Giuseppi Logan’s Last Stop

Somehow, I end up getting out to see G right before school starts again. Today he asked me when I would be finished. I said by the end of this year, but I added that I’ve learned more from him than I’ll ever get in school. I wrote a letter to Hildred Humphries back in the day during my one semester at Berklee saying the same thing. The oral tradition, that’s not over.

I remember hanging out with Butch Morris once outside Nublu between sets. The subject of Giuseppi came up and Butch said he loved his music. The reason he gave is that no one, no one plays like that. He found a new way to play the horn. I like to think that when Butch hired me to play bass clarinet it was for the same reason. Say what you will about Ornette’s trumpet playing, one of the reasons Jackie Mac was down with it on Old and New Gospel was that nobody sounded like that. That’s the main reason I play alto clarinet, it’s like landing on a planet that has only just begun to be explored.

I found G asleep in his room. He has no roommate up on the fourth floor. I waited for him to wake up and then we had a listening session. First up was Dance of Satan. I showed him on YouTube that people have listened to this piece 7,000 times and had given him 97 “thumbs up.” He laughed. When Giuseppi was holding court in Tompkins Square Park a few years ago, he would tell people to google him, with one of his CD’s proudly on display. We had our longest listening session ever checking out his flute and bass clarinet work. I got G to rank the horns. Alto was number one, then BC, then flute. I said that was like Eric Dolphy and G said that Eric was one of the nicest people he ever met. When his social worker stopped by and asked G how many different horns he played, he said he plays them all. He has a working tenor, but it’s getting heavier these days. I finally found out why his altos were always jacked up. Kids in the park where taking it from him and smashing it. Sometimes kids can be so damn cruel. If I ever caught anybody smashing G’s horn, I’m afraid of what I might do. I used to defend G from evil in the park as much as I could. Sometimes there was nothing I could do. One time after we got paid from a gig, Jemeel Moondoc and I tried to stop G him from disappearing into the night to no avail.

 

“I know where I’m going.” he told us.

 

That reminds me of another Nublu event. I booked a Bern Nix quartet and Giuseppi Logan quartet double bill. Bern and I started playing when G arrived and went over to the Fender Rhodes, turned it on, and then played the whole set with us! About five minutes in I just had to sit back and listen to Bern and Giuseppi play together. Bern said afterwards that he felt it really worked. The thought of the two of them there leaves me in awe of being in that moment with them. I joined them on alto clarinet for about forty minutes. Reggie Sylvester was there. Bern is still around, just like Tazz. As I was playing at the Charles river up in Cambridge recently after a performance with Dave Bryant I heard Bern’s unique voice.

 

“Sounds good man. You and Dave sound good together.”

 

Back with G, talk of the bass clarinet had me looking at a picture on the wall of G playing on the record he did with Roswell Rudd called Everywhere. I had to tell him that Roswell left town and that left us both silent for a while. To switch up the vibe I suggested we go through his Wikipedia to see what was true and what wasn’t. Playing with Archie Shepp, true. Archie had told me he knew G in person as well. Pharoah Sanders, true. Bill Dixon, true. Byard Lancaster, true. The third ESP record with a string ensemble that never happened, true. Dewey Johnson and G with Bobby Kapp and two bass players on a double bill with Ornette, true. Then G dropped the bomb on my head.

 

“Albert Ayler and I were buddies and played several performances together.”

 

Every time I go see G I learn more about his life. Just a few months back I posted his picture on Facebook on his birthday which led to the discovery of four more family members, some of who came to see him. I finally did the math and figured out that G was already thirty-five years old when I was born in 1970. But age was never a thing with us. Today a nurse asked G who I was, and he smiled and said:

 

“We play together.”

 

When you make music with someone, most often your friends for life. Giuseppi might not play in public anymore, but his music is still inside of him. It seems to be pulling back slowly, but it’s still there. You can hear it when you’re around him. I was called out there to see him by forces that can’t be explained. My next task is to get his alto back online. There’s pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do for G. Music crosses all boundaries, plus we’re horn players. There’s another level to it all. Our souls are here to do similar work. Giuseppi has delivered his message. I’m getting ready to deliver mine. In this way, we’re bonded beyond time and space and the constraints of Earth.

 

Giuseppi’s last stop might be coming up.

 

Maybe not.

 

But no matter what happens, we’re brothers.

 

Now, and forever.

 

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