The Jazz.com Blog
November 24, 2009 · 0 comments
What if your great moment in jazz arrived, and you slept through it. Walter Kolosky relates the story below. T.G.
My approach to the appreciation of jazz, and all the arts, has been shaped by a series of illuminating personal experiences and unique tales relayed to me by friends. These events and stories have become part of my human fabric. There is not a day that goes by that I do not benefit from these unexpected lessons, which I can pluck like apples from a tree. I hope you may get some use from them as well. That is why I periodically offer them to jazz.com readers.
My good friend Chuck swears to me the following story, told to me in the 1980s, is true. For the record, Tim and Joe are made-up names because Chuck couldn’t quite remember their real names.
Sometime in the 1960s, Chuck and his buddies, Tim and Joe, had spent a long day at work. After putting in their grinding shifts they decided to fight their fatigue and go out and grab a few beers and enjoy the nightlife the city had to offer. On the way to their underdetermined destination, the guys most likely lit up a joint, as this was their routine in those days.
As they drove through the streets of downtown San Francisco, Chuck saw a marquee that read, “Roland Kirk Tonight.” “Hey, hey guys. Look. Roland Kirk is playing! We got to check it out,” he said. Joe waved the suggestion off, but Tim and Chuck outvoted him and they headed in for a few.
The club was small and the food was nothing to talk about. At least the beer was cold. Chuck, who was a real Kirk fan, told Tim and Joe about Kirk being blind and how he used a circular breathing method that allowed him to sustain a very long note without taking normal breaths. He explained that sometimes Kirk would actually play two saxophones at once and that he would often shout out political rants to the crowd to get a reaction. Joe and Tim kept their eyes focused on Chuck so they wouldn’t nod off. A few beers didn’t help much. All three were in danger of drifting off at any time.
By the time the band finally came out, the guys were barely awake. The greatest moment of Chuck’s life as a jazz fan was about to happen—and he would have to be told about it later.
After the set, Tim and Joe woke up Chuck. “Hey, Chuck. You missed the whole set,” Tim laughed.
“Why didn’t you wake me up, you bastards?” Chuck asked.
“Well, we tried a few times at the beginning, but you just wouldn’t wake up, and it would have ruined the show anyway,” Joe said.
Chuck was groggy and confused. “What do you mean ruin the show? What does that mean?”
Joe explained, “You should have seen and heard it. But if you did, it wouldn’t have happened, so we didn’t want to wake you. We couldn’t, so we didn’t. You missed a great show. The band was on fire. You sure were right about Roland. That cat is from another planet! Man, he can play the hell out of those horns. I can’t wait to go buy a record.”
Chuck grunted. “Get to the point. What do you mean waking me up would have ruined it?”
Joe continued, “About two or three tunes into the set, while Kirk is playing this amazing solo, he looks out and sees your big head in your arms and notices you are sleeping like a baby. He keeps wailing away but also keeps looking at you. Then he picks up one of those wooden flutes. I think you call it a recorder. He steps off the stand and slowly starts walking over to you. As he got closer, he lowered his volume and slowed down the tempo of his playing.
After a minute or two, the audience realizes what he is doing and they all start smiling at you. Tim and I are amazed. Kirk sort of gives this look to us that we understand means not to wake you up. He gets closer and closer and his music becomes soft and soothing. Chuck, the crowd was dead silent as he stuck his horn right next to your ear. I am not kidding you. He put it right next to your ear and started playing a gentle lullaby. It was amazing. He stayed there for about three minutes playing just for you man. Just for you. He finally looked up a bit, smiled, and made his way back to the stage to end the tune. The crowd went nuts clapping and laughing and waving to us.”
“Yeah,” Tim added, “you should have been awake for that, but if you were, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Over forty years later, that unheard music is still with Chuck. But he still can’t explain how a blind man could have seen him. Music and dreams can mix you up that way.
This blog entry posted by Walter Kolosky