Saturday, 17 January 2009

16 January 2009

unpacked and played till nine o’clock in the morning. Neal and I were there with beers. At intermissions we rushed out in the Cadillac and tried to pick up girls all up and down Chicago. They were frightened of our big scarred prophetic car. We rushed back, we rushed out again. In his mad frenzy Neal backed up smack on hydrants and tittered maniacally. By nine o’clock the car was an utter wreck; the brakes weren’t working any more; the fenders were stove in; the rods were rattling. It was a muddy boot and no longer a shiny limousine. It had paid the price of the night. “Whee!” The boys were still blowing at Neets’. And suddenly Neal stared into the darkness of a corner beyond the bandstand and said “Jack, God has arrived.” I looked. Who was sitting in the corner with Denzel Best and John Levy and Chuck Wayne the onetime cowboy guitarist? GEORGE SHEARING. And as ever he leaned his blind head on his pale hand and all ears opened like the ears of an elephant listened to the American sounds and mastered them for his own English summer’s night-use. Then they urged him to get up and play. He did. He blew innumerable choruses replete with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till, the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened in awe and fright. They led him off the stand after an hour. He went back to his dark corner, old God Shearing, and the boys said “There ain’t nothing left after that.” But the slender leader frowned. “Let’s blow anyway.” Something would come of it yet. There’s always more, a little further---it never ends. They sought to find new phrases after Shearing’s explorations; they tried hard. They writhed and twisted and blew. Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would sometime be the only tune in the world and which would raise men’s souls to joy. They found it, they lost it, they wrestled for it, they found it again, they laughed, they moaned----and Neal sweated at the table and told them to go, go, go. At nine o’clock in the morning everybody, musicians, girls in slacks, bartenders, and the one little skinny unhappy trombonist staggered out of the club into the great roar of Chicago day to sleep until the wild bop night again. Neal and I shuddered in the raggedness. It was now time to return

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