Bobby,Jon, Clyde,John,Me, and Miles

September 23, 2009 – 8:00 PM EST
Sitting here listening to a CD entitled, “The Essence of Miles Davis “.. The first cut is “Bye,Bye Blackbird”. Part of the lyrics go like this, ” No one here —–OR UNDERSTANDS ME . Oh what old stories they all hand me….. Bye, Bye Blackbird.”. The original Miles Davis Quintet was composed of Miles on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Paul Chambers on bass, Red Garland on piano, and “Philly” Joe Jones on drums.  This group is considered the all time great quintet of jazz. It was groundbreaking and very innovative in many ways, but it also remained true to the very roots and essence of modern/progressive jazz. No matter what happened by way of improvisation, the very basics and integrity of jazz were always maintained and preserved in a very pure form.
Flash forward from the middle and late 50s, when this particular group was cutting a wide place for itself in jazzdom, and move forward to Berlin – 2009. Collected and relaxing on the pole vault pit at the warm-up track adjacent to the 1936 Olympic Stadium in Berlin was Bobby Kersee, John Smith, Jon Drummond, Clyde Hart and me. From this vantage point we had an unobstructed view of the big television broadcast monitor that fed back to us all the races and field events that were taking place in the Olympic stadium itself. This obviated the need for us to ever venture any place but here. At the time I thought to myself, that there were some undeniable similarities between that quintet of coaches and Miles Davis’ quintet of so many years ago. I saw Bobby Kersee as Miles, creative, sometimes aloof, always into his art. A leader that led differently from others to the extent that many were not aware he was actually leading. Then there was John Smith as John Coltrane, creative in a very challenging and risk-taking manner, pushing the limits and stretching the possible, always exploring for new ways of expression. Clyde Hart was Red Garland, in many ways the glue because of the subtle, yet substantive way he melodically laid down the chord changes upon which others could improvise.
I was Paul Chambers on angel head bass, trying to unite both melody and rhythmn from the background. Jon Drummond was “Philly” Joe Jones on drums, always pushing hard to syncopate and drive the rhythmn of the group. Loud and expressive, but submerged to the overall betterment of the group.
During breaks in the action, various ones of us would wander off,… perhaps to be with our own thoughts, or to warm up one of the athletes we were coaching. No one said anything, but there was an unspokened and deeply felt bond of mutual respect and admiration based upon results each had achieved over the years and that was the magnet that drew us back to the pole vault pit at various times. The feeling that perhaps “No one really undersands us ” outside of a very select group of colleagues and coaches, probably prompted us to share visions and thoughts, make points and counter points that we felt so few really understand,…. and even fewer appreciate. Because of this, sometimes there was an urgency to communicate, and then there were other times when only reflection and introspection was the thing to do. No matter what, the respect for each other, and the shared and reciprocal passion for what we do made for a very special ambience around that pole vault pit.
The lyrics again, ” Pack up all your cares and woe, here I go, swinging low, Bye,Bye Blackbird. “, and so it was for us in Berlin , 2009.
Brooks T. Johnson
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