Monday, December 24, 2012

A KC Jazz Christmas Carol, Part 1

“The young care for it not,” he scowled, “so its fate I may foretell. Though blessed its audience may once have been, they now pass with the ages, and increasingly swift. Young musicians strike with hip-hop, with rap, and not with this genre now forsaken, its day of prominence passed. And with none to grow its art, its molding scores enjoyed by the withering few, its fate I declare sealed. Nay, not even as a niche may this music survive.

“Now to the Internet I do bid these words, that they may live forevermore. Future generations, then, shall judge the truth I now foretell. That they may be generations that know not the word jazz except as legend their ancestors did utter. ”

With that final period typed, Ebenzer P. Sax set forth to the web his latest missive for all to absorb.

Tired, he changed to his nightgown and slippers and laid in his bed. His eyes closed, he heard the clock strike one.

Odd, he thought, since no clock in his house chimed. Did this he dream?

Suddenly, a bright light lit the room, just aside his bed. He looked up, and there floated a winged being, aglow. A dream this must be!

The winged creature gazed in Ebenezer's direction, and it spoke:

“I ain’t no dream, bud. I’m The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Past. Look, we’ve been reading the stuff you’re puttin’ out there, the death of jazz, it’s a hip-hop world, everybody’s croakin’. You’re pissin’ on our parade. So me an’ the other fairies, we’re gonna show you the truth. Tomorrow night you’ll hear from the Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Present, an’ after that, KC Jazz Future. Then see what’cha think.”

It was the tacos before bed, Ebenezer thought. Look now what they hath wrought.

“Told’ja I’m real, bud. Come with me.”

With that, did The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Past take Ebenezer’s arm and pull him hard from his bed. Through the wall of his home they did pass.

And on the other side they did stand at the corner of 18th and Vine in the year nineteen hundred and thirty two.

“You know where you are?” queried the Fairy. 

“Yes, yes,” spoke Ebenezer, amazed. “I’ve read of this time in other blogs, especially the one that keeps spewing words to tell me I’m wrong.

“But this scene before us,” Ebenezer did continue, “it but proves the points I make.

“Look here, good Fairy,” said Ebenezer, pointing to the building before him, “the Subway Club here stands. Listen before its doors, hear the music from within. That’s Mary Lou Williams on piano, and Ben Webster on tenor saxophone. Now step away from that gambling on the street....”

“Just a minute,” said the Fairy.

“I said step away,” spoke Ebenzer as now he took the Fairy’s arm and pulled. “Turn this corner and look. There! There stands the Cherry Blossom, as bustling and complete as in my time it sits as but a shell. Come closer. Be that Bennie Moten’s Orchestra inside? Does Lester Young sit in with them this night? Listen close!

“Now look beyond, as people fill the street! ’Tis a crowd we see! They do party, they do enjoy themselves, they do enjoy the jazz!

“And I thought I told you to step away from the gamblers.

“My point, good Fairy, you do prove. This music was once viable. Once it did draw crowds and inspire merriment. But you hath brought me eighty years past to see it thrive. It thrives not like this in my day.”

“Okay, I’m takin’ you home,” The Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Past intoned. “You got context for what’s to come.”

With that, Ebenzer did find himself again in his home, and in his bed. Straight up he sat.

Then again, the clock struck one. Again, a winged being glowed next to his bed.

“Why doth thou glow?” queried Ebenezer.

“We work at night, it’s dark. Look, I’m the Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Present. Come with me.”

The Fairy grabbed onto Ebenezer’s arm and pulled. Together, they passed through the wall of the abode. On the other side, Ebenezer found himself standing in Hellzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Arts That Do Perform.

“I am wearing but a nightgown and slippers!” Ebenezer exclaimed. “I be not properly attired!”

“Calm down, nobody but me can see you,” the Fairy reassured. “Now tell me what you see.”

“A glowing Fairy.”

“No, out there, in the hall.”

Together, Fairy and man looked upon a full house. On stage, The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra did swing  jazz. The crowd responded with extraordinary merriment and unrestrained applause.

“Over 1200 tickets, they sold tonight,” the Fairy did explain. “Over 1200 people paid $40 to $50 each, plus parkin’, to sit in this auditorium and hear this jazz on the Friday before Christmas, 2012. Not lookin’ so dead to me.”

“Humbug!” Ebenezer cried in retort. “Look at their age. Yes, they come tonight, but will all still live when next this orchestra performs? It be an aging crowd, for a music with no future when these gentlemen and ladies pass.”

“It’s a crowd,” the Fairy answered, “of size and demographics comparable to The Kansas City Symphony. It’s a crowd that can afford a $100-a-couple night in a palace to the arts. It’s a crowd most arts groups would envy.

“But I got somethin’ else to show you tonight. Come on.”

The Fairy grabbed onto Ebenezer’s hand, and in a moment they stood in a coffee house in Kansas. On stage, Matt Chalk blew the saxophone and Hermon Merhari the trumpet.

“Listen,” the Fairy directed. “Tell me what you hear.”

“Huzzah!” Ebenezer did exclaim. “Jazz to rival the sounds I heard last, with the Fairy who did take me in the past! Jazz as good as any!”

“And,” the Fairy pointed out, “they’re about the same age as those musicians you heard in 1932.”

“This,” Ebenezer spoke, without prior thought, “this could be the future of jazz.”

“Indeed,” the Magic Jazz Fairy of KC Jazz Present smiled.


Next week, our story concludes.

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