My younger brother, Adam, on a respite between his summer internship and commencing his final year of classes at university, Virginia Tech, studying mechanical engineering, visited our sister Elizabeth, mother, and myself this past weekend in the city. On Sunday afternoon, we went out with our mother to Fat Cat, a recreation hall in the West Village that features live jazz from late afternoon to the early hours of the morning. Adam is a guitarist, for the most part self-taught, and a music enthusiast who, along with our mom and myself, always enjoys a live show. Thankfully, Fat Cat is accommodating for younger generations, for young adults who are a bit too green to legally imbibe; Adam, being only a few months shy of this quite unnecessary legality, was exceedingly excited, as he is frequently frustrated because it prevents him from seeing a lot of the beautiful live music played in bars and lounges across the country.
This past Sunday, Fat Cat had an open floor, allowing an array of pianists to come front and center to play for the modest yet zealous crowd by the stage area, as well as the hordes of young college men and women playing ping-pong and shuffle board, who were hooting like we were scattered about a tiki bar celebrating the licentiousness of spring break. The open jam session attracted quite a group of talented and inspired musicians, and it was a treat to watch and hear their different styles and tones. Fat Cat is an appealing place to hear jazz, if you also enjoy watching musicians play, watching as they sculpt and shape the tunes, the moanings of the piano or the horn or the bass with their nimble, adroit fingers. I sat amazed, mesmerized, and bewildered, watching two hands connected to a single body, a single mind, move autonomously yet in synchronicity, as though directed not by the brain, pulsing in the skull removed and far away, but by some synapsing and ebbing force beneath the skin of the wrists. One hand would play aggressively, with a sharp power, while the other whispered above the keys, quickly coaxing brief cries. Feet furious with the frenzy of rhythm, tapping in one-two time to the contortions of the fingers and the flailing keys.
When I attend such a creative event, watch and listen to live music, explore a gallery, an event where I am so fortunate to be an intimate observer and participant, where my passing breath adds to the mood, I am filled with a sense of wonder with the power of ideas, with the power of aesthetics, if the artist has skill and passion, but I am also imbued with an overwhelming sense of jealousy. For myself, I claim the label writer, something perhaps adopted or borrowed, assumed, rather than earned, claim my medium of lyrics, prose, poetics; in actuality, I constantly question whether this medium is something I veritably traverse and probe, and I feel a nagging envy of other arts, of painters, of sculptors, of pianists.
I have been writing very little lately, which causes me to give due pause, to this craft I claim for my own, to the vehemence with which, in my own soul and deep consciousness, I will defend my stance as artist. I am a writer, I repeat, in times of doubt, sometimes boastful, sometimes worried and vulnerable and unsure. It is a weakness to compare my own creative output with those of others, with those beautiful musicians who were brave and proud and crazy enough to share their songs with myself and others, rewarded with our silent and gay attention, our applause, a few crumbled and beer-wet bills in a large glass tip jar. I should not begrudge their talent, their discipline, and I do not. Rather, when I am washed in energies of new thought, of new song, new images, new words, I feel inspired and excited, and can grow disappointed with my own lack of discipline, my own poor self-control.
(image taken from Tricycle)