Timing is Everything

by vernsanders on October 7, 2011

As I write this, the news of Steve Jobs‘ passing has just been released. Jobs seemed to have an impeccable sense of timing when it came to products (and especially product design) and when/how to announce those new products to the public. Who knows how his final departure from Apple will affect the tech industry, but there is no question that his loss would be looked at as bad timing at almost any time in the company’s history.

The sense of timing, as it is used in the title of this post,  most often refers to those who appear to be “lucky” or shrewd, especially when it comes to making decisions…big decisions…that are gambles. It carries with it the implication that being in the right place, at the right time, is a gift, or some cosmic chance.

But, as most of you know, musicians use the expression differently. And this is a post about music, more than anything. More about that in a minute.

As I seldom do, today I looked at the title of the ipod shuffle piece that is scheduled for this particular post in the sequence of these blog entries. If you’ve been following along, this piece is about halfway through my quest to let my ipod shuffle through every tune that was on it when I pressed the shuffle button in May of 2010. I’m actually a little farther along than the title below, and I keep a running list of tunes to be referenced at the bottom of these posts. (You can read more about the quest here, if you wish.) There is no system to the tunes that I choose to feature, except that they strike me for a particular reason, as they go by. Many of the tunes that are listed here are pieces that I hit the “repeat” button on, but many are not. But I am amazed at the timing of how the pieces relate to the post topics, without any advance planning on my part.

So, if you haven’t already looked below, today’s tune is by Eva Cassidy, someone else whose passing seemed to many to be incredibly bad timing. This is one of her “signature” tunes, and I’ve added a video at the bottom of this post to illustrate the title of this post. Eva Cassidy had impeccable timing, which is abundantly on display in the video.

The list of artists with that kind of timing is, depending upon your viewpoint, either short, or very short. Sinatra had it, as did Oscar Peterson, Elvis, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Chet BakerBill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and James Brown, to name just a few. Count Basie had a supreme sense of timing, and the master was, in my opinion, Freddie Green, who most people don’t know, because it is said that he only played one solo in his life. Click his name there, to discover this legendary talent. The Eagles have it; James Taylor has it, and so does Wynton Marsalis. In some part this topic was on my mind because a week ago or so, I was at Pac Bell Park for a celebration of Tony Bennett‘s 85th birthday, and he sang God Bless America, a cappella, which demonstrated once again, his impeccable timing.

In the musical sense, timing is a gift. You can develop it, to be sure, but just as some people have incredible God-given voices, other people have that metronome in their head, and the special sense of when to put a note in front of, or behind, or precisely on the beat, for best results…or leave an extended space and do nothing at all.

I’m sure I’ve left some of your favorites out. I’d love to hear which musicians you think have great timing, and whether or not you do, or your choir, band, or orchestra does (because group timing, as the Basie band so wonderfully illustrated, has an amazing effect). Please leave a comment and let me know who should be on the list.

Ipod shuffle status: 3323 (Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy)  of 7875

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