One night Sam Eaton was talking on his cellphone to his old friend from high school (Carver High, Class of 1967), Jack Callahan about how his grandson, Brandon, the oldest grandson of his daughter Janice from his first marriage (first of three all ending in divorce but that is merely a figure for the Census Bureau and not germane to what follows so enough) had beguiled him recently with his arcane knowledge of classical jazz (the jazz from the age of King Oliver say until the death of the big bad swings bands which died in the late 1940s for the most part giving way to cool ass be-bop and what followed).
Jack braced himself for the deluge, got very quiet and did not say word one, since lately the minute Sam mentioned, maybe even thought about mentioning the slightest thing connected with jazz he knew he was in for it, in for a harangue of unknown duration on the subject. Sam, recently more conscious that Jack, who hated jazz, hated it worse when as a child of rock and roll as Sam was, his father would endlessly play Count this, King that, Duke the other thing and not allow the family record player centered in the family living room to be sullied (his father’s word) by heathen stuff like Roll Over Beethoven or One Night With You, would go silent at the word “jazz” said not to worry he would only say a few words from his conversation with Brandon:
Frankly I was too young, you too but I knew how you felt since I couldn’t listen to rock in my house either as the 1940s Andrews Sisters/Perry Como/Frank Sinatra/Peggy Lee cabal were front and center in our living room and I was reduced to listening on my transistor radio, way too young to appreciate such work then and I only got the tail end, you know when Hollywood or the popular prints messed the whole be-bop jazz “beat” thing up and we got spoon-fed Maynard G. Krebs faux black and white television beatnik selling hair cream oil or something like that, and ten thousand guys hanging around the Village on Saturday night in full beret and whatever they could put together for a beard from the outreaches of Tenafly, New Jersey (sorry but Fort Lee was out) and another ten thousand gals, all in black from head to toe, maybe black underwear too so something to imagine at least from Norwalk, Connecticut milling around as well. Square, square cubed.
No, this will not be some screed going back further in the hard times of the Great Depression and the slogging through World War II when “it did not mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing” when our parents, the parents of the kids who caught the end of be-bop “swang,” did dips and twirls to counts, dukes, earls, princes, marquises even leading big band splashes to wash that generation clean. Come on now that was our parents and I wasn’t even born so no way I can “screed” about that. And, no, no, big time no, this will not be about some solitary figure in some dank, dusty, smoke-filled café, the booze flowing, the dope in the back alleys inflaming the night while some guy, probably a sexy sax player, blows some eternal high white note out against some bay, maybe Frisco Bay, and I was hooked, hooked for life on the be-bop jazz scene.
Jimmy would have Max Jenny on drums and Milt Bogan on that big old bass that took up half the stage, if you remember those guys when West Coast jazz was big, to back-up the talent so this was serious stuff, at least Jimmy played it that way.
Stopped then, I thought he was done, he looked to hell like he was done, done in eyes almost closed, and then onward, a big beautiful dah, dee, dah, dee, dah, dee, blow, a “max daddy” blow then even an old chattering wino in a booth stopped to wonder at, and that big high white note went ripping down Bay Street, I swear I could see it, on into the fog-bound bay and on its way, not stopping until Edo, hell maybe back to Mother Africa where it all started. He had it, that it means only “it” and if he never blew again he had that “it” moment. He left out the back door and I never saw him at the “Hat” again so maybe he was down on Mission or maybe he went somewhere, got some steady work. All I know was that I was there when a guy blew that high white note, yeah, that high white note. So yeah count me too among Duke’s boys, down at Duke’s place where he eternally searched for that elusive high white note.