The second book in a trilogy.
Gilly, Jazz & Jimbo traces the situations of people whose paths cross during a brief moment in time but whose effect changes or is set in an oblique direction to the one they had originally chosen.
He had done the entire route, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, New Orleans and here in Louisiana where he was going to stay. Those other cities were too cold in the winter and at his age, his arthritis really stiffened his fingers too much. How was he going to finger those notes? Besides, he had everything he needed here – even the occasional “prosti” when he felt the urge. Everybody knew him, some from those days when after a gig, some of the good musicians stayed on and played just for each other but mostly for themselves. You could let yourself go, try out new ideas, sounds and riffs that you didn’t blow when there was an audience listening.
He was recalling, those times in his past more and more these days when he felt that he was in the middle of things; the middle, no, the top! Everything was smooth then – you stayed up late, popped a “benny”, and forgot you were tired; and the sounds, round and fat, that came; those sounds carried you out of your body into some mysterious world where you and you alone existed. It was pure gold, and all yours.
Remembering how he started as a sideman; the clarinet and tenor sax were his horns and he had started working on flute. There were times when some special sound effects were needed and the high, driving tones of the flute were just the answer. Besides, the more instruments you played, the more money you could command. But his real love was for the tenor sax.
You could blow your horn at some chick, sitting with her dude and know that she was listening to you. You didn’t need words, just sounds and the way you wafted the music in her direction, and there were so many sounds you could make: soft dulcet tones, almost breathless sounds, sounds that told the person you were playing to her; there were sounds of yearning, sounds of softness and tenderness and also, sounds which gave you presence and control. You could tell that the chick was going to be yours. If not that night, then another when she would come alone or with some girlfriend. Man, things were so good!
His name was Gilly Polito. The Gilly was a made up from the first letters of his formal, given name; Gilberto Ignazio Luigi, each name the patronymic inheritance from his grandfathers’ given name. He had three, his grandfather on his mother’s side having fallen off his donkey driven cart was found dead at the bottom of the cliff which bordered the road . His grandmother, given her very young age, (no one was even sure that the marriage was consummated) was allowed to remarry and so he had three grandfathers that were part of his background.
Gilly Polito was rather short. He tried to make up for his short stature by combing his wavy hair at high as he could; it really didn’t work but he felt he was doing something to rectify the condition. His nose was rather beak-‐like and gave him a sort of predators look. His clothes, which he wore loose on his bony structure made him look more like a scarecrow than a man. It was, however, the look he wanted since he wanted to look like the starved musician who gave up everything including food to prove that his dedication to music was all encompassing; everything for art. His skin color was on the dark side, (roots from his ancestors in Italy) and he took advantage of the dark complexion by wearing light colors so that there was more of a contrast. He also felt that he stood out more, sort of like being on center stage. Gilly also thought of himself as sort of a ladies’ man, hence his desire to show himself off.
Gilly’s parents came from a small town near Salerno, Italy and were part of the wave of immigrants that settled in America. In 1888 the family landed in New York City but soon moved west to St .Louis, Missouri where some other relatives had settled previously. In 1900, Gilly was born to the new arrivals and the family settled down to start their lives as Americans.
His father worked on a river barge plying trade all along the Mississippi River. When he was home, he told stories of all the cities and towns he had visited, he told about the negroes working on the docks, about the Indians that were still around and most of all, the things you could buy and see. He especially talked about New Orleans and the new music, so that the imagined city was like a beacon to Gilly’s imagination. One day, Gilly told himself, I’m going to ride a barge down the Mississippi and see New Orleans for myself and hear some of that music.