Old Dutch Young Genever

Roermond 1975

The boy clutched it like a brown phallus between his legs. He had a small goatee, a starting dark Afro-hairdo and Freud-like glasses with a golden frame. He was about 20 years old and drunk. 'What do you think of use of electronics?', he asked the black man with the slick mustache, who sat next to him on the side of the road in front of the TV-camera, in broken English. The man looked at him. 'Drunk talk, what to do with it', he thought. But in a close crowd of 3000 white festival visitors, their skin color was their connection. 'Oh, I don’t know, it depends on what’s done with it', he answered willingly but with reservation. 'I think it’s shit, man! Electronics is bullshit'.

It was clear by his accent that he had to be a West-Indies Londoner. He put the jug to his mouth and was swaying dangerously. 'If you use the instrument totally, you don’t need electronics'. He got the feeling he had announced a deep truth and repeated the sentence a few times. . 'If you use the instrument totally, you don’t need electronics'.

It had been a long day and the big moment was almost there. Johnny Griffin and Eddy 'Lockjaw' Davis, Horace Parlan, Clark Terry, of course they were brothers, but they didn’t make real black music. On stage now was only a small bold Dutchman, who made unnecessary jokes that were no interest to anybody about the fact the he, as VPRO-radioman was announcer at a AVRO-TV festival. 'I have a message for mister Andrew Cyrille', he shouted in the microphone. 'If mister Andrew Cyrille is here around, please come to the castle'.

His English was much worse than that of the boy with the Afro. The boy turned to his neighbor again. 'Do you know Andrew Cyrille? Andrew Cyrille is to Cecil Taylor what Elvin Jones was to John Coltrane'. His eyes were sad. 'You know, I was eleven years when Coltrane died'. The man looked at him, not understanding. 'I was eleven years when Coltrane died'. There was desperation in his voice and he almost cried. Why couldn’t he find the words to make clear what he meant? To be a black 16 year old in Holland and to find out that you all time hero died, when you were an 11-year old en new nothing about it. He took another drink from the brown jug and almost fell over. The man grabbed him and pulled him up.

He saw Andrew Cyrille busy on stage setting up his drums. He braced himself. 'Cecile Taylor and Norris Jones and Andrew Cyrille are three of the great musicians of the African …..'. The man next to him now looked another way. 'I’m going to piss. Shift, I’m going to piss and shit!' The boy tried to push himself up to jump on the floor, but fell half down. He staggered and only just managed to grasp the edge of the camera rails. Two Dutchmen who sat close by on a chair and a fishing-stool, stood up and moved away a few meters, scared to get their leisure-wear covered in puke. One man was chubby, with black hair and glasses, the other gawky with a bold spot and a pot belly. They both had a notebook and a ballpoint in their hands. Every once in a while they turned around, disturbed, but concentrated on the stage where Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons appeared.

The pianist wore a little yellow hat, the alt-saxophonist a bizarre pair of little white sunglasses. The boy had rested his head on the camera-rails; his body hung down. An ugly girl forced her way to him through the crowd. She wore a torn jeans-outfit and a white bracelet with the initials JAC written on them with a fiber-tip pen. 'What’s wrong with you?' she asked with a lisp accent. 'I’m fainting', the boy groaned. What was the use of talking Dutch if they couldn’t understand you? The JAC-girl resolutely grabbed him and waved to a colleague, almost a child herself, but with nice long blond hair. They took the boy in between them, tried to keep him straight and wanted to walk away with him. But he resisted.

On stage, the Cecil Taylor Unit started to play. The boy jerked himself loose and fell. The ugly girl sat down next to him. She put her arms around him. The boy tried to embrace her, but was unconscious before that. A solemn silence came over the festival grounds. One or two people walked away, but the majority sat and listened in awe. The boy with the Afro started to make kicking moves and fell flat with his face in the mud. His golden glasses ended on the ground a few feet away. The fat Dutchman with the black hair picked it up and gave it to the JAC-girls. Why did he have so much trouble concentrating on the music?

The next day he was stated as the jazz-connoisseur the local newspaper, but oh dear, that was long since untrue. His companion with the bold spot looked at him fiercely. 'How does this performance compare to the one in New York?' He woke up from his thoughts about the boy with the Afro, the vague musical passion of his youth, the numerous infidelities amongst his acquaintances and the piece he had to write for tomorrow. 'Well', he said carefully, 'in New York it started weaker and ended in with much bigger climax. Here it’s more a one-level thing, an average performance of Cecil Taylor, in other words, fine'. He looked back. The ugly JAC-girl had finally succeeded in carrying away the Afro. Her blond colleague sat down on the camera-rails. She held the brown jug on her lap. While she took in the music of Cecil Taylor, she softly stroke the neck of the bottle.

De Nieuwe Jazz, twintig interviews door Bert Vuijsje Bosch & Keuning N.V., Baarn, 1978