faces, white faces, male female and indeterminate faces. Excitement
dripping from the tobacco stained ceiling, people overflowing
into the sticky summer Café terrace night. Tiled floor,
wooden beams, acrid stench of Gauloises, clinking cups and
glasses, hiss of espressos being made, posters of jazz musicians
past and present, dead and alive.
Head full of hashish and Irish Whiskey, Xero steps up to the
small podium that is the stage and blows a long, continuous "C" for
the bass to tune up. Gillespiesque cheeks inflate to breathe a
circular breath. Behind gleaming drums and cymbals, molten metal
man nervously taps and chews. Louis listens intently and turns
the arthritic, creaking keys on the upright bass.
Slingsby whispers into the mike, and voices hush; "Where all
the dead jazz people go!" he adds after a lengthy pause, the
crowd cheers and the headlong charge begins as the three of
them race each other to the end of the tune. The energy thus
created takes the awed, disbelieving, grinning faces along
in its wake, charging forward, seemingly out of control until
the alto pulls back on the reins, calming the tempest.
"Dearly Beloved" he states deadpan. He adjusts his reed and the
bass re-tunes. "We Are Gathered Here Today - To Do This!" he shouts
and the music takes off again, the alto continuing to wheedle its
way into guts and brains. The minds of those watching and listening,
open mouthed and open eared, never stray to missing persons or
pleasures. They are focussed right here right now in the present
as Xero continues to blow for all he's worth.
three play their well-rehearsed set like never before with
plenty of improvisation thrown in. They wallow in the appreciation
lavished upon them by this jazz-loving Xero-loving Café
Damberd crowd. All of their tunes are delivered with a panache
which even I have never witnessed before. The bass hops and
struts and runs and leers whilst constantly on the leash of
the beat, constantly constrained by Gene's geological intensity.
is teased by the mischievous gutturals, the bleeps and screeches
and squeaks and belches of the horn, the sixties Selmer, sounding
ever better with age, majestically sweet one minute then demoniacally
fearsome the next.
This is music
for four fifteen in the morning, music for a passing lonely,
drunken soul who feels the rhythms and hears the harmonies
and disharmonies from outside in the ghostly cobbled city
square. Drawn inside to drink some more and to feel alternately
happy and sad, high and low. It is music to drive the very
demons themselves away, to leave everyone tired and elated,
privileged to have been there, to have borne witness.
Exhausted, drained of emotion and energy,
not really wanting to talk to the scores of admirers who besiege
him, Xero lovingly puts away his saxophone and wistfully wonders
what Sally's up to.