Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Miscellaneous: Travels With Laptop

Greetings from New York City. My first post from the road almost came in the wee hours of the morning, but I couldn’t get decent internet access at Sea-Tac Airport. Our red eye flight east was delayed due to weather. Takeoff was pushed from a hair before midnight to three AM. It’s strange to have a normally bustling superstructure all to yourself. Most of the other passengers decided to go to sleep, the automated announcements echoing off the walls not disturbing their slumber. Rosemarie and I ended up commandeering an empty section of terminal and playing charades using the longest titles we could think of. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium.

Fortunately, the delay didn’t throw a crimp into our evening plans. We were reasonably bright-eyed and technically bushy-tailed when we went to see Martial Solal, one of the world’s foremost jazz pianists, celebrate his eightieth – eightieth! – birthday with one of a week’s worth of solo shows at The Village Vanguard. Solal is only the second performer honored with a run of such sets. (Fred Kaplan has a great summary of Solal’s career. It was Kaplan’s review of NY1, an album Solal recorded during a lonely run at the Vanguard after September 11, 2001, that sparked my interest in Solal’s work.)

The show was an absolute joy, a celebration in every sense. Solal toyed with a battery of standards – “Body and Soul,” “Tea for Two” – with the energy and ingenuity of a man half his age, but also with the ease of a performer who no longer has to prove himself. It was like eavesdropping on a master noodling on the piano in his study, playing for his own amusement. Occasionally I could glimpse a small smile creeping across Solal’s face, vanishing as soon as another notion occurred to him. “I tried to play ‘Cherokee,’” he said at one point, shrugging helplessly. His rendition of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” was infused with the memory of a lifetime’s worth of clear days. Quite the memorable start for our trip.