Long ago, between sets by the Modern Jazz Quartet, John Lewis and I were speculating about the future of jazz. Like who – if anyone – would be the next Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. We agreed that jazz would keep on being the sound of surprise anyway, without a new colossus.
But then John surprised me. “If there is a next one,” he said, “he could be a sideman taking a chorus as we speak in a club somewhere in Romania.” I’d heard impressive players from abroad who might not have been able to speak English but were fluent in this international language. For instance, on a recording, a joyous big band in Siberia that could have warmed up its remotest hamlets.