Although the physicists explain gravely that time — make that Time — is not a straight line but a field in which we may meander, it often feels as if we are characters in a Saul Steinberg cartoon, squinting into the looming Future while the Past stretches behind us, intriguing but closed off. We anxiously stand on a sliver of Now the thickness and length of a new pencil, hoping for the best.
Jazz, or at least the kind that occupies my internal jukebox, is always balancing (not always adeptly) Then and Now. For some, Then is marked in terms of dates: this afternoon in November 1940, or this one in July 1922. The most absorbed of us can even add artifacts and sound effects: uncontrollable coughing, a trout sandwich, the sound of dancers’ feet in a ballroom.
But for me, Then is a series of manifestations, imagined as well as real, that have no particular date and time.
Bix and Don Murray watching a baseball game. The Chicago flat where Louis and friends drank Mrs. Circe’s gin and told stories. Mezz Mezzrow on the subway. Strayhorn auditioning in Ellington’s dressing room. Mystics Boyce Brown, Tut Soper, and Don Carter, each imagining the universe in his own way. Eddie Condon picking up the tenor guitar. Hot Lips Page shaking a Texan’s hand. Art Hodes and Wingy Manone politely deciding who gets to wear the bear coat tonight. Francene and Frank Melrose having Dave Tough and friends over for a scant but happy meal of rice and peppers. E.A. Fearn making a suggestion. Billy Banks arriving late for the record date. Bird washing dishes while hearing Art Tatum. Joe Oliver having a snack in a Chinese restaurant.
Any jazz fan who has read enough biography can invent her own mythography of the landmarks of Then.
Now, although it recedes as I write this, is a little easier to fix in time and space, in the way one pushes a colored push-pin through a map.
Andy Schumm, cornet and archives; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, reeds; John Sheridan, piano; Howard Alden, banjo; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums: late in the evening of September 20 at the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua, now reinvented as the Allegheny Jazz Party.
OLD MAN SUNSHINE (LITTLE BOY BLUEBIRD):
SHAKE THAT JELLY ROLL:
LITTLE WHITE LIES (in an arrangement inspired by British Pathe sound film of the Noble Sissle band — and piling rarity upon rarity — giving us a glimpse of Tommy Ladnier playing):
GET GOIN’ (in honor of the Bennie Moten band, which also had spiders to deal with in Kansas City):
KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW (Sheridan’s verse gets everyone in the right mood):
18TH AND RACINE (a street intersection in Chicago / an Andy Schumm original / the title track of the Fat Babies’ delicious new CD on Delmark Records):
SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (with a wonderful surprise at 3:00 — why isn’t there a whole CD of this?):
See you in Cleveland, Ohio, between September 18 and 21, 2014, for more of the same delicious time-superimpositions, courtesy of the Allegheny Jazz Party, where such things happen as a matter of course.
May your happiness increase!