Kerouac's work is as fresh today as whatever brilliant and timeless passages Jarrett is right now hearing in his gigantic fortress-of-solitude mind.
And as empty as this hour in history is of great art these two voices continue to speak palaces of light into the void. It is their fate. From the void into "now" and "now" come energies: time, love if we're ready , danger or fists, a steady climb or quick fall. We are trolled, swirling, through space - pulled ineluctably along, leaving wakes large or small - bashing and careening into and enveloping one another. This eternal caroming of lights is the dream-life of God. This is true. In this dreamscape firestorms flare up or dud charges misfire, depending on the sharpness and character of the intersecting charges.
Pistols at ten paces? Moses before Pharaoh? The return of Martin Guerre? Odysseus at Troy? The Beverly Hillbillies? Homer says that "In every venture the bold man comes off best, even the wanderer, bound from distant shores. I step outside my house- now filling with incense as quiet morning-dove epiphanies - to a crammed-crowded street and Jimmy McGriff pounding out the blues from car windows and my own cab with windows full of the city - a squawking turban-headed bagel-eating Moishe's Moving van bricked-up American potboiler day. Had to have my wife call from Chicago at seven am as alarm clock to make it to Newark in time for my first interview of the tour.
Pas de problem, though, 'cause the wake-up let me talk to Jenny first thing, and that is VERY good way to start the day. Impressions of the road on the way to Newark: Wires and lonely smokestacks amid abandoned land with bright green trees and tagger-assaulted rocks. Ponds and swamps between swirling highway miles accompanied by burning Christian McBride footpads. A cardinal.
One blooming tree. Then, suddenly, warehouse outskirts like the far west side of Rockford, Il or like Alameda, Ca.
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Then, impossibly, flowers and sidewalks and kids on their way to school in happy clusters. Older gents sit in doorways laughing with cops in clean morning uniforms under giant, low-flying dust-laden cottonball clouds threatening rain. Sat tonight - night before Birdland with icy-sweating Polish vodka and incense watching the lightning out the window, digging the rain sounds with Ginsberg and Prez while trying to feel or be led to feeling for this city, for the people. Smelled someone's good cooking through the rain-clean breeze.
With the wind's help the tree just out the window tried to grab the books off my desk for attention's sake. It was a no-go — although soon enough Tree will have my undivided attention as her young leaves fill out toward June and help her stand in the way of the city lights and street below. Maybe all I've really got is my own honest confusion and a good Chicago handshake. New York is like a beautiful complicated song I've heard once or twice and am supposed to solo on tomorrow except I haven't gotten to see the chart yet.
I'm worried that when I play it will be like trying to make love to a girl whose name I anxiously can't remember. It's likely we should have planned for two rehearsals since we had the time - not because the cats can't make the scene on only one rehearsal. In fact, far from it.
It's natural that it would take more than a quick run through of tunes before the four of us really wrapped our heads around a mutually fruitful musical space. As it was, we had only about 45 minutes?
How cavalier! How foolish. However, here comes Tony Reedus all composed with his drums and all decked out in black - in city cool, with a vibe that says, "it's just likely that I know more than you do about this situation. So I'll be just coolin' here in the back part of my head for a while 'till you show me otherwise, ok? He's a professional, New York style. Now one thing that you've got to look out for in groundbreaking situations is the possibility of doing yourself in. I know full well that this game is really all about trust and balls.
So I hope to say that it was just something I ate between the rehearsal and the hit that changed the trajectory of my outlook.
What actually befell me was a pretty quick descent in mood from a reasonable watchfulness of the situation at hand to an unnecessary and anxious rumbling of ill forebodings. I should have just eaten a candy bar before the set and brought myself down. Expectant and full of many hopes - my own and my manager's and the lable's and God knows who else's - I know it's up to me alone, and I throw myself on the mercy of life holding on to the words of Saul Bellow in the opening chapter of Augie March: ". But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.
So I step onto the stage - full house with suits and cocktails, candles aglow and expectant hush. I watched his fingers poking. Europeans would throw THIS cat outta' the club! How did it go? Well, I can't really remember the opening tune except that my voice sounded quavery to me. Do remember getting damn scared on Night Dreamer.
Tried to just focus on my pitch but that made my intonation waver. I think I was shrink-wrapping myself. And yet here's Essiet, focused and watchful and in fact, throwing around enough swing to shake the stage lights loose. His solid foundation is really holding me up - all smiles, he vibes me the vibe of the true swinging brotherhood.
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But then Tony, who is all business and gives no quarter to mere scuffling, gives me a different look when I turn the time around while trading 8s with him. One eyebrow cocks in my direction as if to say, "Oh really? That was where I gave up, I think, made some remark to the crowd about feeling about as competent as Inspector Clueseau which either came off like cornball inanity, full-blown self-serving false modesty or like a young hopeful buckling under the pressure - none are good options. If all else feels like it's failing we can still hook 'em on the ballads. I did, in fact begin to notice the vibes being sent out by a couple of the women in the room - subtle warm starlights spotting the room with sparkly eyes.
In fact: smiles and back-slaps all around! Backstage, then, comes Mgr. I told 'em I owned it but they wouldn't hear a word and I gratefully accepted their honest vibes of real victorious excitement and relief or at least well-acted enthusiasm - I'll take either. Checked in with the cats who, as it turns out, also said the gig was kickin'! Second set better and more settled - still laden with lame stage patter.
Just dug in to do the job knowing the worst was over. Home to ringing silence at 2. Slept a waking sleep till 11 or so, up and strung out. With vitamins, rain, sound of a morning dove and dripping water outside in the day. Later, empty gray skies and thought-filled eyes. W ell, ok then.
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Lesson learned. My strength really does lie in acting naturally. Maybe I've actually been hiding myself in performances because of the uphill battle in clubs where I've had to 'go after 'em'. I'd really stopped having fun. Well, at Birdland for night 2, I came in stone cold sober and actually a little sleepy feeling from waking-sleep throughout the day.