Jazz Migrant: A Story

How I Attempted To Become Close To Jazz

MTv introduced me to jazz. It might not be purist jazz, but it's jazz to me. It was one late afternoon when I saw the acoustic video set of Holly Cole performing with her trio, giving "I Can see Clearly Now" a new spin. My jaw dropped and I became a fan since then. This was across the globe, right before internet, and when jazz to me was Manila's well-off-people's music. It was strange to me to hear that kind of set for the first time, very similar to me sinking my teeth for the first time on a scoop of Hagen-daas' Rum-raisin ice cream (a scoop is all I can afford as again they were rich man’s goodies back home). It was both loves at "first sight", a romance destined for forever. My interest began with Holly, and then by association to other Blue Note artists, not intentionally by choice, but being of modest means, my foray into "jazz research" was limited by the consequences of what free enterprise would eventually flood my country. It was mostly vocals for me. I know hardcore jazz listener would probably think I was illiterate, but it did not matter, I dig it! So it was not long after that that I fell in love with Cassandra Wilson's Blue Sky, and then sometime later Rachelle Ferrell's First instrument, and Dianne Reeve's Art and Survival. Man can those women sing. It felt like a moment in time for me, which I imagine was the same for my grandparents' generation hearing Sarah, Billie, Ella and Nina for the very first time. It became clear to me that I want more, and my life's goal since has been to see them perform, while they and I are both still alive. To everyone else, this may be a simple goal, but add the fact that I am of modest means, to the fact that I live in an underdeveloped country, to the fact that these artists will most likely not travel to my side of the world, one can safely conclude I am handicapped. I can only dream. Traveling is not so much of an option either for me, cost prohibition, and the lady that stamped DENIED across most application for visa are the main obstacles, and yes I had one stamped on mine. I had to take radical action. I thought to myself, the hunger of my soul is a need that I had to feed. In my mind I knew, if my soul was to continue to be empty of jazz for the rest of my life, I will become a being wrought of essence, like a watch that will tick, but will always show the wrong time. I had to wind my clock.

So the journey began and eventually, the soul triumphed and I made it across the great pacific to end up living as an immigrant in this great country. Just like any migrant would understand I had some challenges, but I never gave up on my dream, my soul led me to jazz land. Where once I had thought that being here would make everything else possible, I know now that I was so wrong. My logistics may have improved, but just like everyone else, work has consumed my spirit, and jazz, well, it still did not come to where I live. I still have to travel miles just to get to it. Two birthdays ago, I had saved and arranged to fly to New York and stay in Manhattan, as a treat to myself, and to see Holly Cole perform for one night at Joe's Pub. I had just seen Dianne Reeves recently, but Holly, she is my first love, and I spared no cost. I flew the night before the performance, planned to sleep early that night, in preparation, went out to dinner early, and it was there I decided to check my messages. The worst news of all came, Joe's Pub cancelling performances of Holly Cole, refunding tickets. I can't believe it, a lady in the US border has decided to stamp DENIED across Ms. Cole's passport. Such a twist of fate. So no glory-be to the 3 days I had to stay in New York as you can imagine. Once your heart is broken, everything else that could be nice about New York vanishes, and all that got stuck with me was how bitter the chill can be.

It's been two years since, and neither Holly, Cassandra nor Rachelle visited my town or anywhere close by. I look bitterly at their schedule and I see they are everywhere else but here. I had changed since. I had bought a home since, and just like everyone else this time, although I had regained my spirit for jazz; my mortgage has taken over my wallet and priorities. Although my town and those close by are obviously devoid of jazz events, I had learn to adjust my expectations in life. Understandably though and sadly, my soul's frustrations and yearning remains the same, but I had found a cure and learned to turn to my other first love, Rum-raisin. At least this I can afford now to buy in bulk, and need not travel far away from home to enjoy.

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Jan Cruz