The Acid Jazz Man
by Elizabeth McLaughlin
Phillipe studied with the best that Paris had to offer. Dodging from night clubs to smoke-filled lounges, sneaking back stage and performing among the greatest. He had the talent of translating everything into cool and in demand by the coolest entertainment personalities globally. Everyone loved his groovy pitch black dyed goatee and fedora green velvet hat. It added to his intoxicating addicting persona. This Thursday afternoon was practice and after catching the red-eye from London to New York City his hometown, Phillipe was preparing for a special jam. His antiquated warehouse roof top sandwiched in-between brick apartment buildings transformed into a well-known hot spot for musicians to gather and gig. A loud horn honked and door alarm buzzed. Phillipe ran across the wooden loft floor to open up the steel framed window and yelled down to his new band to take the freight elevator over to the left and that he would meet them up on the roof top. The group of disheveled musicians piled out of a renovated dark grey cargo van, grasping black musical instrument cases and headed for the huge rusted freight door. Phillipe finished his lemon plunge martini over lunch while the band unloaded equipment and then headed for a spiral staircase over by his front door and ascended up to the ceiling and swung open a silver aluminum roof top hatch.
There Yvonne da Bomb Bomb greeted him with a long huge wet kiss on the lips and sultry hug. Yvonne da Bomb Bomb was just that a Bomb and known for her smooth vocal tones, tribal linguistics and animal tones to blues, funk and soul. Her afro bounced up and down along with every mechanism a woman would love to achieve developing at a local spa. Yes, Yvonne, capital “Y” for short possessed it all, therefore, her stage name. The “Y” was from Nairobi, Africa and very gifted by ancestry. Aiko another vocalist but from Japan, known as “love child”, smiled and gently tugged on Phillipes ear and whispered something wild but quiet. Lucca shouted over to Phillipe, “hey man when you can break away, show me where to set up the drums, we gotta get this beat going.” Phillipe dislodged his grip on both girls and joyfully flipped his arms upward and said, “man, over by the water tower stage, is where we will be setting up.” Skinny Bean, a clarinet player offered to assist Lucca with the bulky drum set-up. Skinny Bean was known at his home town, London, as Skinny and in the New York City jazz circles, Bean. Hence, the combination suited his physical appearance as well as geographic playing location perfectly. Skinny Bean and Phillipe go back many years meeting at the .famous Blue Note Club in London. Skinnies parents originated from the Caribbean, he grew up on the ghetto streets and as a young boy would street play for tourist dollars over at Piccadilly Circus. He performed at the best under-ground jazz club caverns where it was quite common for famous musicians to make surprise appearances. Some clubs even closed, its doors but Skinny would never take a closing for granted. Skinny would stand outside the padlocked doors and still perform for undying clubbies and fans, collecting tips all night long until the club reopened under new management.
A one two, a one two, three, four, and with a nod of his head Phillipe pursed his narrow lips up to his horn. The rest of the band chimed in as neighboring pigeons began to take roof top flight and circle above the stage. That is until there was an abrupt door slam and out shuffled Pete, late as usual, rolling his keyboards along his side. Phillipe turned and fingered for Pete to come to the stage, “hey man, don’t ever do this to me again or your out.” Pete travelled from New Orleans, Louisiana, and his resume offered a one time musician for the great Elvis Presley. After the Presley experience Las Vegas was usually his gig town but he never fit in with the country band scene and longed to do more free style creative work. Phillipe met Pete while performing at a Las Vegas lounge, found him stooped over a whiskey filled glass and the rest is history. They somehow bonded as musicians do and Pete was offered to show off his stuff and then to play in a new upcoming acid jazz band. It was the break that Pete needed, especially after a turbulent divorce from his wife, and business associates. The two girls did a dagger glare stare at Pete as he approached them to set up, side stage. Phillipe once again signaled for a start and the band harmoniously clicked as if apart but one. “Y” – opened up with soothing bird noises and the roof top was transformed with a following of flute, horns, base, and drums.
It became a ritual for the neighborhood and as word got out on the street that a gig was in place., people of all ages began to fill up the roof top with heads bobbing, clapping and break dancing bodies spinning against the polished wooden dance floor. Legs and arms tightened and contorted to the beats. Sweat began to pour from Phillipes face as he blew his horn, thoughts wandered into a different emotional plane that transformed into the perfect blend of music. It was the genre of music, calling him to transform, distort, reach, familiar notes into something quite unique. Notes repeated and then glided off into a higher extreme, the crowd loved it and Phillipe then knew that his band was in the gold. Skinny grabbed the mike, de, bop, de, de de, bop, bop, bop as “Y” wrapped her long legs onto the silo stairs and snaked up to the top of the air conditioning units. In the distance old iron fire escapes offered groupies the perfect balcony view. Lucca looked up at “Y” and repeatedly sang, “hey babe I’m gonna kiss you tonight, hey babe, hey babe” “Y” pointed down to him and teasingly responded with, “hey babe, who do you think you are, come on over and try.” And then she screeched out a loud leopard noise. Everyone cheered and laughed while continuing to hold the beat. Then the melody changed very quickly as it first started. The beat changed and so did the vocals, In a high-pitched voice, Aiko proceeded to anchor the crowd in harmony singing “Sisters, Brothers, we are all together.” Scratching noises were produced from a turntable, as “Y” took to the cowbell. Horns blared in the background. Phillipe yelled, “It’s all about the beat babes, the beat, the beat…” (to be continued)