Note: If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first. It will be helpful to better understand these sample chapter extracts.
The Comisario’s Band – Free To Go
At eight o’clock the following morning, the prisoners stirred in their cots as the jail door opened. It was Severo, looking rested in light blue jeans, a white long sleeve cotton shirt, black loafers and dark glasses.
“Relax, relax,” the Comisario said, signaling for the musicians to resume their positions. “I’ve come to talk to you.”
“That worries me right off the bat,” Frank yawned, rolling into a sitting position. “Listen, Commissioner, he continued bravely, “don’t give us any bull shit today, okay? Why the hell have you kept us here all this time? What do you want from us? What was all that crap with those kids yesterday?”
“Frank, let him speak,” Morey pleaded, rubbing his eyes, hoping Frank wouldn’t upset Severo as he always did.
“All right, all right,” the Comisario said, raising his voice. “I’m not a Commissioner! I’m a Comisario, but never mind, just call me Severo. “When I tell you what I want from you, you’ll know why I’ve kept you here this long.” Severo cleared his throat preparing himself for what he was about to say. “I want you to teach those kids you saw yesterday how to play music and create another Count Basie Band with them.”
“You want us to do what?” Frank yelled, sitting straight up on his cot, giving Severo a dangerous look.
“I said I want you to teach the kids you saw in the school room yesterday afternoon, how to play jazz music and I want you to create another Count Basie Band. That’s what I want from you.”
“I told you he was out of his fucking mind didn’t I?” Frank questioned the other musicians, glancing wildly around the cell. “Are you kidding, Severo?” He yelled, staring at the Comisario. “You gotta’ be kidding. Are you stoned? You really want us to… to… make a band out of a bunch of runny-nose kids? Ask us to fly to the moon, Severo. Ask us to swim the Atlantic.” Frank sat on the edge of his bunk and pulled on his tan, cotton shorts as he continued his outburst. Scat, lying on his back, studied the spider as he so often did when an argument presented itself. Morey lay face down, mumbling in his pillow, despondent as he so often was, and Charley hurried to the bathroom to brush his teeth, which he did twice a day, regardless of what surprises or arguments presented themselves.
“You asked me what I want and I’m telling you, I want you to make real musicians of these kids. They have some talent but they need to be taught.” I know that they may never be as good as older experienced professional musicians of the big bands, but they are talented, eager and can learn to be as good and even better than any other school musicians, and even better than some so-called professionals.”
“We don’t know anything about these kids,” Frank insisted, nervously rubbing his sweaty chest, wanting a cigarette. “You may think they have talent, but we don’t know if they have any at all. We don’t know if they can blow their noses, let alone a horn. You’ve been stuck in this fucking desert too long, Severo. You need help. And, we can’t create another Count Basie Band. The Count Basie Road Band still exists.”
“But Bill Basie is dead” Severo argued, dragging a chair from his desk into the open cell, facing Frank.
“I know he’s dead,” Frank agreed sarcastically, shaking the metal cot frame he was sitting on, “but you can’t use any of his music arrangements if they aren’t registered under “public domain”. If they aren’t available to the general public, under public domain, no one can use the arrangements without permission from his estate. Permission has already been given to somebody else and the band still exists. It’s on the road working all the time.” Frank was angry. The vein in his forehead stood out and he was getting a headache. “Do you mean that you’ve kept us here in this hole all this time thinking that we’d do some stupid thing like form a lousy kid band? You’re out of your mind, man.” Frank jumped from his cot, and punched the dusty adobe wall, continuing to curse. “I can’t believe this,” he shouted. “I don’t think you realize what you’ve done, Severo.”
“What I’ve done?” Severo shouted, pacing around his chair, “What I’ve done?” he repeated. “What I’ve done is given you back your health. I’ve housed and fed you. You haven’t worked in a long time. You haven’t paid your rent for months, Frank. You have no credit rating. You’re in debt. I know all about you Frank. I’ve saved your rotten hides. That’s what I’ve done, Frank. I saved all four of your asses!”