The opening paragraph of a Brick’s Picks in August 2009. The room full of notes was from a very cool if disturbing visual hallucination I had at a Charles Owens gig at the World Stage back in 2006. Epilepsy…that was a bad year. Seizure activity all through the brain with lots of odd effects. I remember I was standing next to Chet Hanley at the time. As he didn’t mention seeing the room fill up with the notes pouring from Charles Owen’s horn like bubbles I decided not to mention it. I just took another pill. I’d forgotten all about this until reading this again just now. But I remember it was about that time I realized I better not stick with the jazz critic thing much longer. I did, though, for four or five more years. Anyway, I never had another visual like that. A little too Lewis Carroll for me.
We dig saxophone. It’s the iconic jazz ax. Trumpets were once, a long time ago, and clarinets had their sweet little run too. But once solid hard-blowing Coleman Hawkins got the sax out front that was it. Lester Young came in right after that, so spooky and perfect and lackadaisically gorgeous… Then Bird just turned everything inside out with his thing, rushing here and there and everywhere at once almost. You try to follow those solos, your eyes’ll cross. And then Trane? Oh lord. You put Trane’s thing on top of Bird’s thing on top of Hawk’s things and all around Prez’s thing and you got harmonics gone nuts, fingers going crazy, you got all that forced air rushing through that crazy saxophone and notes and chords flying free from that bell, making crazy patterns, and if you could see them, if the notes were different colors, they’d be filling rooms, all squiggly flatted fifths and minor sevenths and whole bars of chords piling up everywhere. Think of that next time you’re sitting there in some jazz joint, the sax man blowing his ass off. Imagine all those notes. Not even the piano emits as many notes (and those would be neatly stacked or maybe scattered across the floor like shards of a glass enclosure.) Nope, it’s the sax that makes the most sound in jazz. There’s just literally more jazz to be heard coming out of it. Music theory this ain’t. We just dig the sax.