Late in the Night (at the Jardine’s Jam)
for Mel & Matt
Around 1 in the morning at Jardine’s on Main, Paul Waters calls Mike Karr to the stand, Karr, the best young drummer in this town, KC, in the early ‘90s, Karr who works with me at the MARR Sound Archive, home of 100K classic jazz recordings. We shelve. We soap-bath the LPs. Karr who wears a ball cap or beret or newsy cap because he’s balding in his late 20s, almost a decade older than me, Karr who plays with Mohammad’s band, only white drummer to since the ’30s, ’40s. Karr’s a humble white god on skins, on tubs, on drums, his sticks polyrhythmic, his time steady and groovin’ as a night train’s rumble, his soul bright and unusual as the bell of a black saxophone, Parker’s horn.
Karr’s downed a few: whiskeys, scotches—comps from ladies who stand along the bar and pinch a young butt, who dig musicians more than fast cars; when Karr steps to the tubs, his legs wobble. Waters calls “Cherokee,” then “Little Sunflower,” and Karr, who can outrun a leopard, a rumble of hi-hat and floor tom gallop, his hands like Cuisinart blenders across the bright cymbals and drums, falters, gives up on his slow legs, feet, and punches the cymbal like a speed bag, his feet under fire, under frost, under the darkness of hard liquor; he can’t hang, and I want to cry to watch him slow, to hear that space, that silence his feet keep; his arms, though, his arms can still hit, (almost) fallen hero, kid with too much brew in his blood.