It was white. Everything was white. Translucent. It was cold. Everywhere was cold. The neighborhood silent. Montreal, breathless. Frost. Ice. Still. Insomnia. January 1998.
Lately, I fall asleep to the sound of woodwinds. Tonight, the sound of brass was muted by the storm, and replaced by the sound of wind whistling through the window pane. In our living room, on the television stand, a new copy of Sonny Rollins‘ Saxophone Colossus, unwrapped. The Great Ice Storm is the evening’s band leader, and winter blues in Cold major, its melody. Newk will have to sit this one out. As will sleep.
It was black. Everything was black. Thick. It was raw. Everywhere was raw. The neighborhood windswept. Montreal, scorched. Fog. Rain. Heavy. Halloween 1996.
Lately, I don’t sleep. Dad died. The sound of my mother’s tears from her bedroom cuts through Thom Yorke‘s falsetto. I hit pause on the CD player. Grief sings to me from a few feet away. Please mom, hit the stop button. On the floor, a borrowed copy of John Coltrane‘s Blue Train, untouched. I’m sorry dad, but I’m chasing the blues away. Trane will ride this one out with me. Until the morning comes.
Improvisation calms me. Through jazz, I sleep. Dissecting harmonies. Intellectualizing the blues. Muzzling all expressions of feelings. I have padded my inner walls. I feel safe. I live and sleep by myself. The occasional sleepover guests share the same concerns: I have created a space in which no one lives. How wrong they are: my mind roams aimlessly in the opened structures of jazz. They are not invited.
Turn the record over.
Note from the author: The Blues and The Abstract Truth is a four-part reflection on Jazz and its impact on my life during the years that followed my father’s death. The title The Blues and The Abstract Truth is borrowed from the Oliver Nelson album recorded in 1961.