“I’m saying: to be continued, until we meet again. Meanwhile, keep on listening and tapping your feet.” ~ Count Basie
Excerpt from memoir. This was a conversation I had with my father on the way to the tenth Rehearsal of the MJFO in July, 1965….
The sunrise cast a warm glow through my picture window early Monday morning. Dad is sitting at the piano in our living room making last-minute notations for the songs for rehearsal later today. He is my five a.m. wake up call. I would hear dulcet tones sending a breath of notes across my mind to the beat of my existence. It was a series of riffs and changes with a syncopated harmonic intent. It had a rhythm that majestically brought a sense of devotion to each note. The sound of him hitting each piano key gave the house a mystery, transforming life and setting our house apart from the rest of the houses on Wilton Place.
As we are driving to the rehearsal studio my dad turned to me I gave up traveling with the band so that I could devote myself to my family. I am really excited about getting back into the groove again. You know Dizzy chose me to serve as music director and conductor for the Orchestra this year. In the ‘40’s I wrote Dizzy’s arrangements . That’s where we met. Back in the day we played Bebop with folks like Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. We were best known for songs like “Manteca”, “Things are Here”, “One Bass Hit” and “Tin Tin Deo”.
I know that I have offered you guitar lessons, but, being a musician, writer or singer leads to a hard life for you. I know that you can do anything you want but just not anything creative because traditionally women are not appreciated or respected. I am telling you this because I am your father. I really want the best life for you.
I am numb. I look at him hoping that he was joking but he quickly turned away, he is guilty of committing that very tradition in his orchestra.
We rode for the last 20 minutes in silence. It is deafening. I am the “native” daughter of the Jazz world in the ‘60’s where the reining tradition was parents (‘rents) had the final word. I slump down in my seat staring out the window trying to recover. I feel betrayed. Deep down inside I always felt like I was a visitor especially when it came to expressing my feelings and even more so in the world. To me being mixed race or checking the “Other” box is a perfect witness to my life. My father is a very complicated man of contradictions. So reading and writing poems became my escape. It liberated me from the labyrinths of insuperable gender and race biases that tend to dissipate little girls like me.
I would hole up in my room for hours overhearing myself admit difficult truths that I could not hide from. It welcomed creative inspirations into my sensory consciousness. It gave me the chance to explore and discover the province of sound and words. I found my rhythm and started writing poems and improvised prose. Mom taught me how to read when I was 3.
The rest of the drive to the rehearsal studio felt lonely. Everything around me seemed to have vanished along with my excitement. I shifted trying to compose myself. I wanted to shake myself free from the volcano that just erupted in my soul. Suddenly breaking my solitude my father proclaimed We Are Here! My excitement returned.
The rehearsal was now under way. It was an invitation to my imagination renewing my love for writing – cultivating a deep joy in my heart. The studio fell silent. My father began to motion the count as he tapped his foot. Calm waves from the alto sax and trombones began to move into the downbeat, the cymbal gently touches the shores of 4/4 time….Dizzy’s cheeks puffed out, his crazy angled trumpet bell releases the sounds of surprise announcing …the Man from Monterey has arrived.
Ralph Gleason from the Chronicle summed up the day’s session perfectly on the album’s liner notes… he wrote The 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival music clearly is designed to last. This amalgam of the talents of Gillespie and Fuller are insurance that it will. The orchestra played the music at this session for all time, which is the way good jazz is always played.
I had fallen in love with the sound of words, even though I had to keep it a secret. I credit discovering my inner voice when immersed in the sound and creation of jazz music was realized at today’s session. Now when I am facing cancer trials and tribulations, I write. When I am grateful for the wonders of life and God’s blessings, I write. When I am weary and discouraged, I write. I always felt that my father didn’t want me to become a writer, it wasn’t until after his death that I found out it was just his way of letting me know that if I can take all the adversity and really feel that I had to write, then I must write….. Peace Out! JBC 😎
Copyright 2011-2015 by Jannat Marie/Jazzybeatchick. All rights Reserved.
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