Oct 222011

By Rich Lindbloom

There’s probably a good chance most of you do not know who the trumpeter pictured above is. I knew very little about this virtuoso, Miles Davis, other than what I gleaned from Terry Hemmert’s Jazz transfusion show that used to play late Sunday nights. (And of course a little WBEZ) Back in 1991, my wife and I attended an outdoor concert in a field just north of the Field Museum on the spur of a moment. I think she asked me what kind of music it was, and I said, “I’m not sure, but I know the guy is a legend.” The truth about jazz is it’s the antipode of what producers try to sell us, what with the “hooks” and such of modern popular music. Live jazz is the unexpected, boldly creative, “out on a limb” risk taking.(Think Dustin Byfuglien abandoning his defensive post.) Clearly it’s poetry without rhyme. Most of the time, unless you’re the Tribunes great jazz reporter, Howard Reich, it’s a venture into the unknown.

As Nathalie and I took are seats, decidedly in the minority, we took in the sights and sounds of the jazz world. It made me smile to think that some of these jazz aficionado’s thought we know something about jazz. Ha! Mile’s Davis’s band took the stage, sans Miles, and started into a whirlwind funk type of thing. (I’m pretty sure Howard would like to punch me in the face for that description– see, hockey does have similarities to jazz!) After a few minutes, a slender dude with big sunglasses joined them on stage, trumpet in hand. As he took to his front and center position, he raised the trumpet to his lips and blew one note.

As great as the other crack jazz musicians in his group were, as soon as Miles blew that note you knew who was in charge. It was sort of a “Do I have your attention now?” moment. Regrettably, he passed away later that year at the age of 65. I was so thankful that I was able to see this jazz great before he passed on – the man could blow.

Reflecting on Miles made me pause and think; who’s’ the player on the Hawks that blows that one note for us? Who’s the maestro who takes the ice and says, “I’m the reason you’re here.” It dawned on me that on any given night we have three miles Davis’s in the lineup. The Hawks come at you with Toews, Kane and Hossa, each one with the ability to take the front and center position on the stage. We all know Toe can blow – oh yeah. If these three stay healthy, they all have the ability to take over the show. I know it’s early on, but so far it seems are Mile’s type players have been taking turns in jazzing up are opponents. We even have some great second trumpets if they have an off night in Sharp and Bolland. Actually, all five of those Hawks can blow – (for Badgerdano; blow = good.)

I may have to lump Corey Crawford in with the Hawk Jazz greats pretty soon. Both Mr. Big and Varlamov stole the show, among other things, (think of the bank heist of a save he had on Freddy.), in the “off to the races” contest in the Mile High city. One of the guys at Blackhawk down Low was convinced there was a force field around Corey’s net. (Hjarmal’s and Seab’s to be more specific.) As one writer pointed out, “Toews in his awesomeness,” finally solved the enigma between the Av’s pipes, launching a surgical strike backhand into the roof of Varlamov’s cage. That backhand was every bit as inspirational as Mile’s first note back in 1991. When Jonny saw the mere mortals on his team were struggling he decided to take over.

Toews had a very productive game, as did his entire line. “The only thing that ticked me off was when Seabs failed to bury that gift I gave him at the end of the second period,” said #19. “Look, I understand defense is Brent’s number one responsibility, but dang, Big Bad John Scott could have buried that one.” Sharpie also contributed in a big way, netting the game winner with a stealthy worm burner. As Brian Donahue noted, “when Sharp scored, it produced a feeling similar to loosening the belt buckle after Thanksgiving dinner.” Both our top lines, spent a lot of time down low, behind Varlamov – hopefully he still has a stiff neck from turning around so much during that game or their backup goalie gets the call on Saturday.

Danny Carcillo is proving he’s a lot more than a pretty face, threading the needle on his assist to Captain Serious. I thought he had a very strong game against the Av’s, creating just enough havoc to open up a little space for Kaner. Big Hoss doesn’t need anyone to open space for him – he just plows through anything in his way. A sort of an “I’m Marian Hossa, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it,” swagger. There were times out there I thought Kane and Hossa were playing “keep away,” not hockey. The inner-meatball in me is also sort of wondering how long it will be before Carbomb drops the mitts. I’m pretty sure it will be if someone messes with #88.

