Dick meets Girlhowdy

(This article was written just after my first visit to England in May, 2001)

Without a doubt THE highlight of my trip to England last month was making the journey to the Northwest end of London, to meet the LEGENDARY British sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith!   I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to accompany the webmaster of his website(Pete Grant), as he paid Dick a personal visit.   As I anxiously stood on Dick's doorstep, the thought kept leaping through my mind:just WHAT kind of person IS this man?   A couple of minutes later, that question was ANSWERED when a slender, gray-haired man did not simply open the front door to meet us, but rather  THREW open the door, and unleashed a virtual TORRENT of energy and enthusiasm at us that had the same effect on me as if I'd stuck my finger in a LIVE electric socket(only FAR MORE pleasant)!    I challenge ANY teenager alive to MATCH (much less EXCEED) Dick's "Joy Of Life" and reach adulthood!
Talking to him is truly an "Active" sport!    His speech is animated and fluid, his memory is ASTOUNDING and his list of interests goes FAR BEYOND that of music!    He is one of those RARE persons that one can engage in a conversation with and, regardless of the subject matter,  can MORE than hold HIS end up in the conversation!

We had initially come to "Trouble-Shoot" some problems he was having with his PC (he is a recent convert to the use of the net).   VERY soon, however, we were busy discussing a VARIETY of topics (ranging from environmental issues to Native-American myths and legends).   Dick is PASSIONATE in his concern over various environmental issues, from the depleting ozone problem to the ALARMING recent decision of President Bush to push aside long-standing environmental regulations in favor of building new energy plants.   Furthermore, he clearly appears to have been  so for many years PRIOR to it being "Fashionable".   He does n simply state his OPINION on such matters.   Rather, he actually begins quoting detailed STATISTICS to me (regarding everything from fallen water levels in the Great Lakes to the increase of cancer in certain areas of the world)!    He begins quoting FROM MEMORY various historic figures, as they waxed poetic on issues involving the respect of our Mother Earth, ALL the while NEVER missing a beat (so to speak) in playing the "Perfect Host" to us ("And you know I AGREE with what Chief Joseph said....oh, would you like a FRESH cup of tea?").

EVENTUALLY, our discussion got around to his recent release "Blues And Beyond".   He is obviously QUITE proud of it, and with GOOD reason (it's fucking BRILLIANT)!    We discussed how the rich mix of artists(from such  DIVERSE musical backgrounds as jazz, "Classic" Rock and Blues), gave the recording such a rich and varied musical texture.   Not much I can add except CHECK IT OUT!  And to "Uncle Dick" I gotta say "THANKS!   It was a GAS!!!

Shirley Pena