Letters from Panama

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Letters from Panama

BEN ALLISON: Shades of the lights of the Big City

Published: 06.05.2018. at 11:19

I know about Ben Allison just what his records tell me about him. I choose to keep it that way. Double bass player, jazz detective and composer who loves Bowie, while his records surprise me in some neat way each and every time

Phantom Ship

I know about Ben Allison just what his records tell me about him. I choose to keep it that way. Double bass player, jazz detective and composer who loves Bowie, while his records surprise me in some neat way each and every time – I could hardly take more than that.

This time I am boarding a phantom ship and I find my place in the underdeck, the place where despair turns into something exciting, something that was alive in the time before mobile phones and that was fed by my slow handwriting in diaries and pocket planners. I have friends – lovers – the dead beside me, all left behind on worn-out pages, broken-hearted, numb to those who have loved us, blinded by our own tragedies that we had invented.

Here, it is so easy to forget one’s own name, to fall on your knees before every mistake. The bottle is getting heavier and I have stopped believing my memories long time ago. Melancholy is finally getting used to me. Now I am certain that one day she will miss me.

The City the way you imagine it

Ben Allison and I are old friends. I love to look at the world through his double bass. If I have talked about him before, and I’m almost certain I have, then I have not done it often or well enough. When someone inspires you, when he provides you with a new perspective on fruitless things and a rhythm that you too often search for in vain, then that will not do. I have learned that doing this profession I do.

Don’t be fooled by what you think you know. When doing this profession – as someone I don’t know has said – you learn when the smartest thing you can do is to turn your head and walk away in the opposite direction. Yet, certain actions grab hold of you and won’t let go.

Why does it take you so long to appear? And who is that guy who is so good at using a silencer? How does he move with it and what brand is the silencer? – these are all crucial questions I grapple with at the moment, as the walls of the room are closing in and all I have left is to turn up the music and try to find my way to the ship’s deck, with a spyglass in my hand. Whenever I meet a trumpet player practicing, I always come to the realization that there are myriad of ways a trumpet can kill you, unlike a gun. Maybe that is why I don’t take it out of the drawer. There, it keeps it warm for the half-empty brandy flask.

The waves of childhood and the salt of aging

What shall we talk about when there is nothing left to be said anymore? Will I be just like that when you show up at my door or at the beginning of the path I am looking at intently at every dusk? When our acquaintance turns hazy like you in your best half-drunk version, a memory as soft as a slow August summer day in the south of Herzegovina and when not a single word remains on the lips? What could ever save us when we are like that?

Layers of the city, that’s the title of Allison’s new record. It makes me fall in love in a completely new way in my tropical city, even though I know that the city Ben is playing about is not the city I give his record as a gift to. I want these humiliated suburbs to know it by heart. For these haunting melodies to celebrate those that are trodden down, to be the wings that can transform these ruins into something worth leading a decent life in.

Your version of the Big City, your layers of crumbling blocks and neighborhoods, your horizons of the mind where you no longer dare lose yourself, all of it is already written down and known by heart, Once infatuated looks have turned into looking over your shoulder, because you know I’m there even if I’m not present. The sleeping sun is the last warning and it slowly leaves its job to the street lamps that will soon start their overture for the neon lights of ours drives and instincts. On the top of the buildings lights are flashing to warn helicopters, but also in celebration of the adventure that we have long not been a part of.

The woman you wait for

I don’t know how long you were gone, it seemed like an eternity to me. All my rituals have turned into nervous tics. I would say I have become a laughing stock to myself, but that wasn’t always the case. I can’t even hide behind the record that I stole a couple of days ago from the small grimy record store at the end of the city. The clouds above me must be grouped in such a way that I can’t understand their intentions. The water is still clear, but minds are getting muddled.

What I need is a muted trumpet. That is the only silencer I believe in. I have learned a long time ago that you can’t solve anything with a gun. Even in your head. Especially not there. The fifth song on the record is both a cure and an inspiration. Who is that trumpet player and what does he want from me? Heavens are on my side. Ben Allison’s bass is bouncing off a sea I know nothing about. The rhythm and the melodies transform the falling sun into an almighty midnight.

Solutions are black and white, so is desire. Colors belong to someone else’s woman. This is just a job, I tell myself over and over again. Just like Ben Allison moved from the double to the electric bass, so I shall find a solution for my task. Moving from one location to another, from land to the ship’s deck, from the coast to my couch that I constantly miss, all of this was never a problem before. I just need to get rid of this room and its sound system.


AuthorMehmed Begić
2019-06-14T20:07:08+00:00 May 30th, 2019|Categories: Reviews, Sound, Blesok no. 125|0 Comments