Back when I drove a taxi in New York City, in the mid-1980s, the cabs had not yet been outfitted with air conditioning. In the spring and summer, I left the windows open to create cross-ventilation. That meant that the noise from the street was a constant presence, an orchestral cacophony dominated by honking horns, sirens, jackhammers and music. The music that pierced through all the other sounds and soothed my urban soul was Latin-jazz.
I had come from the West Coast and grown up on a mushy amalgam of mostly soft rock and whatever else was being played on local radio stations—music concocted by one corporate entity (the record companies) and peddled to another (radio stations that were often owned in part by those same corporations). American teenagers listened to what they were fed, and I was no different. Eventually, as I began developing my own tastes, I gravitated toward soul music, blues and R&B. By the time I was in my late teens, I had discovered jazz.