Blues is all about the notes you don’t play.
On particular nights, sultry notes that slide off a guitar lick tugs at my soul achingly. There are nights when quartets of blues guitarists, drummers, bassists, and saxophone players, are on a soft thumping groove, all of them oblivious to the world, making sweet music.
Those are the nights to die for.
Those musicians can make notes glide out of the guitar and shimmy down the air. Just when I see one note disappear into musical afterlife along comes another unhurried vibrato from the sax or maybe a comforting buildup of a snare and an open high hat running its own empire of cadence, refusing to be subdued into a finish. Imagine BB King’s perfectly pitched pluck that quivers in the smoke for whole tremulous seconds, making my heart so happy that it cramps with sadness.
Life too sometimes does that to me.
I am not sure when, but sometimes I become aware of this slow jam to which I am subjected to, a rhythm that is so simple in its structure and so blue that it makes the color blue not blue enough. A scale which, even as I search for missing notes, sways me gently by my shoulders in its tempo. The notes dripping and sweating and played to a meter I can’t pace with my untrained ears.
It is also not played for an audience.
The music just plays. But it washes over me. It brushes me and I am timed.
With my eyes closed, the music playing, the bass throbbing a steadily ascending and descending run, I can sometimes feel the blues. A quiet wistful turn of the lips as I think of the thrill of life, a thrill that always is wrapped so diaphanously in sorrow and pain and melancholy that I do not want to rip anything apart when trying to break free. I want to undrape them carefully, refamiliarize myself with their patterns and leave them be.
They are gap-toothed music to my eyes.
The wail of the sluggish guitar as it bends into a half note only accentuates what the eyes see. Rows and rows of multi-colored bottles. Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam. All lined up to flow into glasses and into humans. Some part of those bottles is music in itself. A liquid effacement of reality that transports me into late night barstools and slow realizations of long empty glasses in front of me.
It is easy though to miss the rhythm. There are times it hits me and I sway to it with a slight twisted smile, pleasurably guilty in how much I craved to move, but it invariably fades out, only to lisp back again and creep on me unannounced.
Without reason, I return to places I happened to have been when I heard it, or recreate situations when I heard its strains.
That such illogical reconnoiters actually worked makes the whole blindly aural search seem tantalizingly within grasp.
The rhythm and the blues and the joys and sorrows and moods dance together in a slow melancholic arpeggio.
But, like Odysseus, there are some of us who want to hear it. We lash ourselves to a mast in life, and flirt dangerously with wanting to wander into the concert halls of this siren song. Where saxophone notes and faint tapdancing can be discerned, as though echoing through a huge hallway with prismatic crystal chandeliers and checkered dance floors and gold trimmings. The hall’s far reaches shrouded in familiar darkness with rows and rows of silhouetted high back chairs and circular tables transforming themselves at some point into distant tiny moonlit window panes. Derelict as if there are not enough revelers to populate those once grandiose halls.
I want to wander into those halls.
But what if the spell is broken? What if I can no longer hear the music?
I sense there is such a charm cast over this ethereal incantation. A faint chorus that I, nor I suspect those who have heard it, even once, would always be straining their ears forever.
A harmony of blues that makes the listener happy and sad, alive and dead, and many such bafflingly reassuring contrasts and one that always seduces its chosen audience.
It is one of the many soundtracks to life where the missing notes only adds to the pleasurable blues.