Parenting Blog

The Jazz Player’s Drum Beat

preservation hall NOLA

I feel shitty about it still.

It was the opening night in New Orleans and for weeks there was giddy talk of a return to Preservation Hall. Me and the fellas. It was going to be epic.

Only, by 8:30pm, as the party wound down, I had already retreated to a corner of the hotel library in search of some quiet. The idea of being with a crowd, even a crowd of guys I love or at least like a whole lot, no longer appealed to me. So we split, just me +1, without fuss or fanfare, out the side door. We settled into a spot at the front of the queue which ensured us a pair of seats. That is what I really wanted — to be close for the first time, to watch the players, to hear the brushes on the drums.

I am the drum beat.

My girls started a small business at the kitchen table last spring. For much of the 12 months that followed, I was alone in propping it up. A stray Instagram post to remind others, but mostly to keep it in front of my daughters, that their thing was still a thing. It was a not so gentle sentence, said aloud and with too much accusation buried inside the words, tucked into the spaces in between, that they shouldn’t waste this opportunity. It was repeated before school, after dinner, on the weekend. I was buying time for it to really click. I was keeping that time, tapping the toms, riding the cymbals, waiting for them to dart through my steady reliable beat with their slashes of inventive guitar or a biting sax solo. I was waiting for one of them to stand up, wail on trumpet, and makes hearts sing.

I am what you hear without hearing.

Years ago, in conversation held while squeezed up against a stone wall of a Santa Barbara restaurant’s crowded outdoor patio, as a massive amount of paella was being made in a 4 foot diameter steel pan over an open flame, I was asked what instrument I hear first and predominantly while listening to music. “Often it is bass first,” I said, “but usually, before long, it is the drummer that I pick up and key in on for the duration.”

This was true too at Preservation Hall on that night I abandoned the fellas.

Preservation Hall Inside Before the Jazz Show

His eyes were closed. He looked tired, beaten down, and uninterested but damn if he wasn’t floating inside the songs. He was barely touching his kit but he was holding it all together, the mortar binding the disparate players meant to perform as one. For long periods of the 40 minute set, he was all I heard. Tap tap, brush brush. The unnoticed pavement on which everyone walks with ease.

I have no rhythm but I too am the beat, lost in the songs, tucked in behind the stars at the front of the stage shown in the brightest light.

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