I often wonder where my love of Zen began and the more I think about it, the sound of my dad’s saxophone comes wafting through my memory.
Early childhood musical sounds that filled our home, were the jazz legends, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. My father and his father, my granda Liddy both played saxophone and my grandad was the only saxophone player in the Irish army band of 1922.
My late aunt Kathleen always placed a pic of my granda with Michael Collins in the barracks. I always remember my granda and my dad saying there will be peace when St Peter’s brass and reed band march down Royal avenue. My grandad was a tailor and had a thriving tailor’s shop in Union Street Belfast.
He also was in charge of the musicians' union that was on the floor above his workshop and the who’s-who of jazz in Belfast would meet there regularly to find out who needed musicians in order to get themselves some paid work in hard times.
It wasn’t to long before I was allowed to hold and play my dad’s alto saxophone. When I say play, I mean practice as my directions from my dad were: practice the scales and everything else will fall into place. With the gift of hindsight, I know he was right but me being me thought otherwise in my rush to be the Belfast John Coltrane.
I remember how I made the poor saxophone screech and scream as I attempted to play notes that had not previously been heard. My dad would come running up the stairs in our Cupar street home, shouting, "practice, practice, practice the scales". Of course the young jazz musician that I was thought that my poor dad didn’t get it man, as the jazzers would say.
I think it also kept the B Specials from our street as they probably thought my shrieking sound was the warning sound to alert the neighbours they were on the prowl.
I would recommend anyone to listen to the sweet sound of the alto saxophone to bring about ease and comfort. There was something about jazz that transcended my consciousness to another realm and I loved all the names of the jazz tracks as each one was like a zen paradox.
Live from New Orleans: a tiny moment of free jazz zen pic.twitter.com/mLFjgjuFEO— Vendetta M (@vendetta_maki) January 10, 2022
I also was inspired by the jazz men and women of that time who told us through their lyrics that things can be different. Remember it was throughout the jazz scene that the jazzers attempted to transcend racism and brought both Black and white artists together to discover this new sound. This for me was a whole brave new world.
Later in life as I studied the great jazz artistes, I discovered that they also practiced Zen and for me this was the integration of sound and vision. A way of living that was cool, brave and visionary.
I am please and honoured to say that the saxophone that my father played was bequeathed to me from my mum, brother and sister and it takes pride of place in our home like a monolithic musical symbol, enshrined with my Zen rakasu.