Friday, September 23, 2011

The New York City Subway

(Don't want to read? Look at some pictures instead.)

I love the metro.
I love the bustle, the direction, the sheer mass of humanity. I love being squished into a standing position so I do not have to hold on. I love testing out my balance, standing as though on a skateboard in my super-cool converse-type sneakers and dress pants. I love the permission to be quiet. I love the acts of kindness, the proffering of seats for old and pregnant and tired, the moments of eye contact sometimes followed by smiles - shy, hesitant, sympathetic, bold, joyful.

"Plan extra time for travel," NYC-savvy people tell me. It turns out that a number of mundane metropolitan maladies have the potential to defy the powers that be at Google Maps. Trains break down; streets come under repair; transfers do not always line up. Today, however, I came across another reason to give myself a buffer of twenty minutes:

Good music.

Heading from the S train to the 6 train at the East 42nd Street/Grand Central stop, I ran into the fine musicians of The Yaz Band, headed up by Yasuyuki "Yaz" Tagaki. To gain a taste of the experience, look here (not my own video; this one features a slightly different musician lineup but is in the same location).

A locked rhythm, contagious energy, crisp drums, tight control that made your body want to dance. The least you could do was bob your head in time - not down, down, down on each beat, but up, up, up, in the blues dance tradition.

How lovely to have the time to stand there for twenty minutes, bobbing slightly to the music, wishing to do more, watching Yaz step in place, one foot after the other, as he keeps time for the band and enjoys himself a bit.

I exchanged grins with another young woman in work attire who was standing slightly behind me. She seemed so excited and happy to be part of a communal jazz experience. She was striking, slim and pretty, with good jewelry and a short fitted dress. Unlike me, she had kept on her heels for the subway. She stayed for at least three songs before tipping and heading down the stairs toward the platform for the downtown 6 train.

One guy with dark hair and a bulky top also stayed for multiple songs and went over to the information table at one point. He kept his headphones on the entire time. I assume his music was off.

I focused attention on the people going by without stopping. Some turned their heads. One put his hands over his ears. Most did not smile. I bet they were on tight schedules.

Another girl started dancing over near the keyboardist. Subtle steps and hip and shoulder and head movements, certainly more into the groove than into performing for an audience. A guy came out from the throng and displayed his own interpretations in front of her. There might have been some applause. I would have danced with someone. Heck, this is the most anonymous that I'll ever be in this city. I should capitalize on the opportunity.

An old black gentleman with graying hair in a dark striped business suit took out his camera and recorded a few songs. His stance was calm and his hands were steady, and every so often he switched the angle from which he filmed. I admired his dedication to his task and his love for the music, and I imagined that he must have a back story. Some jazz past. Maybe he once fronted a band, listening to the keyboardist take a solo, feeling the pulse, moving his feet to the beat, one foot after the other, back and forth, body turning slightly right, left, right, left.

Give yourself some extra time when traveling by metro. And carry some bucks for tips.

**

They first hooked me with this song, which I have transcribed below according to the solo saxophone line. Can anyone tell me what it is? I'm guessing Hancock or Coltrane.

|:e---gaa----gabde----------------e---gaa----gabde------------bdbde--e--------bdbde--e------------:|

2 comments:

Laura said...

so vivid, molly. i remember this feeling... glad you love it in the way i couldn't...

Tom Moses said...

Have you figured out what the tune is yet? If not, I'll sit down at the piano and plunk around a bit.