I read an interview with Branford Marsalis who spoke about a group of people gathered around Elvin Jones asking him about what it was like to be right at the center of John Coltrane’s music.
Elvin said that at the core of it all was this level of conviction: To reach that level with someone musically, you have to be willing to die with that person.
The folks around him thought that maybe he was kidding and then realized he was serious.
That’s where many people tap out and that’s where my study begins. I certainly don’t enjoy looking death in the eye. I have been pushed into it. Born in 1970, many of my closest friends in music are in their 60’s and above. The ascension of so many warriors during the last few years is enough to crack your jaw and keep you pinned down to the floor, with your heart in a cage across the room out of reach. Tazz, Raphe, Will, Joe, Juan, Ramsey and beyond. I was playing my way through it until death invited me into an intimate and sacred experience that in truth, I may never be able to shake. When I found my brother Bern Nix, he had been dead for a couple days, and I essentially broke the seal on his room that had become a chamber of death. Death was in that room. I have been haunted by this encounter ever since. I have written about eye contact with God. When death looks at you, death sees your soul. Your soul knows it’s being seen. As far as I can tell, this experience is impossible for the soul to forget.
All I can do is keep playing and keep trying to understand was is categorized as the unexplainable. My recent posts on astrology are a result of this. Miles Davis astrology is next. I keep coming back to Charlie Parker. To date I have listened to Rocker from Bird live at Rockland palace maybe over a thousand times. In her autobiography, Chan Parker said that Bird courted death, and possibly even tried to perform the ultimate flip, and seduce death. The more I listen to Bird live at Rockland Palace and think about his legacy, and how he may have reached a level that nobody else may ever reach, I’m almost seeing him as a musical Jesus. He had a death mask in his room. Charles Mingus told Chan that he saw Bird a few days before he died. Bird was crying and told him not to worry, that he wouldn’t have to worry about him much longer. The biggest question for me remains:
Was Charlie Parker willing to die for his music to exist?
Bird, Clifford Brown and John Coltrane may be the greatest improvisors that will ever live. Clifford was haunted by the highway, almost dying in a car accident before he eventually did. John Coltrane had astrology that suggested a short life, and he knew it. In contrast, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman came here to change and transform music and everyone. Ornette had a large painting of someone being executed in his music room. Is this way they didn’t dance with death, though Miles may have done that as well. They were more like representatives of the mystical nature of death itself. They brought change that HAD to take place.
Anyway, as I was writing this post Branford Marsalis literally walked up to me in person and we discussed what Elvin said. He pointed out that many people have danced with death through the needle that never reached the level of Bird. Were these people rejected by death I wonder? Was Bird a soul coming from an extreme place of power that knew what he was doing and could handle it while others tried to follow and simply could not? Branford made an additional point that when people jump the rails at a rhythm and blues event, it’s not because of the key, I agree! He said that alto clarinet is a sound, but it doesn’t function. I plead the fifth! Branford is an intense person to talk to.
How is it that I’m quoting someone in writing and then that person walks up to me in person while I type? The laws of attraction are always bringing people together in mystical ways behind the scenes. There are always hidden but natural forces at work. Digital dope and Trump can’t stop it. Trump will answer to these forces.
As for me, I don’t dance with death.
But I see you death.
I see you.