Thursday, September 27, 2007

Before the BOSSA NOVA

A gentleman walked into the office and sat down. I noticed he had a very distinct accent which seemed to match his brown and white tropical shirt. I don't know why, but I took out the cd that had been playing on my computer (Organs in Orbit) and replaced it with Astrud Gilberto's Finest Hour.

I started working on Mr. O's chart and he sat there, feeling a little nervous, making a few awkward jokes about health insurance and airports...then he stopped.

He leaned forward and looked up at me and said "Bossa Nova?"

I smiled and said "Astrud Gilberto".

He stared for a moment at the wall and then up at the ceiling and then back at me and smiled. "Brazil! You know, Hooooowayoooo?(Joao Gilberto) This was before the Bossa Nova. This was before the ROCK N ROLL! This was the music of the country. The old country, none of this: (insert crazy horn noises here). I used to see THIS little girl (I'm assuming he meant Bebel) running around naked under the piano. We would sit and write and play. I was a musician, you see."

I stopped typing. At least I think that was when I stopped, I may have stopped minutes before that, the rhythm of the words I was typing slowed as the stories flowed out of this man's glistening eyes. All I could think of was an open window looking out on the splendors of Brazil, a wide window with a baby grand piano just under the frame, a man in a chair with his arms wrapped around a guitar, dark hair, calm voice,....

"Aha!" Mr. O leaned down again, tilting his head with his right ear closer to the music. I heard Stan Getz's warm phrasing over strings.

"Getz?" I pushed the medical consent form across the front of my desk towards him. He absentmindedly scribbled his signature in the lower left corner of the page.

"Jobim! He was always hanging around. This was before the Bossa Nova, you see. And he always wanted us to play Jazz! (hands up in air) Jazz!! (hands higher) Jazz!"

I gathered the printed forms together. My heart was caught in my throat. I wanted to ask him so many things. I wanted to walk away from this desk and sit down next to him and ask him to tell me stories. I want to have more than this momentary glimpse through this bright and beautiful window.

Instead I asked him how he liked Birmingham. He said he had always lived in cosmopolitan areas. Birmingham? He nodded. He approved. He mentioned meeting a few men from a jazz combo that played around town. Ray Reach? Cleve Eaton? He wasn't sure. He liked them though. He went on to tell me about his time in London where he worked as an associate producer for EMI. "They paid me just to listen!" He motioned with his hand toward his ear and cocked his head and grinned.

Mr. O stood up as I stood up. He smiled with his eyes crinkled and quiet. I put out my hand. "Thank you. It's been very nice talking with you. Thank you for sharing so much. I really enjoyed it." He took my hand with both of his and nodded his head, then he let go and turned and walked out of my office. The musical timeline in my head raced around and around. Brazil? Astrud? Joao? Bebel? Miúcha? Jobim? I turned to my computer and sat down with a sigh. Astrud hummed along in the background, guiding me back to that open window, to the blue, blue sky and beyond.


Joanna M said...

How old was this gentleman? Rock'n'roll started about 1954, and bossa nova started with "Chega de Saudade," first by Elizete Cardoso in 1958 and then the hit by João Gilberto in 1959. Bebel was born in New York City in 1966, and the baby girl playing under the piano would have had to have been at least 12 years older.

Sara Leah said...

Mr. O was in his mid-eighties. I know, the time frame doesn't add up. The only thiing that I can figure is that he was sorting through several memories at once. Because when he said "THIS little girl" and pointed at the speaker on my computer, I thought to myself, "Astrud? That's not right. She was Joao's wife...and his wife until the mid-sixties and as far as I knew she didn't have any girls with him. So then I thought of Bebel and that maybe he was refering to her, but if it was the same time period it didn't make any sense either.... That's why I mentioned the timeline at the end, I wished I had had more time to ask him about everything. Maybe he'll come back to my office someday. It was an enchanting visit.