I woke up yesterday morning to the Charlie Parker birthday broadcast on WKCR. I might be a little desensitized to Charlie Parker in the morning, since I’ve listened to the Bird Flight show every day before leaving for work for the last seven years. Having it on all day tends to bring new things out, though, and I caught a few sides of Dizzy’s west coast band where Lucky Thomson was filling for Parker. What caught my attention in this group, though, was Milt Jackson. The tone of the vibraphone just shoots through the room. The speakers can’t hold it back. I immediatly stopped what I was doing and listened. It was like some metallic fluid spilling over the speakers, carrying waves of information about life.
I remember meeting Jackson after an amazing concert of his at Merkon Hall. He was friendly and encouraging, and seemed healthy. I wouldn’t have guessed he wasn’t well. A few months later I heard back-to-back Jackson on KCR on a day that wasn’t his birthday and I knew right away he had died. Later that evening I was going uptown on an F train and a tall black guy with dreadlocks gets on the train decked out completely in a white suit, wearing a white hat, white shoes, and pushing a white bicycle with a Loisida Puerto Rican-style custom stereo in a white box mounted on the back. Playing from the stereo, and filling the subway car, was the music of Milt Jackson.
So this is on my mind as I go out tonight to meet Katie and Ryan at the Sunshine to see American Splendor. Jordan had seen it last week with Gary and Nada, and said it was the “best piece of art ever made by anyone anywhere at anytime, ever.” I was keeping my expectations low nonetheless, just in case. On the way a homeless guy got on the B train and made a pitch. He said he had been robbed and that the men who robbed him also took his electronic keyboard. I remembered seeing this guy set up and play a Casio on a train weeks earlier, and I was wracked with guilt, thinking I should call off the movie plans and give the guy my extra crappy Yamaha keyboard. I give him a few quarters instead, wincing at myself. I changed trains and saw him and heard the pitch again, then got off at 2nd Ave. Exiting at the south 2nd Ave. side is like exiting the subway into a forest -- all trees and cicadas at the top of the stairs.
Walking toward the theater, I heard what sounded like a vibraphone coming through the open air. As I get to the park I realized it was. There was a guy there, looking a lot like me, dressed sort of like me, and playing a Musser vibraphone on the sidewalk, a nice version of Norwegian Wood.