The relationship between music and language is intuitively close, but fiendishly difficult to understand. Rhythm, metre, cadence, intonation, and interplay all serve and are served by both. Structurally, too, there are analogies between pieces and poems, stories, novels, collections. Yet to move beyond analogy and metaphor to any actual affinity between music and language, music and writing, the experience of listening to music and that of reading literature, is a challenge. Thus to attempt in a novel to both capture something of the nature of jazz in one’s prose and structure, and to explore the minds of four people, one of whom was something of a genius in his field, is a tall order. Perhaps too tall.
the fundamental question is one of life, of how to live, precisely, in music.
Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby are widely acknowledged to be two of the greatest live jazz albums. Both emerged from sets played by the Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard in New York on 25th June 1961. Evans at the piano, Scott LaFaro on bass, Paul Motian on drums: each attuned and in melodic sympathy to the other two, pushing forward with their material as only this trio could. Ten days later LaFaro died in a car accident. Evans was devastated by the loss of someone with whom he had so deep a musical communion. In Intermission Owen Martell addresses what happened next as Evans is passed like a theme between his brother Harry, his mother Mary, and father Harry Sr, before the devastated pianist completes the quartet. Each has their own baggage: a less talented older brother, an unhappily married wife, a father who has retired and lost his purpose. Bill’s presence seems to absorb the cares of others, bringing them either to consummation or to crisis.
First posted: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013.