On Voice

In the most recent CV2 (Contemporary Verse 2) looks “At the Root of Voice”. Clarice Foster in her Editorial Notes says voice “like a set of finger prints, is a one-of-a-kind thing.”

This is my take on voice from a bit ago.

The voices we hear.

Driving across the rolling dry wheat plains of eastern Washington an hour after sunset, I found KEWU, “The voice of jazz in the inland Northwest. All jazz all the time.” The public radio station broadcasting from of Eastern Washington University in Cheney. The music moved from a take off on Giant Steps, lifting and falling in separated thirds with sax and trumpet to a couple of Cubano pieces then into a techno jazz with a style similar to St. Germaine and then back again to the more traditional smoky basement bar sax jazz. And on. And on. Segue after segue entering, passing through divergent forms. Each piece strung, drawn from the last, bound together with thought and care. Blended. One into the next. At the hour break, a hesitant woman spoke. Stumbling on some titles, some musicians, she corrected herself and repeated those she mispronounced. She spoke carefully. Softly. Self-correcting as needed. Making no apologies and returning the station to the music, to the jazz.

Again, the seamless string of tunes moved, sliding between jazz genres effortlessly. Dancing on the sawdust floor. Taking me back into smoky basement bars of my youth. Three, maybe four guys crowded onto a corner raised platform. The Chance R with peanut shells on the floor. Swept once a week. Sunday. Fine music. Late nights.
Brick walls. And long battered bar tops.

Her voice? The music.

Driving on, somehow the station remained clear. I remembered late nights driving between races. Days spent on the hill. Afternoons writing. Sending off the dashed stories to papers and wire services. Beating the roll of deadlines, east to west. Posting the stories one after another, then packing up and driving to the next venue. Nights, long nights on the road listening to whatever I could pull in. Country. Rock. Rarely jazz. Always the stations fading in and out as the two lane blacktop, delineated by single stripes, snow banks on either edge and a double yellow down the middle, wove between mountains, rising, twisting up passes and dropping down into valleys.

I remembered one very late night weaving up to Whistler, actually, a very early morning. The Vancouver CBC station introduced a CD recently re-released on Blue Note. Originally recorded in the early sixties at Ferengetti’s San Francisco City Lights Bookstore, Jack Kerouac read and improvised with Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, maybe Shelley Mann on the drums and a couple of others. It rocked to the curves of the road as l powered up the valley. A few miles from Squamish, as I accelerated out of a turn, CBC stopped like turned off by a switch. Static and nothing more. At the next turnaround, I reversed direction and drove back until I regained the reception. Parking, I listened for half an hour, maybe more, until the recording finished. Turning around, I continued to Whistler.

There was a voice in that music, that spoken word. There was the Beat, the capital “B” beat speaking. This is who we are. We are the sax. We are the beat. We are the trumpet. We are the word. We are. Now. We.

As I drove I thought of the different voices we bring to a table. A community is a collection of voices, each with room to be heard. In Fernie, we are fortunate to be small enough to hear to the voices. To have time to listen to the voices. And to take time to listen to the voices.

In Fernie, we have Mary’s TV show. A window to the community and the events surrounding our valley. We have the occasional Spoken Word at Freshies. We have Pierre’s newly launched fernitv.com with a range of channels and options. We meet at Freshies, at Mug Shots, Big Bang Bagels and the Tea House taking time to sit and talk. To exchange ideas and hassle with differing opinions.

In Fernie there exists a tolerance, a patience, in listening to others. A respect that others deserve to be heard no matter their station and position in town. An artist, a writer, a banker, a carpenter, a checker from Overweightea’s all carry the same value, same impact in the public forum we create for discussion.

Celebrate the voices we have. Respect the voices and listen. For each holds value in the direction we are moving.