Jazz Alley (Damien Davies)

The back alley lit briefly with the flick of thumb to Zippo. No fancy tricks this time, only the soft click of the lighter opening and brief smell of butane. It had been a rough crowd for the first set. Less people than usual and those that did come wanted the standards to be played rather than what the soul asked for. All those visitors in search of the real music, with no idea that it will never be found beneath stage lights over fruity drinks.

Smoke floated with the grace of ballroom dancers in the weak light thrown off by the propped-open back door.  With the square hanging off the corner of my mouth I open the case at my feet and take out my baby.  Pull a worn bandana from my back pocket and began to polish the curves and angles of an old and battered Martin.

While my hands follow their usual pattern of polishing my mind roams about like a kid exploring the woods. The horn didn’t need to be polished but it helps me settle before i play. The weathered trumpet is a  Martin, best you can get, and it didn’t matter to any of them tonight. Now when I say Martin I mean real Martin, pre RMC days. Yessir money can’t buy a better instrument. The only problems with this type of horn are the ones the player brings with him.

Grinding the tail end of my smoke beneath the heel of my shoe I twist on the mouth piece and bring her up to my lips. The notes that come out are pure blue, solemn and sad. It is the sound of dark alleys and cold nights, forbidden romance and unrequited love. The type of music only done justice through being played with no one listening on late August nights after the world has gone to sleep. It is not a music meant to be heard by anyone other than those who live outside the normal hours of life. It is the song of single mothers just getting off the swing shift, late night cab drivers and those without a place to call home.

The last few notes bleed off into the night, weaving themselves into the sound of street-sweepers and train-yards. The click of latches stands in for applause and the light beckons me back inside. There are tourists waiting to be force fed their ideas of jazz in large baby food heaps of popular standard tunes. It is not real jazz, but it is a living. The alley will always be waiting after all, and that last cocktail waitress did hold on to my hand longer than she needed to when taking my money. Perhaps after the show a different kind of music can be made in those late night hours.

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