Roaring Silence : In Memory Of Elvin Jones
It's there on "Promises Kept", from Sharrock's Ask the Ages.
It's there on "Monk's Dream", from Young's Unity. It's there
on "Wild Flower" from Shorter's Speak No Evil. It's there
in almost overwhelming presence on "Pursuance". And how many others?
That sound. That feel. That playing in, on, and around the one—pushing
it, prodding it, hiding it, only to once again, to always, reveal.
It's the sound of a constant, chattering snare drum, a conversant
with itself. A conversant with everything else. It's the multidirectional,
multi-conversational sound that drives with a propulsion unmatched
and unparalleled. But that doesn't do it justice. It's easy enough
to throw around words like multidirectional, like polyrhythmic—even
to provide a reasonable definition — but that still doesn't
touch it. Dissection, even notation, is not out of the question, and
an explanation of the use of quarter note or eight note triplets,
followed by the same or similar statement in thirty-second notes,
can explain the illusion of elasticity, of how the beat can seem so
malleable. But that won't get to it. Not really. It's something deeper,
more profound. It's in the way we hear, the way we have been forced
to hear. It's the revelation that in every forward momentum there
is the ability to collapse all, everything, upon itself. It's the
revelation that circularity and linearity are not incongruous. "So
we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into
the past." It's the declaration that time really is pliable, and the
arrogance to thrash it around for a while. It's the hubris to own
a piece of infinity, and to carve it out with a wire brush. It's the
exuberance of the explorer who has just discovered the great, lost
city, and who cannot help but smile. But that doesn't do it justice
either. It's beyond metaphor. It's beyond language. It's the realization
that we cannot speak everything we know. It's the gift of acceptance
that there are entire gulfs of meaning that we will only grasp for
a bitter moment, bitter not because the moment is short but because
all that is miraculous costs. "And now, each night I count the stars,
and each night I get the same number. And when they will not come
to be counted, I count the holes they leave." It's that damn growl,
that fucking, chest-shaking, bone-rattling growl. Visceral, released
not for show or as self-indulgence, but because the force of creation
is sometimes too much to bear. It's that mist rising from an overworked
body, marking out "Alabama" for all the world to hear. It's that fight
with and in spite of ten other men, excising demons to reach something/anything/everything,
only to be the last one standing. And it's the patience, the stoicism,
to do it all over again. When asked to, when required. It's the rolling
sound, a cascade... that's not right... cascade's not right. It's
a rock, a boulder, a mountain rolling down itself and the reckless
advance to retrieve it. It's the wonder and awe of the ability to
persevere. "If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow,
it can also take place in joy. This world is not too much." It's the
concentration of the history of beats: Hearts, bodies, bones, skin,
in war and peace, in fear and love. Humans with and against themselves.
It's the Jes Grew and the Afro Blue and the Library of Babel. It's
the exile. It's the realization that directions change but not necessarily
the acceptance of the change of direction. It's an incapacitating
need, addiction and self-destruction, closing everything down. It's
the many-mouthed, many-eyed, visage of God that is too frightening
to see but too beautiful to look away. From. It's the widening gyre
and what must have felt very much like betrayal that everyone at some
time must feel: Friend to friend, mind to body, body to soul. It's
decades and decades and decades of accumulation. It's a frail man
on a bandstand with an oxygen tank at his side. It's the love that
has kept him there. It's the legacy that all must face, all who ever
hope to make some musical contribution, however small. However insignificant.
But even that does not touch it. Because, it is ultimately untouchable.
It is the sermon on the mount. It's the first meditation. It's the
love supreme. It's the commitment to a life of music, to a life measured
somehow differently, by standards that are found only on a different
scale. It's the knowledge of the Gnostic, the ability to speak in
tongues. It's knowing the Shibboleth, and more importantly, when to
use it. And ultimately it's as simple as sticks, hands, and drums.
It's motion. Perpetual. It's ever growing and forever altering. And
none of us will ever hear music the same way again.
With love and sorrow.