I saw a man the other night; a gray haired, black man in a collar-less suit and he played jazz piano for bread and butter. Of course that may be an understatement, since we are talking about Ahmad Jamal, a graceful 80 year-old classic musician admired and respected by none other than legendary trumpet player, Miles Davis, along with several others (courtesy of wikipedia); and I heard him in a quartet just 17 hours ago. It was incredible.
The first set included a few experimental tunes, that caught my ear, though I enjoyed the second set more, with an increase in upbeat rhythm and swing. I wanted to get up and dance, but unfortunately my self-consciousness stopped me. The most interesting lesson of the evening though, was found in observing the man, this ancient musician, who may pass away within the next ten years or so.
He was so elegant, calm, and relaxed. I liked how he always took time to introduce the other musicians and then ended the line with "and me," in a sort of comic yet, personal or intimate way. We weren't at an Ahmad Jamal concert, Ahmad Jamal was playing in our living room after dinner.
Following the performance, the patrons gathered in the foyer where they purchased albums and waited for the artist to sign. I was in a group of friends when Ahmad walked through the crowd and sat down at a table, ready to begin. I would have liked to talk with him, to shake his hand, and discuss music. I felt like I easily could have, if it weren't for the line. I imagine that he would have listened to me, and he would have mentored me. Mr. Jamal seemed like a character who understood the meaning and importance of legacy, and I'd like to think that he would eagerly pass on any wisdom through youth. True, I'm no uprising jazz musician, but somehow that idea struck me, and I felt it to be true.
Ahmad Jamal, in his elegance and grace, signed those CDs that night for the people. It was all too regular for him by his mannerisms, yet despite the normalcy, he seemed to enjoy it, and was cool. Music is what he did, does, and he loves it. He didn't seem prideful either, just accepting of the role he'd chosen in life, and was happy with it.
Unfortunately we didn't stay to meet him, but we did cut through the crowd on our way to the door. I turned my head for a final glance, one last look at a genius.