Prose Bopsody …

On Jazz and “Sonny Rollins” in The New Yorker

Author’s Note: At the end of July, The New Yorker published in its online edition, as part of its “Shouts & Murmurs” humor blog, a satirical piece called Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words … which, because it was a satirical piece, in a humor blog, was not in fact written BY the great tenor ‘saxophone colossus’ at all.

Unsurprisingly, the jazz community (of which I consider myself a cosmic, small part) went ballistic. Actually, it went apeshit: Fiercely, obtusely, obnoxiously and, in at least one sad instance, racially lambasting the actual author of the piece, Django Gold (a senior writer for The Onion — go figure!) and doing its mother-bear best to protect its young … or in this case, one of its eldest living statesman.

Collectively, jazz forgot to laugh … and I felt compelled, and frankly embarrassed enough, to step up to the mic and blow bars of my own.


L’Esprit de Jazz”, ©Jeff Glovsky, All Rights Reserved.

And Jeff Jumps In

Jazz.

What do those four letters, that word, mean to you?

Say it … like a smoke-filled horn player. Like a bassist with a blues and mean streak … a chord progressionist, stiff-fingered note dancer, porkpie soaring lover, man!

Spinning Afro-Cuban top … An ah’s flat, e flat, beepin’ bop, a ballad … songs that never stop …

Say JAZZ.

That word … means what, to you?

To some — to most — “jazz” just means tired. It’s become like classical music, or broccoli: it’s supposed to be good … but I don’t taste it!

To others, Jazz plays b ball (sort of).

To forty or so more — this small but rabid core of devoted jazz music diggers — it absolutely is the Word.

Jazz — the music, The Word — is sacrosanct.

Django Gold found out the hard way. While touring his Onion-esque act in the big city, Django got into a cutting session with still-living legend, Saxxy Colossus … you know who I mean, or would, if you knew …

But if you’re not so imbued, allow me to hip you to that purty one … the magnificent one … the one and ONLY one …

Mr. … Sonny Rollins.

Whatever!

So then Django proceeded to light up the page with this solo he said was played by Sonny … except it wasn’t Sonny, it was Django, dig? And he (“Sonny”/Django) said he hated The Word … felt he’d wasted his long life working to spread it … and never knew what suit to wear!

Man, you shoulda heard the audience howl! Those forty people, right? “JUDAS!” one yelled — this cat, Howie Doodat  hands all clenched in fists of rage, demanding support from the 39 others … He got some.

I blew too:

As a lifelong fan of jazz, and having worked as a sound engineer on the road and at most of the New York clubs, including the Blue Note (and regularly for the Mingus Big Band) … but also as a writer myself, and all around (I like to think) PHUNNY guy …

“I have to say, I get it: the piece IS funny. Non-sequiturs (‘I hate music. I wasted my life.’) placed in an absurdist context (Sonny Rollins uttering them) … is funny. Absurdity is a foundation of satire, which of course is an element of humor … and humor is comedy.

“Lighten up, people! …

“(U)ntil ‘Sonny gets blue’ about it, why should we?”

Then I traded with Payton, who got all riled up and made terrible noise. Nick’s bars, I soloed, had “race cards littering the table.

Not at all what the original ‘offending’ piece was about.”

I was disappointed to hear Nicolas Payton blowing that way! Not surprised though — It’s out there, and always will be.

Anyway, the set ended for me when this cat, Howie Doodat, kept putting people down, man. Thanking people for agreeing with him … Otherwise, “Learn about life,” he’d smirk. “No wonder you’re confused,” he teased. “’Django’” (in quotes), he kept chiding Django … suggesting that can’t be the cat’s real name!

“I don’t believe you,” I finally said. “You’re a LIAR!

… Took my axe, and went home.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jeff Glovsky’s story.