I really want to get this going....

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Friday, January 30, 2009

THE MUSIC LESSON ('Old Urban Jazz Cat')

260. THE MUSIC LESSON ('Old Urban Jazz Cat', nyc, 1968):

I never entertained any theories but the ones I could prove - and the certainly-peeling paint on the stairway and landings of that old loft-warehouse building with living quarters on its west side - with a cool view of the old cranky Hudson - proved to me that this was a dump albeit perhaps the most musical dump one would find anywhere ('this side of Paradise' notwithstanding) along 17th Street for as long as one tried - I did and I walked many times through its wearily-cavernous edges while watching the trucks come and go and the black guys shooting nickels or smoking bent cigarettes as they leaned on the ledges of the loading docks and shitty postal zones and stables and taxi-barns all along there from the very corner by the Peter McManus Bar to the watery front of the grimy river covered with jacketed guys going about their tasks - filth merchants or stevedores : you choose - I'd just sit back and listen to those guys running up and down on their horns - every scale-run and musical interlude imaginable - Sharie O'Duff and Starkey Coleman and Wintzy Laber and all those crazy guys who would play long sets at nights in any of the weakly resonant clubs along the avenues uptown - smoke-filled sets pushed and puzzled with cocaine speed and marijuana that took everything to the limits and then they'd slowly be seen making their way back to this infested loft - singly or in groups - stag or with babes on their arms - and the next twenty hours were just some sort of bliss for them : maybe a fog maybe a haze maybe a recollection of from where they'd come and been : the tastes of jazz and all its crazy staccatos still resonating in their heads while three floors up the sky out their window was featureless and the morning trucks down below sizzled with their disgorged cargoes of hardware hat-racks fur coats or shoes and manufactured loft goods came and went around them by the truckloads - it was that very sing-song-y aspect of their living which gave that urban-gritty taste to their music - some free-form attack on reality placed with drums and bass-lines an uninitiated ear could never pick out - and it wore itself like a coat of beauty or something mixed with paint and thrown on walls the walls of reality the room out of which all other things came the infested dream of breakaway and solo - a very singular time seen in the faded images of the old buildings and battered entryways along the street - flat and black and abandoned into a ramshackle motif of decay and angular presentation for no one and these guys used to say 'that' was what gave their music its touched madness its reason for being and they'd work on it three days a week and then take it to the clubs and play all night if they had to in order just once to get it out there for the ten drunks present to witness to hear to understand or at least allow and yes yes there were times I was sure I couldn't understand one damned thing abut their jazz and all that fast be-bop touch and run stuff with little melody except the melody of some scattered sound-remembered and and fills were the lifeblood and essence of what they lived : hedging nothing going straight for the finish driving direct into and past the point of agreed it might still be like that today if I sit back and think about it but for that moment and then these guys were certain and sure of what they were doing - it was like drinking coffee or drinking whiskey or having sex or any of that for these men their instruments and their runs were as good as their lives : countertop furnaces with little flames and shattered windows mended with tape bare bulbs in the landing-doorway and a leaking faucet on all night the constant cold-bathroom drip-drip of water coming down and leaving a furious rust-stain in what looked like some scientist's sink a hallway bathroom good for less and the blackened glass of an old wall once leading onto some factory-floor - something now converted to a living quarters and music-studio together an all as illegal as can be - but in much the same way as student-quarters in some ratty old urban-dormitory walk-up with all its bare wires and bare bulbs and coffee-pots and hot-plates and twisted mattresses and old towels everything just came together just as the sound of all their raging instruments did : and I still never caught the ignominious rhythmic incantation that so many people had for jazz - sometimes to me it was just free noise - still I could see it (rather than just hear it) as something sterling that stood for itself alone - like some precious metal or something held in esteem for the rigorous effort it took to dislodge it from the ore in which it was buried - some magic metal with plenty of mettle - and yet underneath it all I knew their was something else something hidden and mysterious some great racial and tribal essence from the back of way-back itself and these 'cats' as they said they each had in their own ways and in their bloodstreams that ancient jagged old pulse of all that before them had happened - the defenestrated cultural and tribal dance of black darkness wild jungle and mysterious and wonderingly prolific experience of living - 'LIVING' in the human sense of being alive without constraints without meanings and refinement without the slowed-down pulse by which the disappointing present-day cut through all spirits and souls all music and story and these guys had it all together and it came through in the crazed sounds of their detail-oriented music - a type of sound run amok with the 'details' of the music those details that the 'outsider' could never see just maybe merely glimpse or feel or sense somehow - like a memory of a mother's wet hand holding the dishrag over the sink or the way a father's harsh slap would feel to a ten-year just stepping out with some brute form of self-identity - that was the wordless voice the running juice of all the wild loft music I used to hear and it spoke to me honestly I'll admit only with the greatest of difficulty - it took plenty of time and practice and exposure and explanation for me to somehow begin to grasp sense of it - and I found that sense in these strange 17th Street lofts and walk-ups I'd frequent and be openly welcomed into by crazed yet steady men - men of horns and rhythm and tempo and beat and time and solo and it was all like another tongue and a language I slowly learned.


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