Yeah, I know! The government, the leaders, and the whole system seems like a total joke lately. Scandals about the IRS, NSA, Benghazi…and we in California had Villagarosa as our Mayor!!  But, you know what? That’s the beauty of the greatest nation in the world’s history. I’ll tell you a story as an example:

About ten years ago, we were having a church dinner, and I was sitting next to someone who told me about his Russian roommate. “Every morning, this guy wakes up, comes to breakfast, and shouts out, ‘George Bush is an IDIOT!’ He does this about five times in a row! One morning, I had to ask him, “Hey, why do you bash our President?” You know what he said? “Because I can.”

That is the beauty of our country: we have freedoms other places only dream of. Sure, they seem to be eroding (Just read Atlas Shrugged), but we still have incredible religious, family and business opportunities. Why else does the world try to come here? For In and Out  Burgers? That is a factor, indirectly.

So, instead of a top ten music list, I’ve put together a list of WHY AMERICA IS THE GREATEST LAND

1)    America started out in 1620 as a place not for religious freedom, but to make it a God Fearing country. My wife is an ancestor of William Bradford, America’s first governor and historian, and his book The Plymouth Plantation is an eye opener.

2)      As a South American President once wrote to Abe Lincoln, “Our people came to this country for gold; yours came for God.” A country based on a love and fear of God is NOT a bad reason for living here. Have we been perfect? By no means, but we always try to learn from our mistakes, which leads to:

3)      What other country had a civil war (which took over 700,000 lives) over the issue of freeing the slaves? Other countries didn’t have to deal with this issue because they just killed off all of their slaves. We try to correct and atone for our sins.

4)      THE US CONSTITUTION-Yes, it gets hammered, and they’ve tried to change it’s intentions, but it’s still one of the most wonderful contributions to Western Civilization. What other country was founded on an IDEA?

5)      In God We Trust, E Pluribus Unim and Liberty-what wonderful concepts to live by?

6)      Where else can you go to a restaurant, owned by a Korean, that serves great French food, which is served by a Mexican with a French mustache? If you go to Italy, all you’re going to get is Italian food-here, just within a mile from my house, you’ve got Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Israeli, Korean, BBQ, Persian, Greek, Chinese, and, oh yes, Italian.

7)      Want to change your belief system? It’s your choice. Do that in some place like Egypt and you and your family risk losing your job, home and life!

8)      Baseball! Sure, it’s slow, but so what? That’s the beauty of it! Every pitch has meaning if you’re a sports nerd, and the voluminous information from the baseball’s statistical history is a glorious way to develop a knowledge of absolutely unimportant information.

9)      Church and church picnics. We are a religious people, and God honors this.

10)   JAZZ! What other music was created only in America! Just like baseball and the Constitution, people have tried to destroy it, but it just keeps coming back.

11)   American novels, biographies and autobiographies. Mark Twain, Oswald Chambers, John Steinbeck, Herman Wouk…oh, my mouth is watering!

12)   Radio voices: Dr. Demento, Vin Scully, Mel Allen,  James Janese, Kurt Gowdy, Chick Hearn…


14)   Sandy beaches without ugly naked Germans laying everywhere

15)   Route 66!

16)   Peanut Butter!

17)   The Rockies, Smokies, Blue Ridge, Appalachians; Whitewater rafting EVERYWHERE!

18)   The Star Spangled banner before every game

19)   John Phillips Souza, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, DUKE ELLINGTON

20)   In my family we’ve got WASPS whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, Daughter of the American Revolution, Immigrants from Ellis Island, Blacks, Hispanics, Greeks, Evangelicals, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Jews, agnostics, Swedes, Austrians from WWII…we can slam just about every ethnic/religious group around, as we’ve got almost all of them at one family reunion!

21)   God bless America!



Yeah, I know all about our problems. Obama Scandals, Tax Scandals, Benghazi Scandals…

For just one month, let’s look a bit more objectively at our country and realize how GREAT IT IS. It is the month we celebrate the birth of our country on July 4th, and we have tons of picnics at church, parks or outdoor concerts to get together as a community. Let’s get together here and celebrate why we’re so blessed to live here. I’ve  put a bunch of reasons up on the “No One Asked My Opinion” section.  That’s just a start!

What does this have to do with jazz? How about EVERYTHING! To paraphrase what Keith Richburg writes in his fascinating book, Out of America; yes, it was terrible that his  ancestors were brought over as slaves, and slavery was a terrible thing. But, after living as a foreign correspondent for 3 years in Africa, he states that he thanks God every day for the fact that he lives here as a black man. The freedoms we have here GREATLY overshadow the lives of his ancestors in his native land. Where would you rather live? California or Zimbabwe?

Only in America could the two most popular Christmas songs (“White Christmas” and “The Christmas Song”) be written by America loving Jews Irving Berlin and Mel Torme! Then, you’ve got the Gershwin Brothers who not only gave us some of the best songs ever, but the wonderful opera Porgy and Bess as well as larger pieces American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue. What other country can boast someone like that? Don’t even start me on George M. Cohan, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein, and the list that could go on and on

American jazz has taken in sounds from Brazil, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Italy without breaking a sweat. Our music is influential all over the world!

We love to complain about our country, but the good news is WE CAN DO IT WITHOUT GETTING ARRESTED. I lived in Malawi, and it was ILLEGAL to discuss politics! Want to change your religion? Only in America can this be done without persecution, losing your job or death! I do medical mission trips to the third world, and the religious persecutions that go there make me kiss the ground at the airport every time I arrive, not to mention say a prayer or two to God.

Don’t like the school system? America’s one of the few countries where you can home school your kid. Esperanza Spalding was home schooled, in case you didn’t know. And don’t forget that almost every black artist started playing in church. The influence of the church in our culture is a major net plus. Because of the stabilizing factor of it, non believers are allowed to protest against God through music or literature. Try that in Russia!

Want government sponsored jazz? Tell it to Prokofiev or Shostakovich! It killed both of them! The free market (with charity) is one of the wonders of our country. The Jazz Bakery jazz club is completely run by donations, and it serves some of the world’s best jazz.

The Great Experiment called America was founded by people not looking for religious freedom, but for establishing a God-fearing country. We are the beneficiaries of that covenant from 1620 in so many ways, so wave the flag proudly this month.


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