August is a glorious month in Japan. For all of us English teacher's, we get 2 weeks off to recharge, relax and do whatever it is we please. Most of my friends made a mad dash for the airport and headed to a variety of countries. From Thailand to Peru my peoples were exploring the ends of the Earth.
I, however, took a different approach to the vacay. Instead of joining the exodus, I chose to stay at the crib and focus on a few areas of life I felt needed a little more attention. Most notably, my Japanese!!
A partial motivation to do so (stay home) was provided by a good friend of mine, Reuben Rogers. Reuben's a world class upright bass player who takes the art to places most could not imagine. It just so happened, he was bringing out a trio to play 5 nights here in Tokyo.
There's a legendary venue in Omotesando called Body and Soul that is celebrating it's 30th anniversary. As part of the celebration Reuben's crew was joined by a different Japanese artist 3 of the 5 nights. And all I can say is, I wish they stayed for 10!
Amidst all my hip-hop pursuits and club nights I've seemed to have lost the part of my self that took the time out to enjoy the frequency that is Jazz. Oddly enough, I listened to it more when I was 16 than I do now. Perhaps it's fear of aging! I can't call it. But I'll tell you this, the 4 nights I spent at Body and Soul were absolutely cathartic.
I've found that there are times that I don't even know something is wrong with me until I experience what is right. This was certainly the case here in Omotesando. Simply put, these brothas hold a space. You have no choice but to dismiss all the typcial trains of thought when in the presence of Masters.
Not only were they supremely present, but they also evoked an array of emotions from composition to composition that was absolutely chilling. There were times I wanted to cry, times I wanted to dance, and everything in between.
As moving as it all was, I must say, the pieces composed by Eric Harland, the drummer, held a special place for me. The only way I could describe them is he 'takes you to church.' The beauty with Jazz is, there are so many dynamics criss-crossing and weaving in and out of each other that a lot of times I didn't see it (the soul) coming til those chords dropped and "BLOW!" Smacked me in the bone marrow!
Involuntarily, my face got stuck on ugly. You know that face you make when a sound is so raw that it penetrates all self consciousness and consumes your very being. Yeah, THAT one. They took me there early and often. Combine that with the nostalgia factor that had me recounting my days in church pews where people caught the holy ghost at the mere tickling of ivory keys, and yes, my friends, you've got the making of musical magic.
Meanwhile, the musician in me was sponging their every move. Attempting to interpret their unspoken language. Catch a glance or a smile that had implications far beyond the obvious. Often times I felt spot on in my observations, others I was left guessing. "Why did he just say 'Uh!'?" "What are they laughing at?" "Did he know he was going to do that?" It was a wonderful game of "Mindreader!"
The icing for me was being able to kick it with the guys after the show. Occasionally I'd ask about something I thought was happening and get confirmation or humbled depending on the answer.
Aside from the music, the atmosphere was just right. It called forth a higher state of being. I can't describe how good it felt to be around grown folks, doing grown things!
And at a time when I was praying for some much needed focus and inspiration in my life, the Reuben Rogers Trio delivered...and then some.