It's All About Jazz

by Sam Goh

It was another day in the town of Ludford. The snow fell lightly, creating a thin white blanket on just about everything. Though the Sun was up, the light was weak, and so it remained cold outside; yet it was an amiable cold, one that was quite pleasant and set the mood for Christmas, which was in three day's time. Already some Christmas decorations could be seen up - there was holly on the doorframe of shops, hung where it should be, which was at the top; Christmas trees by the display window, that had pretty tinker balls on it and fake presents around it (the tree also was fake); Christmas lights , put up by the town council on streetlamps in various places that dazzled red and green; and of course Christmas songs, being played in various shops all around town. Classics such as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and of course Jingle Bells.

Yes, certainly the Christmas mood was in the air.

In the center of the town was where all the shops were; and the air was never as lively as any other time of the year. Though Christmas was a couple of days distant, the people of Ludford had begun doing their shopping; they slipped from shop to shop, the young, the old, the single, and the families, all trying their best to have a good Christmas. Turkeys were being reserved in butcher shops, and some already sold. Wrapping paper was running out. Greeting cards were flying off the shelves. So were teddy bears, chocolate boxes, children's toys, books, and any conceivable idea for a Christmas gift; out these items went, paid and purchased and slung around the buyer's hand in paper bags. It was a busy square, and there was a feeling of chaos and liveliness all around, making the town of Ludford seem almost like a city. That was Christmas for you - the turkey dinner and gift-openings might seem pleasant and peaceful, but this was only because all the chaos had already happened before.

And among this hastiness, he, was sort of ignored. People tend not to pay attention to other things that don't concern them, especially when they're busy taking care of their own business. He sat by a corner shop to one of the blocks - 'Mdm. Tousant's Hair Saloon'. He had longish black hair that covered his ears, and were messy and frazzled. His face was unshaven and rough. His clothes fitted alright; but as to protecting him from the cold, it was quiet useless - the fabric was too thin and bad. He was now playing the saxophone, blowing through the mouth reed, and pressing the pads with skillfulness and precision. He played the tune of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' - but he played it with his heart, and it came out as a jazzy but sad and soulful sound. There was no audience, only a large amount of people that weren't listening and walked past him without even giving so much as a second thought.

He had placed his hat in front of him three hours earlier, when he had begun - now there was a total of two dollars and five cents in it. Yet, he continued.

Not many heard the sax. The background sound masked it - that being the combined power of music playing from all the shops, the chatter and talk of people, the heels of the shoes going 'tap!' on the ground, the ruffling of paper and plastic shopping bags; even the blowing of the wind across the Square. When combined, the sax was just another whisper, in an audio field with so many. But let's say you listened to it - let's say you ignored the background sound, and the people and everything else, and instead spared some notice for the sound from the sax. The warmth and sweetness of the tone. The righteousness of the pitch. The feeling behind the music. It was a simple, ordinary tune - The Twelve Days of Christmas, what could you do with that - but the mundane had transformed into something meaningful. Voila, a children's tune to a jazz riff, all with a pipe they call the sax, ladies and gentleman. Don't expect to know how he did it " skill like that can't really be explained, not with a couple of words, not with a thousand. When you got it you got, and when you see it you'll know it.

He kept on playing, hitting the notes, adding improvs, vibratos, and feeling into it. Often he loses himself, and does not notice the outside world, as he did now; because in front of him, watching intently, was a little boy, barely six years old. He watched in fascination, the way someone would fascinate over something they had never seen their entire lives. Such was the case for the boy - what's that pipe he's holding, is it really making that sound?, he thought to himself. But in spite of his innocence, in spite of the fact that he was six and had never heard jazz before, he thought it was beautiful. He found that this strange, complexly textured sound this man was making was " good. He liked it. He liked how the tone was rich and soothing. He liked how the notes swelled and reach a crescendo, and then fall to quietness, reminding him of waves crashing on a beach. And most of all he liked how he could feel the sadness in the sound, even though there was nothing around him that could make him sad.

He continued watching, not trying to attract his attention, until the man stopped playing. The man awoke from his semi-trance, looked around the real world to see if there were any donors, and spotted the boy. He was no more than five feet in front of him. The man saw the expression of wonder and amazement, and could not help but smile. "Hey kid," he said.

"Mister," the boy said. "That was good." He talked quite loudly, in order for his voice to be heard over the passing people.

"Thanks. You know what was that?"

"Twelve days of Christmas?"

"Well yeah...but kid, that was jazz you just heard."


"You never heard of jazz? C'mon, let me show you." He beckoned for the child to come closer. The child approached.

"See this, kid?' he pointed to the 'pipe'."It's a saxophone - it's a music instrument like a piano or violin, but you blow in it-" he blew into the mouth reed to produce a B-flat "- and you press on these little buttons hear to change the sound." He quickly played the blues scale, from bottom to top to bottom.

"Wow. Never heard of this before."

"Yeah, well now you have. Pretty cool, ay?"

The boy nodded.


Then after thinking for a bit, the man said, with a sweetness in his voice and a smile, "But, see, that's only the technical part. Jazz isn't just about techniques. It's about feeling, emotion - you know what I'm talking about? That's where the beauty of it all is. You put all your feelings you feel into the music, let it be heard, and then others would feel it. You'll be making others feel as happy, or sad, or angry as you are - and just with sound. Ain't that funny, eh?" He chuckled, and patted the boy's shoulder, who looked mystified.

"Anyways, that's jazz for you. Try and tell your mum to let you learn it."

"Don't know about that. She's strict about stuff."

"Well if you nudged her a bit, maybe-"


The man stopped midway in sentence. A woman, who looked to be fifty with red hair and a very motherly look - she was those types of mothers - came from behind, and grabbed the boy. "Charles, what did I tell you about talking to strangers? I was looking for you, you know how much trouble-"

"But mum, the mister was telling me about jazz, it's really cool and-"

"Jazz?" She said it, placing so much emphasis on it that she made the man feel guilty. She gave him a piercing look. He shifted the saxophone to between his legs, and kept quiet. The look said, in about moment, Go to hell, pedophile, you ain't getting my son, don't make me call the cops on you.

She stared at him awhile longer, and in quick steps went away, dragging the boy behind her. The boy followed like a dog on a leash. He gave one last look at the man - the Jazz-man, that was how he referred to him in his mind- before disappearing into the bustling crowd.

Jazz-man stared into the crowd awhile longer, as the brief moment of happiness dissipated. When it was completely over and long gone, he resumed playing. Now he switched to 'All I Want For Christmas is You.' And as he played, the music came out of his sax again, and as always nobody really heard it; the crowd just kept on walking, too busy with their own Christmas business to mind anybody else's.

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