Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Turned To Winter
By Jim Parks

Spring turned to winter, but not all at once. First, there was summer with its green and gold, the tourists, the hustle giving way to a dead town for the month of August while the three of them, the alto from K.C., the tenor from South Carolina and the tenor from New York, starved and baked amid the stone buildings and cracked sidewalks and ancient paving stones of Montmarte.

Autumn came suddenly with leaves falling and northeast winds blowing gusty promise of freezing temperatures. They stood, still, outside the eateries and bistros blowing traditionals and be bop, their melodies and voicings intertwining jazz chords of indigo and blasting hot red and alternate purple highlights, their pork pie hats and top coats shrouding their faces and bodies in favor of the golden brass of their horns. Occasionally, the owner of a small bistro would invite them in for a quick drink and let them blow some jass hot, but they got no club dates, no offers whatsoever.

It was as if Paris had swallowed them whole, accentuated their negritude, made them anonymous in their American devotion to that which no one wants but everyone can hear like the sound of the underground chains someone mentioned one time in a verse or two.

Lucky died sitting on a park bench while the other two drank brandy from the bottle and argued about baseball alternating with yet more arguments about boxing and basketball.

He leaned forward until his chin was touching the tops of his knees where they were elevated from his putting his feet on the case of the tenor horn. Then he toppled sideways and fell off the bench.

They sat and looked at each other in shock. "Man, it looks like this totally uncool interlude is truly over, brother," the alto said to the remaining tenor. They stood and blew "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" in drag step time while they waited for the ambulance to come and take him away.

He was buried unceremoniously in a potter's field at the end of a Metro line while they blew "Oh, When The Saints..." and "Autumn Leaves."

Their agent in New York wired them money and plane tickets back to Kennedy. They blew themselves to one last good meal in a Left Bank restaurant, everything from oysters to soup and salad, fish, roast beef au jus, cheese and nuts. Then they took the taxi to Orly and settled in for the ride back to New York where they caught a train to downtown and the West Side clubs.

After a few days of sitting in with friends who got them up late in the second set, the cat from South Carolina looked at the New Yorker and said, "I think I'll go spend the winter down home, man."

His partner said, "It's been real, baby. So that's what Paris is all about, huh?"

"For real, brother. That's it, man."

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