Monday, October 8, 2007

Dan Jaffe's Farewell To Arch Martin

Dan Jaffe is a Kansas City-based poet and composer. He shares his impressions of Arch Martin's September 8 farewell concert with Plastic Sax.

After a musical conversation of more than half a century with Kansas City, Arch Martin said goodbye as a great jazzman must, in concert.  He was with players able to scorch the room, old friends who had played together many times.  They all showed soul enough to play the blues with joy.

For four hours, except for the briefest intermissions, Arch, Paul Smith, Bob Bowman, Tommy Ruskin and Mike Metheny reminded the audience how jazz can surprise, in old ways, in new times.

I remember first hearing Arch in 1962 with George Salisbury, Milt Abel and Vince Bilardo, an outing I have never forgotten.  How would this "older" Arch Martin fade out I wondered.  He wouldn't.  The 2007 Arch kept the audience's full attention, reinspired the Blue Room's reputation as a "listening" room.  No, they didn't chatter, they didn't leave, and they repeatedly expressed love and enthusiasm.

What mattered most was the feeling that filled the room and informed the music.  It was powerful yet complicated, subtle yet clear.  This was clearly celebratory, a hallelujah for great playing and years of devotion to jazz.

The final standing ovation was extended and spontaneous, nothing ritual or forced about it, the natural response of those deeply moved and appreciative.

But this was also an evening full of sorrow.  Arch was leaving for Los Angeles and there was no way to relive all those glorious Kansas City moments, the rhythms, the humor, the great phrases from Arch's trombone and the great answers he evoked.

-Dan Jaffe

(Image nicked from an instrument dealer.)

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