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Remedy for Government Shutdown Blues? Jazz

10/14/2013 04:41 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Let's face it.  We're all weary from world affairs, grim about the government, drowning in debt fret from floor to ceiling.  We're suffering from shutdown shenanigans and overcome with Obamacare overkill. Everyone's sagging and dragging, tuning OUT the news, turning OFF the lights, and turning IN by 9pm.  It's enough to give us agita with our morning java.  

Lately Capitol Hill seems more like kindergarten.  It's less adult dialogues and scholarly debates than childish temper tantrums; it's all one big kids' game of tug of war.  Congressional children need more than a time out.  What the government needs to UPlift us from the shutDOWN blues? Jazz.

After all, music soothes the savage beast.  And there's plenty of wild legislators roaming the government corridors that could use some calming down.  Jazz dudes may have found the elixir:  jazz is Xanadu minus the Xanax.

Forget affordable care - it's too expensive.   Let's try jazz. Inject the politicians with a free dose of Duke or Dizzy.   Instead of a flu shot, give 'em a shot of bebop, bossa nova or Brubeck.  Replace bullying with Basie.  Give 'em some Gershwin or Gillespie.  That'll keep 'em young and peppy.  These savvy jazz guys sure can teach the government guys a thing or two about life, attitude, and wisdom.

Obama even said it himself:

A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence..or a good piece of music.  Everybody can recognize it.

So perhaps he should take his cue from the jazz elders.  It hit me when I heard the smooth sounds of Tony Bennett streaming through my i-pod.  Tony turned 87 in August, and he's going strong.

And Anthony Dominick Benedetto  is not alone.  He's in great company with a savvy, snappy bunch of dudes (and dames) who are crooning, humming and strumming their way though life with grace, sparkle, and joie de vivre.

Yup. Seems like jazz guys grow to a ripe old age while government guys fade young.  Just check out the graying hairs, receding hairlines and sallow complexions of our frenetic Congressmen. Lately I've met a bunch of bopping jazz musicians 80 years old and up.  And there's no stopping them.  

Here's the evidence:

1. O.E.M. - Office of Emergency Management? Nope.  I call it O.ctogenarian E.xuberance in M.usic.  Musicians seem to have that intangible innate sense of all that's right with the world.  They 've got it in their bones.  They can handle any emergency with a flatted 5th faster than you can say "financial tailspin."  Musical Approach? Instantaneous improv works better than long-term disaster planning.

2. Bob Dorough, creator of Schoolhouse Rock (Three is a Magic Number), just released a new CD (Bob Dorough Duets) at the ripe age of 89.  He's one exuberant, pony-tailed hipster with a vibrancy that would make any Congressman green with envy.  With the energy of a teen-ager, he's played with Miles Davis, performs for children's hospitals, records and commutes from Manhattan gigs to his home in rural Pennsylvania.

3. GW vs GW vs GW - George Wein (a cross between Irving Berlin and a Jewish Pete Seeger) just turned 88, the number of keys on a piano.  A hilarious raconteur and pianist, he's the original jazz impresario.  Agile and focused, the founder of the Newport and New Orleans jazz festivals is a non-stop visionary.  A college grad, he opened the legendary Storyville club, booking acts from Nat King Cole to Stan Getz.  A cool kat from the beginning...he's not Wein-ding down anytime soon.

G.W. Bush 43 loves listening to Duke Ellington; Bush 41 listened to George Jones to pump him up: "when I need a little free advice about Saddam Hussein, i turn to country music."

4. Ahmad Jamal vs Ahmad-inejad - The Iranian official Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always looked tense behind that cheshire cat grin;  Ahmad Jamal, who just turned 83, is as suave and vibrant as they come. One's tight, the other's relaxed. If only House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had attended Jamal's recent concert with Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) band; if only they'd heard Ahmad Jamal's signature tune Poinciana, the two opposing politicians would have left as camp buddies, bopping and strutting  ... and the  shutdown would have been curtains.

5. Clint Eastwood - the former mayor of Carmel, California and a jazz-o-phile, I'd venture to say, would rather create film soundtracks than pontificate on the podium.  Check out the Bridges of Madison County score, featuring jazz greats Johnny Hartman and our friend Ahmad Jamal. Clint might be drafted into election, but i guess he'll cross that bridge....

6. The Two Tony's -  Tony Bennett, at age 87, is a musical icon and the real deal.  A blend of political activist and musical pacifist, he marched in 1965 at Selma  with Martin Luther King; this year he performed at a "Realize the Dream" rally for gun control and Voices against Violence.  From old standards like The Lady Is a Tramp to duets with Lady Gaga, the silver haired Bennett's still got that swing.

Tony (Antony) Blinken - the other salt-and-pepper haired Tony, Deputy National Security Adviser to Obama, is a political wunderkind.  A think tank scholar, he once played in a Parisian Jazz band. Which just might be why he uses jazz terminology in talk about foreign affairs -- explaining that speechwriters should establish a theme and then have the freedom to riff.  His policy? More riff, less tiff.

Ok, class, let's sum up.  Obama & Co., Dems & Repubs have all been pretty darn obstinate.  Compromise has not been an option. I say enough rigidity.  How about a little flexibility?  In jazz we've got a little something called improvisation.

Give and take.  Politicians should try it.  Along with a strong dose of jazz.  So here are my suggestions:

a) Bi-Partisan Bossa Nova
- Hook up the Congressional hearings and legislative sessions to an ipod and stream in some Getz and Jobim.  It's a given: all nerves simmer down with samba.

b) Pass a Siestas Bill - instead of session break, enforce jazz siestas in between negotiations.  Milk and cookies? Nope, jazz naps.

c) Hire musical consultants 80 years or older.  Let them teach the jazz basics of chords and harmony; it will carry over into peaceful politics.

d) Dapper Duos - Teach the Dems & Reps to play duets; try some vocal exercises, a cappella or accompanied by instruments - saxophones, flutes, drums, vibraphones, and bass.  Let the Congressional players find their inner Coltrane; get to the soul, think less, play more, let go and watch them meet more than halfway. 

e) Guest Lecturers - Make Congress a Campus: Send in the Elders - get Stephen Sondheim; Tony Bennett, Pete Seeger, or Clint Eastwood.  They can teach the dullest speakers about harmonic suspensions and musical dissonance, but they'll end up long term with sweet harmony.  Jazz music brings peace and longevity. Improvise and you shall compromise. 

And then the politicians, in the words of 72- year old Dylan, will stay forever young.