Friday, September 24, 2010


It was over three months ago when I traveled to New York City by means of the ever famous, often dangerous Fungwah Mega Bus. My bags were packed and ready for a weekend of first timers: the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, the first A-list celebrity spotting (that being Adam Sandler), the first taste of ARTICHOKE pizza (found in East Village and highly recommended) and the first time ever in an early morning conga line at a 24 hour diner in the meat-packing district (this was not planned, I swear). Out of all these “firsts”, I most simply cherish my first live jazz concert seen at The Jazz Standard between Park Avenue South and Lexington Ave. As the closing act of New York’s Carefusion Jazz Festival, a remarkable quintet played a smooth and chilling forty-eight minute set that, without any idea that this would happen, sent me into a sort of mind play, with various images in the style of a 1940s silent film, directed by my thoughts and masterfully sounded by Ambrose Akinsimure (trumpet), Mark Turner (alto-saxophone), Jason Moran (piano), Justin Brown (drums) and Harish Raghaven (upright bass).

Out of the entire performance, I was completely transfixed by their second song. Noted as the newest of Ambrose’s composition, Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto was definitely a turning point in my personal recognition and appreciation for Jazz. Unlike those who have been naturally converted by the compositions of John Coltrane or Miles Davis, Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong, it was the living, breathing Ambrose Akinsimure who converted me into this artistic faith. Throughout Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto, the Ambrose Akinsimure Quintet magically illustrated a tranquil story full of depth and human emotion. I wouldn’t classify my experience as a sort of inception, but rather a moment of reaching a deeper level of consciousness. This was a trance that can only be revisited by pressing the repeat button over and over again, each time walking away with a greater reflection: a suffocating cry for humanity, while swallowing pills of sadness. It was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and being able to witness it live only enhanced my chilling imagery of a broken girl and the men who composed sounds of her final moments on earth.

For this, I have attempted to re-illustrate what I saw through improvisational writing (edited and restructured together below) while listening to this song over and over again (literally over and over and over again). For Allen Ginsberg once used Jazz music as a forum for his poetry and prose, it only seemed appropriate to do the same. So as the wine glasses clunked and the silverware clicked and clanged, and Ambrose’s eyes reached the ceiling in one fierce intimate stare, I was released into this story upon a long exhale into his first piercing note of Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto. This is what I saw, in present tense to be read with music streaming in the background (coming soon, I promise):
Press Play.

The horns blow steady. The cymbols crash and the wind stays calm. Silence ignites her ever changing emotions. The piano chords sting scores of beautiful thunder and she sits alone on a train headed toward an unknown destination. Her face remains solemn, with her jaw clenched shut and her eyes dolled open. A woman with no baggage, she carries just the clothes on her back and a hole in her heart.

Cymbols clash for freedom, drums roll for progress
and the train continues down the track.
Bada ba bada ba bada ba
beautiful, dissatisfied, alone

A trumpet blows a sorrowful yet cryptic tune: one of loss and hardship that is instantly enlightened with the cool mystical thoughts of the present. The journey she has taken several times before now seems as real as the pressed cushion on her back and the intercom running through her ears. She stares into a lifeless image of leather seats and metal shelving. The windowpane looks clear out to her escape: a distant view of cold, empty, dried-out land. Passengers ignore the lonely scenery in exchange for an equally lonely gadget. The conductor travels through the aisles like a prisoner pacing back and forth in his cell. She looks forward neglectful of what she has witnessed several times before.

The train stops and the conductor exhales harshly through his tired whistle. The passengers exit in one long single filed line, like a zipper linking one by one until its silver edges are no longer apart. She wanders around the dirty, unpaved roads into a town of desperation. The trumpet and saxophone hum towards the sadness in the eyes of the hopeless followers exiting the terminal and continuing down to a valley of leather skinned children and metal headed country folks. The breeze settles the shuffling dirt upon her bare feet. Once hungry for life, her appetite has dwindled into the arms of her forgetful soul. She feels nothing.
bada ba bada ba
famished, insecure

Drained of light, her intestines are filled with toxic sorrow – the chemicals that outweigh rationality with the burden of disappointment. She walks along in search of a dull horizon and a ledge of freedom, walking away from the man she once loved and entering into a relationship with Mother Earth. A piano plays alone while she passes through civilization into the clear breeze and sounding trees, toward that horizon of her fixation. Strands of long brown hair come lifted off her shoulders and she smiles, hopelessly.

She stands upon the ledge, tears sliding down her pale cheeks, one after the other her pupils blackened and her lips dark blue. Her palms face outward with wisdom, her shoulders rest forward delicately showing signs of a tired lonely woman defeated by life’s existential angst.
She inhales.
Ambrose exhales.
Her feet creep forward with every inch bringing her closer to her last step.
She lifts her body forward
as she commits a beautiful.....

Clash, clash, clashes of hope
Cymbols slamming into an encore of movement
The bass drum rolls as the piano man gives birth to the textural setting.
The trumpet moans tranquilly and
the saxophone howls for the loss of a woman in a man's world.
Settling in and out, note after note,
sinking deeper into a mystifying understanding of human suffering

Horns hold steady after she has passed
Mister saxophone gives up his last breath for her tears
Sir trumpet gives up his blow for her pain
And together they create stillness in the crowded woods of purgatory,
in the welcoming gates of heaven, and the dark chambers of existence.
Together they bid farewell
And the piano man sings to her

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a moving interpretation, filled with imagery. Beautifully spoken, heartfelt words.