Jazz Spoken Here (Incoherently)

Last night I dreamed I was playing in a transtemporal big band, on tenor sax. Next to me, Duke Ellington, on… trombone. (He said he took it up for the challenge, because he already knew everything he was ever gonna know about the piano. “… and the trombone’s humble.”)


We were in Korea, playing a gig in Seoul sometime in the ‘oughts (we were time travelers, remember?), and I was asked to speak about my time in the country. I was honest, talking about the good and the bad, which didn’t seem to entertain the audience much; when I looked back, the band was wide-eyed, as if I’d just insulted someone’s mother.

The next thing to happen in the dream? I blacked out.

When I came to, I was back in my seat–a flimsy plastic chair–with tenor sax in hand. “Let’s do this,” Toshiko Akiyoshi said from behind the drum kit (she, too, apparently had made a career change, and this was a young, extremely hungry Akiyoshi), but we didn’t start playing right away. Most of us didn’t have charts on our music stands.

EPSON scanner image

I turned to Duke, and noticed his trombone’s slide was covered in little padlocks. When he noticed I was looking at them,puzzled,  he said, “It’s good for your biceps.” Then he smiled broadly, lifted the ‘bone, and blatted out a loud, low note.

Then it was time to play…


Believe it or not, I feel like I learned something from this dream…

Namely, that sometimes, an invitation to talk is just an invitation to entertain… sometimes, creative types should do what Feynman (apocryphally, it seems) suggested about Copenhagen:

If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!”

Feynman may not have said that, but he ought to have.

Which is not to say one oughtn’t be critical. But nobody goes to the movies to see the director interviewed about his or her choice of shots. Sometimes you need to put the ego away, and get behind the camera, and sweat and shut up and make the people’s eyes go wide…

Sometimes, you need to just play the goddamned music, and let the world figure itself out by the light of your fire:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *