These days when I drive, I mostly listen to NPR. I hear music all the time at home or on my headphones at work, and sometimes I still can’t resist the urge to hear music in the car, but even then it’s almost always coming from my iPhone. Which is all another way of saying I don’t hear much broadcast music anymore. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it’s just where I find myself these days.
With one exception. About once every week or two I visit Friends of Pipeline CliffP and KariC in Minneapolis for a subdued night of revelry, TV, and maybe a little Coke. Over the many years I have made the journeys back home across the river to St. Paul, it has become my custom to turn the dial to 88.5 FM, KBEM, which is a jazz station. For some reason, whether I’m driving through a sticky summer night, a foggy autumn darkness illuminated by the street lamps on the Marshal Avenue bridge, or a snot-freezing cold Minnesota nightmare, hearing that Jazz Overnight program has always felt right on those late night drives back home.
I think it’s because of the after-midnight host, Bob Parlocha. Despite listening to the guy for years, I only learned his name a couple weeks ago. I’m not sure how that’s possible, because there have been nights the dude did nothing but talk from the entire time I got into my car in south Minny to the time I got out in St. Paul. It’s not idle chit-chat, though. In between songs he’ll go into excruciating detail about what he has played that night, or will play, or won’t play. If there were six guys in a session from the record he just played, you’ll know who all six of those guys were. You’ll know all the other guys those guys played with. You’ll know Bob Parlocha’s personal connections to those guys, when he saw them, what they are doing now. You’ll know everything Bob Parlocha wants you to know, which turns out to be quite a bit. And you might as well settle in, because Bob’s going to take his time telling you all these things.
I don’t know how old Bob is, but he’s one of these jazz warhorses who has been around. You can just hear it in his voice, and he’s in no hurry to spit things out because this…is…Jazz…Overnight. Nobody’s going anywhere, not Bob, not you, not Jack DeJohnette, who played that marvelous session you just heard from Jackie McLean in ’67. Yes, ’67 was a good year for DeJohnette, who also that year was on
the seminal records from…you get the idea. It takes Bob 90 seconds to tell me all of that, but for some reason I can’t change the dial. It’s like Bob’s voice is a sort of jazz instrument all its own. His voice, his cadence…he’s got nothing on Ambien, which may mean this is not the best idea for late night drive-home music.
As Jane and I were driving home from the Bumpkin Hollow Halloween Party this year at CliffP and KariC’s, I introduced her to the mellow sounds of Bob Parlocha. First we heard a great Cannonball Adderly tune, and then, as I hoped, Bob took a break from playing music and decided to talk music. I said to Jane, “Listen to this guy. He’s going to do this, then talk about this, then say this other thing, and we aren’t going to hear another piece of music before we get home. And it won’t matter.” And it all came true, he talked and talked, we didn’t hear another tune, and we didn’t particularly care. We just listened to an old man wax on about music that had clearly consumed his life.
So, as I mentioned, only a couple weeks ago did Bob actually say his name while I was listening. At first I was ecstatic; it was a revelation to finally know the name of the man who had been my co-pilot home for so many years. But then I had a disturbing thought—should I look up a photo of Bob Parlocha? What if, instead of the decrepit and frail Jimmy the Greek look-a-like I imagined, he instead looked like Bob Newhart, or Bob Barker, or Bob Dylan?
I never looked. It’s bad enough I know Bob’s name; I liked it better when he was just a nameless voice in the night, one who was always there, sounded the same and played the same music, even as I got older. But…I’ll get over it. I still prefer to hear the music rather than hear people talk about the music. But sometimes, late at night, you want someone to talk you all the way home while you enjoy the ride.