Jessica reviews Jessica

Currents + | -

Including: a UK tour - Live in Seattle - Dead in Carmel


A UK tour, July '00

I arrive in the UK on July 7th, at Heathrow, around 10 am, and must take the shuttle to Manchester, as my first concert is near there.

Then to the Travel Lodge where I sleep the sleep that only world travellers get to experience: the 'little death'. I sleep like two rocks for 14 hours. I am not yet on 'UK Time'; I have merely fooled my body into a sense of somnambulistic confidence. Ill advised, as it deserts me half-way through the second (solo) set at Gateshead.

I cry the tears of the utterly dispossessed, am told later that everyone loved the concert, so I castigate myself further for being such a baby in public.

I am truly my mother's daughter, and more truly the worst enemy I could possibly ask for in this or any lifetime. Thus the first night passes as fortuitously as a squall amid jury-rigged fishing boats; no masts are damaged, no one lost at sea, no one forced to walk the plank. There's always tomorrow, even if it's slightly water-logged from the previous evening.

Tomorrow turns out to be a concert in Wales. They have thiss language ttherre thattttt lookkksss like this and sounds equally other-worldly.

This is what makes Earth an interesting place to live!

The hotel we stay at wins the Douglas Adams Mexamegalon Museum for Diseased Imaginings Award. The phrase 'higgledy-piggledy' applies here. It is the nearest thing we will ever experience in the macro-universe to pure, unabashed chaos theory.

A six-by-six inch framed drawing of a spreckled titmouse is hanging, perfectly centered, on a wall covered in at least sixteen different kinds of wallpaper.

This gives one an opportunity to experience Sartre's 'nausea' without actually reading Sartre. This is probably a good thing.

I am pleased with my performance there, as is the audience. Thank you, Wales...I'll be backkkkk. I loved it!

The Purcell Room in London is one of my favorite British venues. It turns out to be a full house and I spin gold. This is terrific fun, this neuromancing. I'm wending and weaving and the piano is a 9-foot Steinway (can't do this stuff on just ANY piano) and so I'm high as a kite and disgustingly full of myself for a few minutes...OK, a few hours.

Then I'm in the hotel room (no smoking, remember...) watching a Benny Hill rerun and then I sleep and dream of my dog Watson.

My next performance is in Cheltenham. I love these people. I can't seem to breathe properly, so I say 'I've quit smoking after 40 years of it. And my doctor tells me that I'm not gonna die anytime soon. I'm FULL of oxygen and other combustibles, and do not have emphysema.'

They understand this. They've all had this experience with the killer weed, and they can relate to panic attacks. So I'm home free, and I learn another important lesson; don't try to hide your pain. It will stand out like a billboard with flashing lime-green letters against a magenta background.

Be yourself, and most folks will understand you. They're as human as you. So I have a really human night with the beautiful people of Cheltenham.

I can breathe again.

And Wigan is just so great! By this time I've hit my stride and I'm ready to do ten more concerts. I'm full of notes. And this is the last tour date! So I make this one count. And I ask for requests, which is always kind of dangerous, except that someone asks for Summertime (not a tune I would've otherwise considered playing) and that turns out to be THE perfect vehicle for me.

Wigan wraps it up. I hug Cedar Walton, listen to him play his beautiful brand of piano for awhile, with the great Peter Washington on bass, and a cool guy named Terrell Stafford on trumpet who KNOWS the music and respects it and treats it right.

Before I know it, I'm back on British Air 287 from LHR to SFO, trying to understand what kind of deranged misanthrope decided that a Boeing 747-400 could carry the entire cast of 'Ben-Hur'.

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Seattle Art Museum, Jan, '01

I have never seen so many people at one of my American performances! NEVER.

In Europe or Japan, it's not unusual to see; but here! Hundreds upon hundreds. A veritable sea of people, and all of them listening intently, blending into the experience in a way that I can only describe as tribal.

All of the recent political insanity, the economic instability, the hostilities all over our planet: every dark corner seemed to brighten, every difficulty seemed to resolve for just a few moments as this music happened to all of us, as we met at a single place in space and time for a single purpose and completely lost our egos and our sadnesses in the passion and the unity of that meeting. An event horizon... it felt to me like spiraling in to a quiet center (even though the music was impassioned and vigorous) and coming out on the other side of a singularity, a billion light-years from where we were just seconds before.

From the living of day-to-day life to the living of a noble and somehow fundamentally profound dream-state. Of course, I was caught in the slip-stream of the emotive music that somehow lately just pours out of my hands like water.

And I'm playing with one of the most gifted drummers I have ever known: Jose Martinez. He plays all around and in and out and up and down the time, and he makes me laugh and makes me feel young(er) and makes me want to dance.

