Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Bike Tour

Day 34 – 9/30, 5:30pm, Border Field State Park CA

Both music and biking made one’s perception of time particularly malleable; sometimes minutes stretch into near eternities, other times hours pass in a seeming breath. This has felt especially acute over these final few days.

I’m still living inside some of the music from the weekend. Saturday’s trio was something so special, with people I hold so dear, I almost don’t want to say more about it. The evening’s first set with Wadada Leo Smith’s Silver Orchestra was similarly magical: stately and powerful, lyrical and abstract, mature and patient music from one of our contemporary masters. Having listened to so little music (other than that which I performed) for the past month, I felt very ready to soak it in. The twenty piece ensemble captured the delicate transparency of a trio, the trio played with the force of an orchestra, and everything happened in between. And seeing Anthony and Wadada together is always profound – they share so much history, they have fought so long and so hard for their music, and have maintained such creative integrity despite all the pressures and hardships. It is beautiful to see them both beginning to receive their due as American innovators as they keep pushing the bar higher.

Honestly, in many ways this whole bike tour is directly inspired by the example demonstrated by Braxton, Smith, and so many others. The artists who insisted on investigating, imagining, and reinventing form, structure, sound, and context. That creative challenge starts with music, but does not end there.

Sunday’s concert was, incredibly, equally satisfying. What a dream band of collaborators, all of whom brought such personality, virtuosity, and soul to the music. I must admit, I often have mixed feelings about LA, some of my favorite people in the world live there, but the strange juxtaposition of art and commerce that fuels the city’s activities leaves me disquieted. But the joys of this past weekend, both artistically with these amazing musicians and personally, reuniting with family and friends, leaves the city with a new glow in my thoughts.

Then two days of riding bookending a masterclass and duo concert with the marvelous Mark Dresser last night. (Mark and Lisa Mezzacappa are the only folks I did multiple concerts with on this tour – man, bass players, they get all the gigs!) After the full ensemble roar of Sunday’s music, it was great to connect with Mark in a more intimate setting. And the students and audience at Saddleback College were receptive and tuned in; props to Joey Sellers for cultivating an excellent program there, keeping a space for jazz and creative music in the community colleges when too often these days it gets cloistered in eliticized institutions.

The final day’s riding went by almost too quickly – logging 100 miles and zipping through San Diego before I could even think about it. Now I sit at Border Field State Park, a rather surreal location. On the US side, a deserted beach at the end of a bumpy road closed to all traffic except foot or bike, with border patrol helicopters overhead and vans occasionally patrolling through; on the Mexican side, some folks sunbathing, hanging out and listening to music. Considering how deeply Mexican culture informs the entire West Coast (let alone Southern California, where it is more the meat of the dish than the spice), the fence would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so stolidly looming. But the sun is about to set, so time to let some sound across the border, before I move across in body tomorrow at dawn, to close out the journey.

Last but not least: tomorrow is my wife Rachel’s birthday. I am flying back to her but won’t arrive home till after midnight. Her support and creative partnership gives me the strength to attempt such wacky projects, not to mention the savvy to do it right. (Without her, I wouldn’t have thought to bring a windbreaker, long underwear, a camera, or any number of other crucially essential things.) So happy birthday to you, my love, and thank you.

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