All signs point to blog addiction. But I will be stepping off the set soon, I really will.
Let me go back a few years. Financially strapped, I move to a cheaper apartment, farther away from the center. Longer train ride, more oxygen, more time to write. Kind of isolated--why, oh why, did not the Almighty Watchmaker make me less garrulous of a human bean, huh? I still live my life downtown. Back then, though, it was the honeymoon period: surrounded by boxes of books, my worldly goods, I had cleared a space, attached my system. Pulled in WKCR, Columbia's FM radio. Poured myself a nice glass of vino. The couch faced the window, and there she was: fairy necklace strung across the dark waters of the Hudson, one illumined support, our mis-named GWB winking at me. A full moon like a Blue Plate Special.
The purest gutstring plucked.... pluckpluckpluck plu-u-uu-k... Another, another. A minor sound--wistful improvisation, lush with longing, homesickness, emanating soudade. Were it a voice, it would be vibrato-less--like the untrained soprano whose innocent ease just breaks your heart in
two-- If you have never heard an oud, you are as one who has never tasted salt, or one who has never heard the mockingbird riffing on an early summer morning, or one like the poor blindfish in caves that has never seen.
Nothing happened that night--no fireworks, the love of my life did not suddenly reappear in my doorway, saying "all is forgiven, honey, willya take me back?"--but it was one of those quiet gifts...
The studio never answered my query--what/who was playing that night?
Long ago when I read Samuel Charters' Roots of the Blues I kind of poo-poo'd the idea that the roots of the blues, let alone jazz, were yanked from North Africa; listening to music from the "Near East," as it was once called, I am not so sure that Charters didn't have something going for him after all. The lone instrument, the solo lament, the improvisation, the return to the same initial plaint--was that not blues, jazz, thence the lead instrument, whether Miles playing "When You Fall in Love," or Billie electroshocking us with "Strange Fruit?" Or the Middle Eastern lute, lamenting the burdens of anonymous life, celebrating it's small miracles?
Now out the window milady's necklace does not wink. Only the light, warning --what? low flying aircraft?--blinks on top of the eastern supports. The heat of tomorrow is rolling in, in the form of fog, and all the high-rises are disappearing in the mist. Alla, a very idiosyncratic oudist, if I am to believe his reputation, plucks--pluckpluckpluck plu-u-uu-k...as if he were simply experimenting with the different sounds and combinations he could achieve on his instrument...his allbum is "no longer available", a casualty of the war, perhaps...
The fog and the heat, not yet arrived, is erasing the memory of buildings, skyscrapers, our gut-string ties.
To Robert Goffin
If the image of an airplane is
Count Baise's sparse piano touch
The propeller is oxtail stew for aardvarks
The fuselage of collard blues riffs
The bi-plane wings all B-flat minor
The cockpit of mulatto Jims crowing
The parachute of pangolin scales leeks
The landing gear substitute head-gear
The World War One goggles of worn biscuits
The wings painted in gravey of drumsticks
The tail spin Tommy Gun of pot likker
The rudder's strut in two-tone fisticuffs
THe windshield of saxophone reeds
The dive bombers smothered in chocolates
The gliding in behind okapi clouds
The bailing out in C-sharp major
The three-point airfields of landing solo
The hangar made of sweet potato fried pies
The pilots of women libation swung
The crash pad of jazz wisdom
If Count Basie's sparse touch is
April 1982 Parisin Double Trouble.
Paris: Revue Noire, 1992.
In Memoriam: a lovely, baaad, funny, generous, hip--oh verrrry hip!--