A lover of jazz, and beat writers, since I was 15, I realize that my “quartet” in the piece “Straight, No Chaser” is somewhat of an anachronism; a “fantasy jazz band,” if you will. I have albums (yes, real albums) where the great Be-Bop pianist Thelonious Monk played with saxophonist John Coltrane and drummer Max Roach, but not bassist Charles Mingus. However, to complicate this matter, I have not found any recordings of Monk, Coltrane and Roach all playing together. I also have recordings of Mingus playing with Roach, but not with Coltrane. I can only surmise that if all four of these musicians had ever taken the same stage at once, their energy would have been so intense it would have blown up half the world. Really. Check ‘em out. Also, check out the writings and recordings Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.
Saturday. After hours. It was T. Monk, and his quartet shakin’ up the joint. He was all head bobbin’, and we was all slappin’ crazy beats on the table; doin’ a drum rollin’ thing. Sweat was drippin’ offa us, and we was possessed, speakin’ in tongues.
Love, it was like Church. Communion. Father, Son and Wailin’ sax. I confess it was the sweetest sermon blastin’ from the pulpit that night. If they wanted a crucifixion, there was plenty willin’ to crawl up on that cross.
Them cats played hot. Straight outta Jack Kerouac’s book. I’m talkin’ ‘bout “On the Road,” baby (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” Sweet Allen said). The piano caught fire. Fingers blazin’, burnin’ up the night. John Coltrane wailed on his tenor like a 3-alarm fire; Bree-Bwa-Bwaa-Bwraaaa! And, Max Roach was slappin’ them skins. Crackin’ them rimshots, SCHWACK! The whole time, steady Charles Mingus was slappin’ salvation on that stand up, fretless bass.
Love, they was savin’ the saints, and settin’ free the sinners. They was settin’ us on fire. We was all shakin’ outta our skin; cats on a hot, tin roof. Jumpin’ and jerkin’ and doin’ the hurdy gurdy. Be-boppin’ so hard, I swear I the ghost of Neal Cassady. I also swear I felt our sould being saved.
And, when that Sunday sun rose, I knew we was all closer to God. ‘Cos, God blew that first crazy horn. He must’ve blown it. ‘Cos, if what we witnessed wasn’t religion, it sure as Hell should’ve been.