Just a few weeks past, the Universe had me walking across town in NYC with none other than Pharoah Sanders. When you’re around someone imbued with that much spiritual power, you can sense something present that’s beyond the energy that you’re used to, especially in such a twisted environment as Times Square. The weather was brick cold, and the wind was gusting. As we moved past Broadway and headed West, an especially heavy gust came right for us, the kind that can make you lose your balance. I suggested that we seek shelter. Master Sanders did not agree.
“I don’t care about the cold. I want to feel the wind. I want to feel the spirit of it.”
Weeks later, I’m still thinking about what Pharoah felt. Master Sanders music has always contained a connection to forces beyond this world, and connected to those parts of life that are beyond our control as human beings. The forces of birth, death, and love. Forces like the almighty Sun. Seeing his embrace of the wind has stayed with me from deep inside the fortress of iron madness. Some might call the Zombies in Times Square unnatural, in their attempt to somehow head home covered with a nice superficial gloss.
The wind whips its way through Times Square unimpeded, carrying the forces of change. The wind, has witnessed not some, but all of our transgressions over the centuries. The wind, is part of the natural world that some have turned their back on. The wind is no different than the sun, beyond our ability to control. Music connects us to those very same forces. Music lets you flow as the wind and shine like the sun. Music gives a bridge to our true selves. Pharoah Sanders is one of the greatest living masters of this power, and one of the few people left on Earth that could John Coltrane, John.
I like to say that when I get to my horns after work is when the real work begins. That’s when I practice long tone meditation and seek out the power of those forces beyond. The more time you spend in this sacred space, your vision starts to become clear. Sometimes the wind lets me join her in a journey all over the Earth, in what can only be called true freedom, even from time itself. The wind was not born and will not die. Several days ago, music took me to an more focused place.
As I played the sound of wind, from me and through a trumpet, I could feel that I was flying through the sky high above the mountains. Eventually I could feel my wings extend and stretch out. I could feel my talons. I felt an incredible and deep focus. I was looking through the eyes of an Eagle. The more I played the more intense the bond became. Through the power of sound I shape-shifted right into an Eagle. It was only then, that I began to play.
My quartet hit on Sunday and afterwords I realized who we really were. Lewis Porter was the sky, and Tom Cabrera was the wind. Hilliard Greene was the Earth, and I was the Eagle, and at times the natural element of fire. That’s the thing about the true power of the instruments that attract us. Trumpets can take you to the sky, but something like a Bass Clarinet has an entirely different relationship to nature. Bass and Alto clarinets are the only instruments that can straight up slither like snakes. People forget that snakes in ancient Egypt were sacred symbols of things such as rejuvenation, eternity, and even divine authority. That’s what I see in those horns, snakes. They even look like snakes up around the necks!
I once exiled myself from NYC and went upstate. One night I joined a sweat lodge and after the Medicine Man and everyone had left, I went back and played my Bass Clarinet in the woods. It was so dark that I couldn’t see the horn and just had to feel for it. Eventually my sound and the dark became one, and I became night itself. The same forces have led me to mountaintops to play trumpet, to Victoria Falls in Africa to play alto clarinet, and as some people may have seen, to the riverbank under the bridge in Queens, where I attempt to become the river. When I see the little whirlpools, they remind of these same patterns I see on the planet Jupiter, just churning away for all of time begging to become a star. Celestial wind like the 1300 MPH winds on Neptune, that power comes from somewhere.
One thing that I cannot shake is the sometimes cruel irony that nature can bring. I don’t doubt that we deserve it. Trumpeter Henry Herman Busse was a member of the Paul White man orchestra. He took a gig playing at a convention of undertakers. While playing, Busse had a heart attack and died. I can only imagine the undertakers fighting over their new source of loot. Playing the trumpet itself just seems to have some kind of price in nature, I’ve written before about the evidence. That same stargeness led Master Sanders and I past a giant Scientology Church, with the actor Zach Galifianakis transfixed on one of the conversion screens with a look of disbelief (true story)
I’m just trying to remember my natural self these days. As long as I stay on the path of music, I think the wind will have my back.
It all comes down to what Denzel said.
You have to be who you are in this world.
No matter what.
For Tazz, Raphe, Will, Ornette, and Bern