(pulled from an emailed essay, 2004)
I came across a great stash of jazz albums on Saturday for real cheap. One of them was a bunch of Jimmie Lunceford sides from the late thirties and early forties. I was listening to it Sunday morning, and reading the notes that talked about Central Avenue and the Dunbar Hotel, and Gerald Wilson, and on the back there is a great shot of the band from 1941, including Snooky Young on trumpet. By that afternoon I had completely forgotten all that , of course, in the middle of all the people and music and heat of the day at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival. Even while walking through the lobby of the Dunbar Hotel and looking at the pictures it hadn’t occur to me. The Gerald Wilson orchestra took the stage a few hours later, and during the first number, a Basie tune, Gerald Wilson calls out the first soloist: Snooky Young. He stood up there in the back and blew hard, and with that plunger in hand his horn was talking, telling some old, old stories. I’d seen Snooky Young there before, of course, probably every time I’d seen the Orchestra play this Festival. But having seen that picture that very morning, and listening to him solo on that old wax and then here in person, in front of me: it was different. That ephemeral connection to the old days, what I’d known only as history, suddenly became very real. Maybe it was the sunset breeze kicking up but for a minute there I felt a chill. Like watching an old black and white photo turn into color and start moving. Making history real. Jazz just seemed alive, all of it.