Onto the stage of the Chapiteau…... 20 straight years. Everybody cheering, Jean Louis, Marcel, Christianne, Noé, Vincent, Sammy, and pretty girls from Gascony named Celine. The seer of the American vernacular, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Miller, has scraped up enough money to get here from Bolivar, Tennessee and he's 'loaded for bear'. And here comes the band and Elliot is doing his absolute trombone thing on 'Mendizorrotza Swing' and chops are flying everywhere.
And Sherman steps into his own arrangement of 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson's 'Blues Walk'———has people in every corner of the big tent shouting with sanctification in the spaces of his solo and all that Alabama soul in his sound also works in the country region of France…. then Chris takes us to Georgia by way of the chitlin' switch and we know we're gonna have a good time tonight. Carlos starts walkin basic quarter notes way down low and falls deep in the pocket with Ali.
Me and Ryan glance at each other with that "yeah" look. (And Ryan is not given to any gratuitous demonstration whatsoever)....those men are swinging.
Here comes Duke's 'Paris Stairs' and Sean weaving quirky lines of pure harmonic sophistication while Vic adds luster to Jimmy Hamilton's part (Jimmy played on the original recording and he played in the first JLCO). I can see him now telling Vic some obscure clarinet fact, happy that this music is being played still in the world and still to great affect. You should have heard Vince's 'Up and Down' and all the horn Ryan and Vic played.
Young phenom Cafiso sittin in for our brother Ted runs wild on 'Epistrophy' and Printup plays some of the most eloquent muted trumpet we've ever heard on Horace Silver's 'Peace'. Dan puts moonglow on the ensuing improvised chorus over a carpet of velvety saxophones. Before we look up, Vince finds the holler in Monk's 'Bye-Ya'. It feels so good he don't want to stop. Carlos gets loose too, shaking the sweat from his eyes so he can keep playing the bass on this, his beautiful arrangement… Joe has been waiting to do his thang on Thad's 'Counterblocking' and does, leaning back in his chair and digging into the time making the big horn sing.
Then 3 sections of my Abyssinian Mass and we end with '(you got to watch) The Holy Ghost' and sean, Chris and Sherman blow encrusted soul from the bowels of their horns and ali stomps and shakes and shimmies the tambourine and bass drum to kingdom come. All the while dan has been comping and soloing and making his 'I'm here to play' face and that Marciac audience, second to none in the world, takes us higher and higher till we touch the scalding hot notes ryan has been hitting all night and so deep in the pocket we pull away with handfuls of gris-gris Marciac magic. And the tour is over.
But not until Ali parades us down the street with 'the sanctified blues' and Victor renews our faith in what New Orleans did for the clarinet so long ago and still today that Creole spirit lives through him—then kenny dorham's 'stage west' at breakneck tempo allows walter to say what we all know what Carlos said when he kept the time, challenging ali to maintain the superfast tempo AND the form on a mach-speed drum solo and what we (all arched in holy anticipation of a drummed cue that comes unpredictably streaking towards us) joyously reiterate as we strike the final choruses of blazing lines: All Jazz is Modern brothers and sisters. And it's in the minds, souls, and feelings of everyone here and everywhere that knows.
This is what we been doing and still do with ancestral pride and swagger. And our beautiful listeners in the Chapiteau tonight let us feel that it's worth doing again and again….. and the cats are all gone. And I am up at 4 o'clock, after drinking a little armangac with Marcel and Christianne and Jean Pierre and Françoise, in a solitary room working on this symphony, grateful to have had the best seat in the house.
And John Miller is off somewhere in a complete drunken stupor shouting words of encouragement to soloist who stopped playing hours ago but whose guts remain forever in the foamy lather of what was, is, and continues to be. A thing never seen again as Yeats liked to say, but always seen forever (as the real hipsters love to point out). like making love to someone you love.
It never dies. Ever…...