Yanda Down the Road

Two young men met in college, became room-mates and good friends, discussed music and philosophy and all manner of things over an occasional beer (perhaps several occasional beers), then they both set off traveling through time. 

The last time I saw my old buddy, Jim Yanda, was some 30 years or so ago.  And yet , when seeing him ago last week, there was that old cliché of feeling (on one or two levels, at least) that no more than a few days had passed.  Oh sure, we both wear the changes that time has wrought upon us.  We are both married now, and Jim has an eleven-year-old son who is polite, thoughtful , and very intelligent (I suppose I would expect nothing else, in a way).  Pony, Rufus, and I went to visit Jim and his family in a small, New Jersey town, and had a fine dinner of Iowa pork chops (from his family’s farm), a salad with fresh tomatoes (from their small, backyard garden) and a bottle or two of red wine. 

Pony and Ellen (Jim’s wife) got along immediately.  Ellen is a writer and editor, and as Pony is in the thick of working on her own first novel, they chatted enthusiastically about writing and related topics. 

Jim and I did some of the expected catching up: comparing notes on fellow college classmates, recounting what each of us had been up to in the intervening years and such.  I had brought along my two guitars.  I wanted to show Jim these guitars that Edward Dick had built for me; not so much to show off, as such, but because I get such a pleasure playing them, and I felt Jim is one of my friends who could appreciate a well-made instrument.  We ended up sitting down with my guitars and jamming on a few tunes.  And, of course, we talked about music, and where we have travelled on that fantastic journey, too. 

We traded CD’s: I gave Jim copies of my two newest, and he did the same.  I have been listening to Jim’s CD’s on the car stereo since.  Jim started out playing in rock and country bands in his high school years (like most of us, really).  Then he heard jazz, and it fired his imagination.  He arrived at Coe College with a rather spare knowledge of music (he took the music fundamentals class his first year of college, to acquire a foundation in the basic elements that had been missing from his early, rather informal musical education).  Jim’s hard work, his immersion in all things musical, was really something of an inspiration to me at the time. 

Listening to his CD (“Regional Cooking”), I am pleased to hear the essence of Jim in his playing.  There is the thoughtfulness, the intensity, the energy….all the things that are an integral part of Jim. 

Over the years, I have had various students (mostly young, teenage boys) ask me who is the best guitarist.  I gradually came up with an answer that satisfied me, if not them.  There is no way that you can compare Andres Segovia, Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen, John Scofield, or countless other magnificent players, and say that one is better than all the others.  What I could say is that I can hear about five to ten seconds of any one of those players and recognize them by the way they play.  And that, I believe, is the goal: to reach a point where who you are is able to come through in your playing.  Listening to Jim’s CD’s, I can hear that he has come into his own in just this way.  It was great seeing him (and hearing him) again. 

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  1. Jim Yanda says:

    Dude, you give good blog 😉
    Thanks so much for your kind words.
    What a pleasure it was to visit and enjoy some music after so many years. And we so enjoyed the company of your lovely wife Leone. She is a treasure and you are a lucky man my friend! Mike you’re the creative, poetic, troubador musical spirit you always were. Kudos for living your dream and sharing your findings with the world. There are many of us who are living vicariously through you as you journey through America. And we look forward to continuing to follow you on your adventures and look forward to your next trip through NJ! All the very best, Jim, Ellen, and Aaron.

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