Blesok no. 112, March-April, 2017
KILLER JOE IN BANJA LUKA
Translated to English: Elizabeta Bakovska
KILLER JOE IN BANJA LUKA
I've read somewhere (or somebody told me) that riff of a piece is what dangerously good jazz musicians call killer joe. Especially when they hear it for the first time. If a musician jumps in with a riff that he has just thought of and which will make everybody numb for a moment, and then slowly, one by one, as they join in with their instruments, there is a great chance that somebody will say in excitement: “Bro, this is a killer joe!”. And that is how a classic is born.
I don't remember where I heard it. I don't remember to the extent that I might have invented it. And my brain would not be what it is if the song would not take me to the theatre play under the same name, which would later turn into a film in which Killer Joe is nobody else but Matthew McConaughey, in person and with a gun. It was before True Detective confirmed that in the future there will be no fooling around with casting.
This Joe is different than the one when I started listrening to Jazztet's songs. But there is a common essence of the type: don't screw with me and maybe everything goes ok.
Jazztet! What a good name for a band. A perfect name for anything. I imagine the situation: a smoky room, not a small one and not a big one. The instruments are set and plugged. The entrance is on the other side of the building where there is a bar with the bets music and a dancing team. In this room the trumpet player Art Farmer and the sax player Benny Golson restless rehearse with their friends. It is here that they come up with the song that they would call Killer Joe.
The truth is a bit different. Benny Golson composed this song in his apartment, in which he lived in 1959, at Manhattan, where his neighbour was Quincy Jones, who would often come by to steal some alcohol from his fridge, in any form. I imagine these scenes as Cramer’s barging at Seinfeld’s.
Killer Joe piece that we know is but its third version. The first two were fully destroyed by Benny. He ripped them, he tore them, he erased them. If he had listed to his wife, he would have destroyed the third as well. And maybe not. She might have convinced him to keep the third one. Quincy Jones recorded this piece on his album Walking in Space, some ten years later. He revisited in in some later albums.
SAXOPOHONES AND CLARINETS
Go back to your memories, where there was wind and rain at the port, conversations and long walks – as if it were spring, as if there was no ice hitting your face through the high collar on the short coat – up until the salvation lowering into the mouldy cellars of everything's offer: from St. Paul's prayers and his shelters to finding one's dreams in the dust, darkness and bitterness of waiting. Return to the beginning of the story before we listen to its end. Let's find some of its actors in the Balkans, far from west Dallas in Texas.
At the end of those 1950es, Paul Woods played in Quincey Jones's orchestra and had a tour in Europe, but they had no money to return to America, so their manager made them go to Yugoslavia. Woods was especially inspired by one of Tito's towns. He wrote a piece about it that Quincey made popular with his orchestra in Newport, in 1961. Allegedly they held their concert in Bosna hotel on candlelight, as there was a power cut.
Paris's playfulness and Hamburg's decadency, Vienna that would try to remain tame at any cost, they were all in vain, fun is easily found by those who want it. It was all in vain, Banja Luka got the piece.
A DANGEROUS MAN
I will tell you a story, a simple one, just like a record being made, he said – and you give your best and try to imagine it. It was at the very end of 1950es. New York was good and rough those days. They called me because they did not know what to do with these two guys who put up posters along the neighbourhood. ‘Has Anyone Seen Killer Joe?’ said the posters and they could not figure out if the situation was serious.
It wasn’t serious. If we see things in a pure jazz way. The guys tried to promote their future concerts with a mystery and their names were Art Farmer and Benny Golson. And I did not really want to be a detective. Being a poet, that was my dream. I loved jazz, all of that rock-and-roll madness somehow missed me. They took me to the room in which they rehearsed. I read poems as they played, we later drank at the near-by club. Now I know, it was the best night in my life.
The detail with the posters reminded me of the graffiti action of Belgrade Boys, later Idoli, at the very end of the 1970es. I didn’t tell him anything. It was not hard to imagine. On the contrary, I enjoyed it.
I heard even more unbelievable storied told by much less convincing voices. I even thought of some of them myself. And I believed in every one of them. This is one of the better ones.
It returns me through the tunnel under the sea, to the spring, it makes you count your steps from yourself to the Red-Light neighbourhood, in the very heart of the sailor country, you used to restlessly go there. Think of your days, buying a return ticket. Every breath that you take is repeated. A moment is an illusion.
Quincy Jones - Jook Joint Intro