Geoff Cooke on bass was the perfect choice! I had never played with him before and was surprised at his calm, sure, steady approach to each (to him) unfamiliar piece. His tone and intonation were great, and his time was so happening that I didn't think of it once. This band worked together well, and I had a total blast playing with them.

For a moment, though, I'd like to get back to the singularity...

At moments like the ones I describe above, I am full of awe and wonder at the simplicity and purity of the human heart. Beauty is usually (perhaps always) simple, and when things start to get really complex, I start to get weirded out. I think we all do.

Our lives are getting so complex and expensive and cluttered and misdirected that if we don't stop it (STOP IT) we are in great danger of losing our true place in the universe. I'm not sure what that place is, but I do know what it isn't isn't about every single minute devoted to making another dollar.

It isn't about getting more stuff or owning more land or being more attractive or winning more games (or wars) or figuring out more ways to separate people from their money, their passions, their dreams. It isn't about dumping tons of garbage into the air and water of the earth or about making one more deal to get more barrels of liquid fossil-fuel for one less penny so that one more child gets asthma from breathing the burn-off.

I know you know all this. I just wonder what we're going to do about it, and I know with a certainty that WHEN WE DECIDE, we will be privy to many, many moments like the one I describe above.

The music is in me still because I have fought my entire life to preserve my own internal ecology. This is the bioenergetic meaning of truth. It is built into every human being from birth. Some of us pay dearly to hold on to it. The ones who lose it pay even more dearly, if unknowingly. When I touch the translator of my language (the piano) and speak with it, I am doing a pure and simple act, an act that is all bound up in the beauty and preservation and valuation and consecration of the human spirit and the place where we live. I am unaware of this when I'm doing it (as I should be) as it is an act of biological love, and such acts are beyond self-observation and self-consciousness.

I came away from the singularity ('gig' is a weak and silly word to describe this magic) with a firmer belief in the possibility of peace and reason. This may just be a passing euphoria caused by really cool music and really cool people... it may just be brain chemicals. I think it is probably all of that, but that the underlying emotion, no matter what the trigger, is valid and sound.

The music is a vehicle of the soul.

And our souls hold the answer to the problems we've posed ourselves here.

When the music plays through me, I am healed, and so are others.

This is a beginning, and not just for me. When we see that all of our pain is about learning, and all of our anger and angst is just fear, we can start to heal, heal each other, heal the world.

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Let's get busy. Not a lot of time to waste!


The Jazz Store, Dec '00, Carmel CA

It's a day she begins by feeling not so great. Allergies are always a problem on the Central Coast... everything is in bloom all the time. Perhaps post-nasal drip never killed anyone but she muses that there's a first for everything.

But around 3 pm the day sort of turns itself around. She's just seen a bunch of Woody Allen movies in the past several days, and she decides to approach life with a more existential air. Not much is worth getting too upset about (actually, plenty is worth getting upset about, and I'll tell you, she WILL be really upset about something, really SOON. I know her, but for now...) so she might as well not take herself too seriously. Go. Have fun. Make nice music. Play the old tunes why don't you. Don't be a genius... geniuses aren't fun.

And she just plays. And has fun. Even plays Misty, and does a cross between Erroll Garner and Dexter Gordon. Plays requests (someone asks for Autumn Leaves and it turns golden halfway through) and just enjoys every minute. (I like her when she's like this. No sturm und drang...) just good old creativity playing good old tunes.

Gil and Alan, owners of the venue and the hosts of KRML, Carmel's jazz radio station, seem to be enjoying themselves. Jessica made a cd there a while back  (Joyful Sorrow)  and it's playing as she gathers up her stuff to leave. She thinks now that it's a very beautiful record, and reflects that just a few hours ago she wasn't feeling too great; now she's feeling warm and wonderful, having an attack of that old jazz-magic that happens sometimes after a good gig. Satiation, satisfaction, an intuitive vibe that everything might turn out ok.

The sun is definitely going to go nova (in about 9 billion years) and the earth will lose most of it's atmosphere way before then. Matter is breaking down as we speak...entropy is turning our whole Universe into cream-of-wheat and there's not much we can do to stop it. Soon, even photons won't go very fast, at least not as fast as commuters on Route 17. She knows all this and figures it's ok with her.

As long as she can play this music and see and feel people respond with joy and affection, she's got entropy at bay. She's got the world on a string, what with the friends she's got and the gifts she sometimes takes for granted. She promises herself not to forget. (She will. I know her. But for now...)

String Theory suggests that we'll all wind up as cosmic pasta, and the Theory of Relativity really scares her, as she never cared much for any of her relatives. But it's nice to see her happy. And she feels good that she helped others feel good too.

She decides, at 3 am, that the sun might make it through the night.

She sleeps and dreams. -JW 24 Nov 2000


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