Hossa had a lot of shots that night – and I learned a valuable lesson in my Fantasy League. If there is even the remotest chance Marian will be dressing, make sure you plug him in the lineup. One of the greatest plays of the night was when two Hawks chased down a Av’s player who initially appeared to be zeroing in on Corey all alone. By the time he got to the top of the faceoff circle, both Hjarmal’s and you guessed it, Hossa, had exclaimed, “Access Denied.” His shorty when he scored on the open net was the icing on the cake – a very valuable point in Fantasy hockey. How about Hjarmal’s hjammer throw in the third! He also had a great block just prior to Hossa’a tally – one of those things that don’t necessarily show up on the score sheet, but have a huge impact on the outcome. I’ll bet there’s a lot of coaches that will be singing that old Pete Seeger song “If I had a Hjammer,” this year.

Speaking of Fantasy hockey, every year it seems I’m faced with the same dilemma; how do I make room to add The Rat. His line, which certainly gives our top lines a run for the money, continues to be an oasis in the desert. Bickell is starting to remind me of a larger version of Troy Brouwer. Did you notice when he tried to check the entire Av’s bench on Thursday? In my graduate study research being conducted on the SecondCityHockey web site, someone noted that they should shave Frolick’s eyebrows off when he’s sleeping. Another astute student said, “Even better, have the whole team, including Q, where fake bushy eyebrows to practice.” Never underestimate the salubrious effect of team building exercises. Did anyone besides me notice the very uncharacteristic slash that Bolland laid on an unsuspecting Av’s fore checker? Maybe there’s a reason some of the other teams top players seem Bollsy as a bane to their existence. Then again, he may have just been going for the puck. Typical “Rat” hockey.

Montador and O’Donnell continue to play steadfast hockey. In regards to O’Donnell’s somewhat surprising play so far, Blackhawk Up ran a picture of # 6, with the caption, “look what I found on the discount rack.” Our third pairing appears to be light years ahead of last year’s squad. And in an incident that I really am starting to like, Montador placed himself right in the middle of an impromptu debate going on outside Crow’s crease. Anyone who thinks they can mess with is skill players, well some words to the wise: think long and hard about that one.

In closing, I actually wondered a lot about how good this Av’s team was. I knew they were 5-1, however their competition other than the Bruins and Wings was a tad suspect. After the second period on Thursday, I came to the decision this is one wild and crazy team. If Varlamov stays healthy, they could make a little a little noise in the West. In fact, we escaped the second period by the skin of our teeth. I wondered if perhaps the thin air was causing us to run out of gas. But as anyone who has been out on vacation to Denver knows, the first few days it’s almost impossible to run out of gas. Something to do with the air pressure I’m told. The Hawks came out flying in the third, no doubt accentuated by a little extra propulsion caused by excessive flatulence. In fact, if you have the Friday Sun-Times handy, take a look at Toews picture as he celebrates his third goal of the season. You can’t tell me he’s not letting one rip there.

Finally, I’m reminded of one more jazz story. My boss gave me 4 tickets to see Arturo Sandoval, another phenomenal trumpeter, awhile back. We asked some friends if they wanted to join us, and his wife said, “I don’t really like jazz.” I assured her that it was not the type of jazz where all the a band members play any note that pops into their head, as my friend Ears so aptly described some jazz. We sat down for the first song and the sax was somewhere in left field, Arturo was in right field, the keyboard was in foul territory and the other members of the band were on their own intergalactic space trips. At one point the sax just plain went crazy and when he finished his solo, one fan in the audience hollered, “Blow!” Cathy turned to her husband and said, “I don’t get this.” Fortunately, Arturo went into a sort of Latin Swing type jazz most of the rest of the night.

In a way it reminds me of this year’s Hawk team. Not sure I get it, actually. No true second center, we’re older and slower and to top it off we added Carbomb. And Q continues to pair Keith and Leddy together-which all the smart blogs I read claim is a big mistake. (personally, I sort of like the upside of the combo.) The good news is, on a given night, we have several players who can “blow.”

As Mark Knopfler Dire Straits sing:

“and now you stop in but you don’t see too many faces,
Coming in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Oh but the horns they blowing that sound

So far that “Kind of Blue” feeling of last year, seems to be dissipating. This Hawk team is starting to make a little sense to me. Blow baby. Blow!

Rich Lindbloom

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