Saturday 29 September 2007

Out of the dirt springs a miracle

I remember when I first lived in new york four years ago, I heard all these stories about where the new downtown was. In one version, the new downtown was some town out in the middle of Jersey, but I couldn't really fly with that. The point of it all was where the artist-scenes were happening, and how. I was looking for something, you know, something specific, and it was that kind of scene/community thing I blog and talk about sometimes, where something gorgeous rises up from the dirt and dances.

In this town you can take your pick of historical scenes that have fostered everything in the avant garde and popular culture of the past hundred years or more, ever since Walt Whitman sat on a stoop in Fulton street, jiving about leaves of grass and calling to human beings to get off their arses and FEEL.

But that's all just a bunch of stories, and you can so easily miss the incredible fucking beauty of the moment in the search for something else. The moment itself IS the edge. The moment is also all there is, and everything is jiving in it.

Way back in 2001, when I came to this city for the very first time, on a six day fly-through, I found myself sitting at a gig in the Zinc bar with about a dozen other people in the house including the band, and Alex Blake, the shamanic upright bass player, was getting down with piano, drums and a saxophone. It was a beautiful gig, a holy and dirty gig. I was sitting right in front, a bashful spit away from him.

And they came to the last song and he began to play an African circle song. It sounded like a sing-song to me, I grew up on sing-songs in Ireland, where everybody sang the songs they had in common, and then somebody got up, usually a man actually, and sang some ballad with a tender tenor voice and everyone went quiet and listened and then roared at the end and off we went again on another song.

Everybody knows a good chorus when they hear one. And Alex was encouraging people to sing, at least that's how I heard it, so I found a place and filled out a three part harmony with the bass and the saxophone. And we sang the chorus, over and over, until it was done. Until it was done.

My eyes were tight tight shut, but I remember his voice, hissing at me, "feel it! feel it!", making my heart soar for the next round. It felt so intimate in there, all I heard were the three voices and this flying free.

I was at another three part gig last night, in the Delacorte in Central Park, where I last went to see Shakespeare in the Park. Right in the middle of it was this shining vision of a woman singing her songs of beauty and hip, of sexy and sacred, speaking my tongue and the sound she made doing it felt like the most gorgeous vibration I have ever heard come out of a human being this side of Christy Moore. It's easy to get hyperbolic in new york city, but this gig felt like a homecoming. And there was singing-along, sugar. There was a sing-song in Central Park last night.

I love where I live. I have a strong desire to continue to live here and explore. I love the work I'm doing. I have a strong desire to keep exploring that, too. I am so utterly humbled by all this jivin' good stuff.

I'm feeling it, Alex. I'm feeling it, Walt. It's going on.

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