was designated a Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association recently, honored for 25 years of his WAMC show, for running A Place for Jazz, and for writing reviews for The Gazette.

On Jay Street

But probably the one thing Tim enjoys most about all this is actually making jazz himself with his own trio and other traditional bands. He’s doing that today, free, with Skip Parsons’ Clarinet Marmalade as part of the 19th Jazz on Jay season. The other Marmalade ingredients are Parsons himself, playing clarinet and saxophone, trombonist Woody Strobeck, pianist Rich Skrika, and banjoist Crick Diefendorf.

If the weather is good — it COULD happen! — catch them at noon on Jay Street near Ambition. If not, they’ll play indoors at Proctors Robb Alley.

More jazz

The Brian Patneaude Quartet makes jazz on Friday at 7 p.m. in the “Upbeat on the Roof” free series at Skidmore’s Tang Museum (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs). Then they play Druthers (381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) on Saturday at 7 p.m. The lineup on both gigs is tenor saxophonist Patneaude, pianist Dave Payette and bassist Mike DelPrete, But drummer Nick Coyne, who filled in so ably with trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval at Proctors earlier this year, plays with them at Upbeat on the Roof at the Tang on Friday and Danny Whelchel plays at Druthers on Saturday. Phone 580-8080 for the Tang and 306-5275 for Druthers.

Afro-pop at Music Haven

Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure was rained out last Sunday at Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) but our most international free concert series maintains its African flavor this Sunday with South African singer Lorraine Klaasen & African Connexion. The daughter of pop icon Tandie Klaasen, she’s a disciple of the late, great Miriam Makeba. Both her latest album and this show pay tribute to Makeba. Umoja African Dance opens this free 7 p.m. show.

Two Row Festival

The Mohawk has taken a bad beating this year, so the Two Row Festival is right on time: Canoeists from the Haudenosaunee Nation and others will paddle the river to symbolize the reconciliation of native people and later arrivals and the harmony between humans and nature. Visit for details on the paddle trip and other festivities on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, music, storytelling and other activities welcome the Haudenosaunee paddlers at the Mabee Farm (Route 5S, Rotterdam Junction) Dutch Barn. Troubadour John Roberts sings at 1:15 p.m., Everest Rising fuses bluegrass and jazz at 2:15 p.m., George Ward sings Erie Canal songs at 3:15 p.m., Roots of Change performs message music at 4:30 p.m., and Three Quarters North rocks bluegrass at 5:15 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment

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