Umm.. well… I am never completely sure of what I like and why, but at the moment I believe I can state that I like music. Especially live music. I’ve just returned from a night in Newark with Sonny Rollins. One toot of this guy’s horn and all my problems and life’s angst-ridden fears blow away. He’s seventy? Eighty? He’s an icon, a giant. To me, and many others, he is jazz. After four decades of blowing his horn even without his instrument you can tell he is a saxophone player. His body is forever contorted into his sax playing stance. His left shoulder hunched upwards towards the left side of his head, which is cocked slightly down to meet it. His right hip askew and his legs nearly bow-legged, as if his entire being was forever in the act of air-saxophoning. He is jazz.
They say Wayne Gretzky was born to pay hockey. That every fiber of his being was built, crafted, to hold a stick. That the mere glance of his eyes propelled and carried the puck forward anywhere his gaze directed. And Michael Jordan, he is basketball. The guy really could fly. Every ounce of his lanky frame, every pore of his soul exuded basketball. I imagine in his sleep, even today long after his retirement the swift and silent sound of his nocturnal flatulence echoes simultaneously with a basketball somewhere in the world swooshing through a net. He was so in tune. Musically, a similar being was Jimi Hendrix. Just to say his name conjures up the image of a guitar at the ready. Jimi was so in tune to the guitar it seemed more that the guitar was invented for him. That the guitar languished around for centuries in the hands of strangers until Jimi was born to give its life meaning, a purpose. With a guitar slung around his neck, Jimi was one being. A memory, a thought, a feeling, a simple shrug of his shoulder started a chain reaction of impulses so musically in harmony on every level of existence that rippled down his shoulder then arms and through this fingers and to the guitar to fire off a riff that was in no way outside of the guitarist. The thoughts and expressions in his head and heart where the same ones being strummed and fingered through the pickups of this guitar. They were one in the same.
And then there is Sonny Rollins. Just saying his name… Sonny Rollins… makes one pause. Sonny dare I say it, is more in tune to his musical muse than Jimi ever was. The sounds and melodies and guttural lows and piercing highs that emanate out of the saxophone around Sonny’s neck originate deep in Sonny’s soul. They first sound deep within him, then ripple through his body and lungs and lips and finally through the brass to our ears. Him and his saxophone, Sonny and Jazz are singular. There is not one without the other. It takes a lot to move me. It takes much to get inside and make me feel passion, joy, exuberance. The soul of Sonny passing through his saxophone is one of those things that move me. Moves me to the core. I arrived at the theater tonight deep in the quagmire of my own muck, very lost in the swirling confusion that is my existence. I left the theater cleansed, refreshed. Sonny’s music grabs me, rips me out of myself, shakes the dust and cob webs and load off my back and sets me back down as good as new.
After the second encore, the house lights went up and a quarter of the audience had made their way out and I sat in my chair not wanting the night to end. And then it happened. Magic. Sonny quietly walked back out on stage and walked to its edge and began speaking to us. His band members could be seen just off in the wings, stepping just a bit around the curtains, still holding their instruments, to watch Sonny play. He let loose decades of music and a lifetime of soul searching and performed what I feel was his final solo, in what will be one of his final shows on one of his final tours. Sonny, on stage alone, playing his sax, speaking to us all.
I wish there were more like him in the world. More men able to dedicated their lives, and find their calling, and pursue with such singularity and dedication their awe inspiring purpose in life. Sonny and few before him and perhaps even fewer in the future, is a rare human being who for whatever reason, found his calling, found his meaning and shared it selflessly to the world.
I wish I had the single, overwhelming drive, that singular desire, that focused quest for the one true thing that would make me whole, give my life meaning. I wish… I wish…
…dammit, where did I put my whisky?