Thursday, September 02, 2010

There is always this-the music and the writing

On The Road
© Jack Kerouac

Lester Young's Hat by Herman Leonard
Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and logic and subtlety—leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come to Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest-Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonious Monk and madder Gillespie-Charlie Parker in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.
Stranger flowers yet-for as the Negro alto mused over everyone’s head with dignity, the young, tall, slender, blond kid from the Curtis Street, Denver, jeans and studded belt, sucked on his mouthpiece and it was a soft, sweet, fairy-tale solo on an alto. Lonely as America, a throatpierced sound in the night...
.....Suddenly Dean stared into the darkness of a corner beyond the bandstand and said, “Sal, God has arrived.”
I looked. George Shearing. And as always he leaned his blind head on his pale hand, all ears opened like the ears of an elephant, listening to the American sounds and mastering them for his own English summer’s-night wise. Then they urged  to get up and play. He did. He played innumerable choruses with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened in awe and fright. They led him off the stand after an hour. He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the boys said, “There ain’t nothing left after that.
Something would come out of it yet. There’s always more, a little further-it never ends. They sought to find new phrases after Shearing’s explorations; they tried hard. They writhed and twisted and blew. Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would someday be the only tune in the world and would raise men’s souls to joy. They found it, they lost it, they wrestled for it, they found it again, they laughed, they moaned-and Dean sweated at the table and told them to go, go, go. At nine O’ Clock in the morning, everybody-musicians, girls in slacks, bartenders, and the one little skinny, unhappy trombonist- staggered out of the club into the great roar of Chicago day to sleep until the wild bop night again.   

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