James Cobb is sitting on his stool behind the kit. If you are taking a cursory listen then it would appear that’s all he is doing. Sitting. Perhaps, as Miles mournfully mutes his horn and pours gentle breath into it, he is looking on at his co-workers with a musician’s critical eye, by turns disapproving and satisfied. Maybe, instead he daydreams about a girl, a trip taken out of town, eating a wonderful meal with wonderful company. That would not be surprising. The melody itself seems made for such a past-time; slow, mellow, nostalgic.
Behind the tape hiss and the crackle of dust caught in the needle however, it is clear that James Cobb is too busy to be wandering subconscious pathways himself. There goes the brush over the snare, the subtle clink of the ride behind solos. He whispers behind the static. Something about how our first instinct was almost correct, that this is daydream music, and he will be our guide. Swish swish. Chnk, chnk. Like a mesmerist swinging his watch chain, the drums pulse an oh so quiet rhythm behind the already barely there of Julian, John, Bill, Paul and Miles. My ears, however, are all his. I am under his command.
It seems as I listen I am pulled into and behind the music, underneath it. James Cobb has something he wants to say but in order to say it he must take me away from the others, far enough that I can hear them, but they can’t hear us. Behind a thick curtain created by the pulse of upright bass, if only we talk in whispers. On Flamenco Sketches James is almost invisible, but that’s what makes us pay attention. So I strain my ears. I’m not even sure that I have caught him yet or if that’s just the background noise. But, no, there he is. Swish, swish. Music for daydreams, but maybe more than that. Daydreams as an imperative. James is dragging me by the waist with each brush stroke, tightening his grip. Now, he says. You can go. And so, I do. I let fly my thoughts into the dusk.
I am on a mountain, out of breath, and aching legs. I have climbed, scrambled, ascended without rest and though I am not yet at it’s summit even from part way up the views are incredible. It is a clear day and I can see for miles. There are other mountains in the distance, lakes, forest, a small town. I am no longer walking, I am sitting in the sun on a rock enjoying this moment and I think now about the years it has taken for this mountain to form. I watch it in time-lapse as seasons scud past and the forests retreat. I think about how small I am in the universe, how small we all are in comparison. And I think about the things I have to do in my time here, the bills to pay, the paperwork waiting for me in the office…
I have lost him. Practicalities swept in and over me, wrestled me away. I move to get up and about the day, but here he is again, quietly insistent just behind Bill: chnk, chnk. Once more he has me, making sure I concentrate on his lesson. Getting me ready to give my real life the shove, to push off and into the warm waters of my romantic inner life. James Cobb holds me safely in his gaze, lets me know it’s okay to leave off for a few minutes more, to treat myself to reverie.
I live by the lake or the sea, I can never decide which. Either way there is water. By the lake it is always bright and the water is calm. I skim stones and swim naked for a few minutes- it is too cold for anything more than that- I watch boats and walk around part of the shore. I think about Henry Thoreau and how I too would love to leave society behind, but have neither the psychological strength or the practical abilities to do so. Come mid January I’d be starving and frostbitten. That’s why in my thoughts it’s always so bright. The sunshine makes it seem like life on the lake is never hard. And yet, if I imagine a life by the sea the weather is always harsh. I live in a rain-lashed-cliff-top-ruin. The ground around me is eroding alarmingly though I am not alarmed. In fact, I rather look forward to arriving home under a black sky to find my ruin on the beach. But as my house has come to an end so do my daydreams and I am back again to the real world, thinking of the upkeep of my actual home in a small Northern city.
Jimmy Cobb looks at me with the patience and love of an experienced teacher. He knows that the lessons are hard but he implores me to listen. Listen closely. He is teaching us something here. Something that no-one else wants us to know. Doing very little is sometimes the most effective thing, and doing it quietly in our own way is the most forceful way of doing it. Whilst they want us to rush, to produce, to be busy; Flamenco Sketches says no. James Cobb says absolutely no. He says, grab hold of your wandering mind and rather than wrestle it to the ground stick out your thumb and hitch a ride. The journey will feed you, show you an alternative. Daydreams may not make any money, are arguably useless in a purely utilitarian sense, and will get you told off by your parents/teacher/boss, however, they are most certainly not to be scorned. They should be enjoyed, and enjoyed thoroughly, and in what more pleasant company than with these sketches tucked under your ears, led by the subtle backbone of James Cobb? Swish, swish. Chnk, chnk.
(Image nabbed from a google search. Contact me if you need crediting)