Hayward Fault Line Winner
I landed in Geneva, determined not to fall under the spell of the Swiss Riviera. I'd read the brochures. Violet skies, blue water and heart-stopping views. Blah, blah, blah. My editor at Jazz Around the World, didn't even bother trying to get me excited. He just told me I had to get a story on an old saxophone player before he died.
Tigger Tayle, that's the man's name, I swear. Just another old geezer whose been blowing a horn for seventy plus years and who uses gray hair, a limp and soulful eyes as an excuse for waning talent. The magazine's search for a pure jazz sound, reflecting the soul of the blues, had given rise to any number of wild claims from wrinkled old horn players.
That kind of gig can make a man cynical.
I maneuvered my rental car, a hot little red Mazda, through traffic until I found the turnoff for Montreux. According to the brochures, the highway ran alongside Lake Geneva through some of the prettiest topography on earth. Personally, I just wanted a chance to push the Mazda over 100 MPH.
Montreux hosts a world-renowned jazz festival every July. Which wasn't the reason Tigger was there. Born in Louisiana some eighty-eight years ago, he just decided to stay in Europe after World War II. No one really knew why.
Now, sixty-something years later, he was still here, blowing that New Orleans sound into the mountains and blending in some European overtones he'd caught on the winds.
The Festival proved to be pure chaos. If I hadn't had my press pass I'd never have gotten near Tayle. Scheduled to play at four in the afternoon, his venue was full by one. I had to stand but managed to get close to the front. At exactly four, the lights went down and Tigger shuffled out on the stage. Just him, that horn and one lone spotlight.
He led with his image: a white handkerchief for sweat, glistening black skin, and eyes that seemed to examine everyone in the audience and look deep inside each of them. He turned slowly, letting anticipation build to a crescendo.
My cup of cynicism overflowed.
And then Tigger Tayle put that saxophone to his lips and blew me back to Kindergarten.
I sank to the floor, mesmerized by sounds so sweet and deep and soulful I wept.
When he blew his last note, I knew it would take days to write a story worthy of this performance. I hurried out into the night, oddly cool and breezy. I faced the lake, spread my arms and begged the Swiss enchantment to consume my arrogance and pride.
First published: May, 2007
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