1/24/2005

Jazz

Many years ago, I walked the streets of New Orleans. When I think of those days, they are dark and unclear, shot in brown and white, with long hovering shots of old black men lining the sides of the streets. I walk through the streets in slow motion, wearing a heavy black coat, and dark spectacles. My head is bent towards the ground, my footprints snake through the streets, following me.

You cannot listen to Jazz, you can only feel it. And you can never explain it, if you do not know what the piano thumping signifies, if you cannot touch that wail floating through the air with your hands, if someone has tell you why the trumpet moans and why that eletric guitar cries, then there is no need that you ever be told, because you will never understand.

I sat in a square in New Orleans with my guitar and I played the blues. I could not sing, but I could hear my voice in my head. I could hear the rusty groan that my Jazz voice would be, I could hear the words I would be saying, the hope that would shine through the despair. Jazz made me smile, it made me laugh.

I remember the Jazz in New Orleans, but there was also the death. We were following a man who we were told was going to kill, and I remember his face well. I sat next to him in a music cafe, and I listened to him speak. He spoke slow and sad, he had weight on his shoulders. He spoke of destruction, and he spoke of war, he spoke of murder and he spoke of terror. Though he spoke without fear, he spoke with gravity and a sadness that was terrible to hear.

There was Jazz in that man. There were feelings; when I listened to him, it was like hearing the blues.

I could see him walking to his family home, having been out of his country for several years, and seeing a burnt and bombed ruin with dying trees and poisened plants. I could see him looking around, his heart in his stomach, his mind unable to understand what he was seeing. And I would watch his brown eyes as they settled on the mounds of earth, I could feel his hand tearing into the cold earth, and his heart realising that there was nothing left to love, and that he was alone in the world.

And the fear in his heart congealed and changed him into a creature of sadness, a gestalt like that one can only find in old Jazz records, scratching way on an old record player.

He spoke on his phone, and I sat beside him, and I felt more than I had ever felt. I looked into my drink, and saw the reflection of the blue helicopter appear in the rippling water. I saw dark cars pull up to the cafe, heard footsteps as heavy men rushed towards where we sat.

I turned around and looked at him, and he looked up with an expression difficult to describe. I've seen it before, on old black men who sing on the cold streets, I've seen it on women on stage, I've seen it in the mirror.

He looked at the men rushing towards us, he watched me stand up and pull out a pistol and point it towards him. He sat down silently, looked around at the frozen faces of everyone around. Then he looked at me, and I understood that we were very similar.

We had both seen the misery, we had felt the low notes, we had felt the high notes also, and through all those Jazz clubs I had tailed him into, we had felt the same emotions, we had been joined by the music.

They took him away in a flurry of screaming activity, and I stood there in my long coat, my guitar hanging on my shoulder, and my gun drooping from my limp hand, Billie Holiday crooning from the Cafe speakers. I loved that moment, because it was a moment of true emotion, true sadness, a moment of true Jazz.