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The Broken Jazz Man

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Last summer, as I was walking through the streets of Chicago, an empowering sight was bestowed upon me; a sight which could either be seen as tragic and obscene or beautiful and inspiring. It was the sight of an older gentleman, around the age of 70, standing in an alley way, holding an old saxophone, stained crimson from years of rust. The man himself was covered in torn rags and was struggling to stand with the withered, weary, somewhat diminished frame that seemed to be as dented as the ancient instrument in his hand. Eventually, as I crossed the ever-so busy intersection, he started to play. The sound was phenomenal, the notes gleefully danced and echoed across the seemingly infinite row of uniformed buildings. Multitudes of individuals stopped in their tracks to marvel at the spectacle. Each note was played clear and seemed to penetrate in the assets of my heart with a vibrato which was nothing short of mastery. He played many familiar songs such as those by Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins; carrying out the sound to a point which seemed to be the entire city. All of these songs were played by memory, as if each one has obtained a special place within the old man’s heart. Gradually, as time swiftly progressed within the pulse of the music, the crowds diminished and people went to continue their days. Many offered him bills of all sorts, the man accepted them, but in a more casual manner than what could be expected from one in his situation.

Many thoughts dawned on me that night and through the past week. How could someone be so talented and just be left on the street? Just simply swept under society’s carpet, left with nothing? Surely, this man was more deserving, more skilled than many of today’s famous musicians. I mean, why is Paris Hilton famous, just because she happens to have a rich daddy? Are the truly talented trampled upon those who just happen to have the big bucks to publicize non-talent at best? The thought left me puzzled. Maybe the old man was just unlucky. It was just one of those unfair instances that life often seems to throw at us when we least expect it. Maybe this old man did not care about wealth; maybe he simply cared about reflecting upon the true beauty of life through his music. Many of the reasons behind what happens to us cannot be explained, we simply call it fate. And yet,despite somewhat angry thoughts, this encounter left me to simply admire this “broken” jazz man. How this man plays with such heart, such love in this apparently heartless world, which he probably experienced first hand. The songs expressed his story, his never ending desire to hold on, to never give up. I never believed that one can only master the blues through suffering until that day in downtown Chicago. Even this very day and throughout the remaining years of my life, I will always live with the image of that man and his simple message; even when life gets tough, always hold on, and you will pull through.



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BC123 said...
Sept. 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm:
Excellent article, keep writing!!!
 
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