Yeah man, it was music made right: with Black Love.
There was this old man who was folded up in a disconcerting crouch, who had dark, wraparound sunglasses pinched to his thin face, who kept close time to the music with his brittle black fingers. His fingers doing this silent strum that had love in them too—for it was he who had composed this fetching melody that was coming out the saxophone’s sultry body; the notes that his soul’s black ink etched, which still dripped out his pen as if on top of a sheet of gentle waters.
People bunched-up in this smoky space had no idea of who this black man was. This black man with the dark sunglasses pinched to his face and the porkpie hat that was cocked trickily to the side of his head like it was stuck in another generation, a long time ago; a time where it was wed to something important, reverent—to a hipness, to a vogue, style, mood, to a distinct pleasure. These jazz people in this jazz space didn’t know who he was; the music wouldn’t single out who its creator was, the masterrmaker of its notes was, who was sitting there in an ordinariness while his music played through their ears in light triplets, in rivers of light, soft-capped sound.
The band on the bandstand had to be unaware he was there. It was only this black man’s music which knew, which heard its creator, its mastermaker walk into the smoky space to sit and visit—to make sure the band on the bandstand was worthy of his eminence. Why the band playing his song probably had no idea, knowledge that he was still alive, like everyone else who knew of his name: that Modecai Ulysses Jefferson was still alive, still kicking.
But Modecai Ulysses Jefferson was still alive. For Modecai Ulysses Jefferson’s music heard him live and breathe with it from one note to the next note whenever he heard it played. It’s when Modecai would hear how it’d matured, had grown smarter and wiser over the years without him; how much it’s learned about life on its own. The music would cause Modecai to pause and to tingle and to think how he’d carried each tune in his soul like it shine like gold before it became Black Love Notes on a blank piece of paper and came off the tip of jazz musicians’ tongues: “In a Way Say,” Sue’s Dues,” “Ain’t Forgot Savannah,” “Bunny-Hop-Bop,” etc..
The dudes on the bandstand were young jazz cats. Uh-uh, young jazz cats were beginning to play Modecai’s tunes. They were playing some of the music which caused Modecai to lose sleep at night. Nights when Modecai couldn’t catch the tail of a melody, when it eluded him like a quickly whipped wind in the wild, or a band of roving gypsies following their hearts into an ancient piece of night.
Modecai sat at his table and drank hard and steady from the glass with the red bourbon in it like a cold had swept through him like a bitter winter storm. You couldn’t see his eyes, how they sat behind the dark wraparound sunglasses to see what the liquor he’d drunk had done to them, or for them; to see if the red bourbon was of some benefit to them in some way.
There were sleeping memories in him, you could be sure of that much. Ones that would wake in him from time to time with little or no warning. There were wounds and echoes. Wounds and echoes. Things you could feel Modecai listening to even now as he sat at his table with his glass of red bourbon and his brittle black fingers marching softly through the rolling rhythms he’d once composed with a sweetened touch.
Say, Modecai—we’re gonna hit it big one of these days! I’m telling you, man. Cause all them highfaluting jazz bands, all them lame cats up here in Harlem, gonna have to roll over and play dead for us, man. Hope they paid their rent, Modecai, their heat and gas—cause them cats gonna be hightailing it out of Harlem at half past midnight after they hear our hot-live-jive-licks. Chase them cats outta Harlem like hot-footed ghosts after they hear our tuneful spoonful, Modecai!
Bunny, now we’re not trying to run, uh…chase anybody out of town, now. You only hightail cockroaches out of town at half past midnight, and them bands, uh, highfaluting cats, as you call them, ain’t hardly cockroaches, man.
Well, they’re gonna wanna crawl outta town on their bellies like ones anyways, when word gets around about, regarding us baaaad cats, Modecai! Modecai Jefferson and Bunny Greensleeves. No, no—uh…uh-uh—make that Bunny Greensleeves and Modecai Jefferson, man. Just think, Modecai, we’re gonna own New York City one day. We’re gonna own it lock, stock, and barrel one day. Have more locks on it than Houdini got chains. J.P. Morgan got banks. Just think, Modecai. Just think…Modecai!!
Black Love Notes Copyright @ 2004
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