Somewhere below a frozen Punxsutawney, I hope, there is a frightened groundhog preserved in the stranglehold of its own shadow. Even a weasel knows how to wriggle out of such a burden. While it seems natural to fear an empty projection of oneself, even to begrudgingly hide from its constant lingering, those who refuse to acknowledge its remedy deserve to reside underground, forever.
These days are bleak and this unrelenting winter sucks the life from each breath. Each footprint in the snow is made with a rueful contemplation, as if the next step lies beyond the edge of a cliff. Muscles constantly shiver and ache from the bone-chilling wind, so cold that the thermometer must ingest a little blue pill to keep its mercury up. And throughout the overnight hours, the resourceful well freezes into a solid useless block, the fuel in the furnace runs low, and the personal closets are exhumed of their forgotten atrocities, bringing to the surface the matter-of-fact realization that it has come to this: desperation. But with each new day comes new light.
Whatever inner-turmoil that took place within the James Brown factory during the production of The Payback is outshone by its final product. As the momentum of the late-Sixties gave way, The Boss appeared to be cede his control over the workers in his band, offering little artistic direction other than just six more weeks of the same. Thus, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker emerged from the shadow with a back-and-forth playfulness stemmed from the desperation of having to share the spotlight, using each other as a source of one-ups-manship to break up the hovering grey clouds of a stale routine. While "Shoot Your Shot" is not a landmark recording, or the great thaw of monotony, it does feature moments of individual brilliance and the promise of a brighter musical future of inspired collaboration.
What the lonely rodent truly fears is the desperation which resides in the shadows cast upon by the brilliance of others. But what we have learned, as an evolved species, is that radiant energy transfers with little resistance; we look to others, huddle closely for warmth, and pass the torch. When the world appears to be all shadows, gaze outward towards the source and embrace it. Let it melt your frozen perceptions and flood out the hogs.
Here is a YouTube video of the NBA All-Star Game Halftime Show, featuring Trombone Shorty, for those who may have missed it.
Recommended Reading: Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman by Fred Wesley Jr. Published by Duke University Press.