The Lost Chord
Melodic phrases drift through the studio door. I close my eyes and visualize a brilliant sunrise beckoning me up the lonely path to the crest of the ridge. Inner stirring of sadness builds as the tempo of his playing reaches new heights. Suddenly the music stops. After moments drag by, I realize he's re-writing the song that appeared complete to the untrained ear. The mood of a musician directs his path.
My interest in music expanded when I met Jim. Here is an intelligent, educated man with a degree in engineering, whose passion for music has consumed 39 of his 43 year life. Inside his small studio, crammed with musical equipment and mementos of past fame, sits a man at peace with himself. Adorning the walls are pictures of the cosmos depicting the spiritual awareness that guided him to the life he chose to lead.
Entering the studio or "my retreat" as Jim refers to it, I glance quickly at his array of musical toys. Mixers, guitars, keyboards and even a banjo fit into the tiny room. Jim is composing and recording his own instrumentals, the type of music he "loves but probably has no market for." He emphasizes he will "no longer prostitute my music for money" as he did years before. He firmly believes music resonates from the soul and must flow freely.
Jim received his first guitar, a toy, at the age of four. He had shown an aptitude for music and his father, who always wanted to play, thought a guitar would be perfect. His mother set up music lessons with a neighbor so he could learn the basic scales and how to read music at age six. These lessons lasted two years at which time his father bought him a real acoustic guitar. His first electric guitar followed a year later and the formation of his first band. He and three guys played Beatles music and the realization that girls liked musicians soon became apparent. Motown soul music soon followed and the discovery of putting feeling into your music set him on his path.
During his high school years he replaced the Motown sound with Blues. Jimi Hendirix, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Page and Frank Zappa had a profound effect on his playing and still does today. High School party entertainment was furnished by Jim and his band and his first paying gigs surfaced.
After graduation the music kept flowing and his first professional band, "Jimi the Flame and His Band With No Name," hit the scene. Bookings in clubs and bars followed in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. for the next 3 years. Life became a blurred vision of drugs, smoky bars and women. "Waking up at 4:00pm to start the next day began to take it's toll," Jim recounts sadly. "The more pot you smoked, the better the music sounded and the more women you picked up was not what I believed music should be" Jim stated. Starting to question my values and lifestyle was a rude awakening. Breaking up the band was difficult and giving up an easy income was insanity but I had to do it. There had to be a reason God gave me this talent.
Switching to Jazz at this time, he enrolled in music lessons at Charlie Bird's Music School in Washington, D.C. He found a menial job and supplemented his income by giving music lessons. After two years of near poverty he decided he needed a profession and moved to Florida and enrolled in a university. A four year engineer degree ahead of him and hefty tuition, he started a two piece band, "Jim N I." They played every weekend at a local bar and became very well known. This band later added a 3rd partner and became known as "Little Wing."
Graduation and the breakup of the band coincided along with his employment with I.B.M. Working as an engineer was interesting although he felt, "something in life was missing." Only when he returned to his music was he at peace with himself and his surroundings.
Once again he joined a band but this time it was different. It was an Arabic band and the music had to be transcribed from Arabic to Western notation. This adventure lasted 5 years and they had a repertoire of 85 songs. Working with a different ethnic culture brought a broader understanding to the power of music in healing our differences and breaking down barriers. "Music tells a spiritual story and is known as a peacemaker," Jim concludes quietly. "All these years of playing for money never gave me the satisfaction as of watching Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Arabs together listening to the chords of friendship."
Concluding his narrative, my attention is drawn again to the pictures on the wall. I began to 'see' the flow of the higher self through his interpretation of the music.
Leaving his studio I pause as the music continues to flow toward the 'Lost Chord.'