Not since January of this year have I had time to write here at No Sound Left Behind. I devoted every second to getting better at music and writing. At Rutgers, I engaged in an independent study with Dr. Henry Martin to transcribe 6 Duke Ellington small band sides. Coming from my harmelodic perspective, this was an enormous challenge as I attempted to mind meld with Duke, examining every decision he made with a magnifying glass. At the same time, I entered the world of Dr. Kwami Coleman who tasked me with taking my writing to the next level, culminating in writing a true academic paper 22 pages long that I titled The Deeper Realities of Bix Beiderbecke. I intend to publish this paper which I believe will leave many folks unhinged as I went directly into the issues of race in jazz that continue to haunt us today, including the concept of white authenticity. While I was working on these projects, and also switching my in order to survive to survive work drama’s I kept thinking that I had to get out to Far Rockaway to check in on brother G. Today, a window finally opened up.
As I have written before Far Rockaway is far, and the only way there required a forced G train bus transfer, one of the worst MTA scenarios. I was hoping for a group of people to come with me to celebrate G’s birthday, but my plea on Facebook fell on deaf digital ears. I wasn’t expecting much, but 3 or 4 people would have been so uplifting. Upon arrival, I was given a large name tag, and on my way to the elevator two people shook me down for change like I was at Penn Station, one guy straight shaking the cup, jingle-jingle. I found G in room 411, the same number as my birthday, and he was asleep with his horn sitting out with a bible on it. When he woke up, he was surprised to see me, but he couldn’t actually see me very well. His eyes have that clouded over, foggy log look that you see when people are losing their vision to a degree. As always his first words were “Get me out of here man.”
We spoke for awhile, and I heard that G’s sister’s husband died, but that he would feel better with family back in Virginia. As expected, his horn was offline. No ligature, no reeds, and some other problems. His flute was especially jacked up. I took the flute to have it fixed and told him I would get his alto supplies up and running. I brought him 3 piano books to work with, unaware that his sight had gotten bad. We did the usual jazz history run around town, and I told him how Milford Graves and Roswell Rudd were still playing. G laughed out loud when I told him that Roswell told me that G was a genius-he was appreciative of the compliment. G confirmed that he sat in with Coltrane, and added he was a beautiful guy. G asked me if Trane was still alive and I had to break the news that he had been gone many moons ago. Imagine if you will, that the sound of John Coltrane was still present on this Earth.
Finding that G could get WBGO and WKCR on his radio with good reception, I came up with the idea to call WKCR and ask them to play any GL song so that G could hear his music over the radio. I was shut down not once, but twice, both times being hung up on. The pre-planned show on Tina Brooks was decidedly given full priority. The fact that the announcer wouldn’t give up 5 minutes of his 5-hour broadcast got me tight, to say the least. I concealed my anger from G, and luckily right then, Jaee Logan called as I told him I was with G. G and his son spoke for a minute while I cooled off. After the call G and I spent some more time talking, reminiscing, and trying to put together battle plans that none of us will be able to pull off. As per our usual routine, he attempted to leave with me, and as usual, we got stopped at the door. I gave him a hug and stepped out into the rain.
Outside a man came up to me and exclaimed: “You’re the guy on the wall!” I then met a man in his 30’s who worked at the home by day, and by night became his stage persona Ty-Spit-Fire. Spitfire told me not to worry; he knew that G was the music man and that he took it upon himself to keep G’s spirits up. Out on the street, I saw a seagull go strutting by with a jumbo shrimp in his beak, proud as hell. Some other seagulls nearby were making sounds like they had just pulled off the heist of the century.
On my way back to Astoria, I took my beef with WKCR to Facebook trying to process it. My friend Palomo Julien reached the bottom line, and in fact, I’ll yield the floor to him here:
“Matt is talking about HUMANITY. Giving a nod to a HUMAN BEING in need. Just a GESTURE. Not 24 hours of music, not one hour. A gesture that will take 5 minutes, an escape from reality for a man in NEED.”
People all over the world of jazz tend to support the dead over the living. I am guilty of spending the majority of my listening time listening to the deceased, despite efforts to connect with living musicians. I have to think that the people we all spend time celebrating would want us to focus on our music that we’re playing now. I’m yielding the floor again to the clarity of Don Cherry:
“Music should always have the power of the NOW.”
Giuseppi Logan is still here, NOW, and even if he isn’t playing music anymore, anybody with a somewhat deep connection to jazz at it’s most real can take 5 minutes to hear his sound. The music of the deceased isn’t going anywhere. A few years ago WKCR called me to confirm that Giuseppi had died ready to fire up the eulogy. Need I invoke the words of Roy Campbell once more?
But enough. What started as a friendship based on music became family some time ago.
I’ll put some Giuseppi Logan music on tonight knowing that I just saw the man that made it when the new thing actually was new.
Sing your song, Mr. Logan.
That sweet chariot will be by soon enough.