To start, JAZZ LIVES endorses social distancing, properly positioned mask-wearing (plain or patterned), hand-washing, hand sanitizer, vinyl gloves, intelligent caution, without reservation. But I miss the intimacies that were part of the common culture only five months ago, give or take a hug. When I watch any film or television show on YouTube these days, the casual peck on the cheek given and received causes me a real pang. And hugging? Unendurable.
But enough of sticking hatpins in myself while I try to write.
THE INTIMACY OF THE BLUES is a haunting piece. When I first heard it, without liner notes, I would have wagered that it was composed by Horace Silver — a dark blues march, so stark and elusive. I was startled to learn it was by Billy Strayhorn. And it makes me think of other improvisations that march. OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE? has a very clear shouting meaning: “We’re coming back from the cemetery, where we laid our dear friend Keith in the ground. He had a good life, it’s over, but ours isn’t, so we are going to celebrate himself and ourselves.” INTIMACY has no such clear direction: we are going somewhere, our feet are heavy, but where are we headed?
This performance has the same haunting quality, and I treasure it. The players, perhaps looking in to the void or just exploring a medium-slow blues, are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar. It took place at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, before Thanksgiving 2019. Ironically or perhaps coincidentally, Cafe Bohemia was the site of the most recent live-jazz performance I was privileged to witness and record, on March 12, 2020.
May we all assemble there again, intimacies no longer forbidden. Until then:
More than ever, I bless the courageous musicians who bare their souls to us. The most mournful song on the darkest stage is a statement of resilience.
May your happiness increase!