Thursday, April 12, 2007

The outlaw has returned to where he came from...

The outlaw of the blues, i.e. Jesse James Brown, passed away, according to reliable source. Jesse has a special place in my heart, for he was the FIRST ONE who let me sit in with him and subsequently hired me to play in his band. His courage was tremendous for trusting a then inexperienced Asian harmonica player. But he liked what he heard. Jesse's courage, charisma, and warmth were only a few things to admire. His legacy will continue and time will be its best witness.

I have nothing to add to Jeff's comprehensive account in his blog. I share everything Jeff says about Jesse and my experience of first meeting Jesse was roughly the same, except it was through Jesse's drummer Lee Hailey. Lee had told Jesse I played the harmonica and Jesse immediately trusted in me, "show me what you've got." Our friendship started. And I started from sitting in with to band to becoming a regular member at Cafe Toulouse Tuesday and Friday nights.

I remember the first time Jesse decided to hire me, it was during a time where people were saying bad things about me. I remember Jesse told me, "Son, there's been a lot of harmonica players who want to join my band, but you're who I'm hiring because you don't play over my singing." That's how I landed my first gig. And every time, Jesse would introduce me as "Brother Henry" to the crowd and called me "one of the finest harmonica players [he's] ever heard."

It was also through Jesse that I met Clarence. One thing led to another. I became busy with Clarence's band, but I stayed in touch with Jesse over the years. I even took a trip down to MLK avenue in the ghetto to try to catch him at the Player's Lounge. To my disappointment, the female bouncer at the door told me she had never heard of Jesse James, and as such, I ended my "soul-searching" in SE, DC.

I still remember my last two encounters with Jesse. One time in 2005, I called him to hook him up with a wedding gig. One night in 2006, after Clarence and I finished playing at Bohemian Caverns, we ran into Jesse outside. We found out his had just finished a gig at Club 2001 upstairs. What a coincidence! Sean Graves told me there was a guy proclaiming to be Bo Diddley's bass player in the good old days, I immediately knew it was Jesse. I could not forget his signature deep voice. That was the last time I saw Jesse, and he was warm as ever.

So to borrow this fabulous track from Jeff, this song is unmistakenly Jesse James. And we can't stop loving him.

And speaking of coincidence, last night was Kafkaesque. A delayed bag of chips at 7-11 caused a life's defining moment. It all comes back and reminds me of my purpose for the past 13 years. Everything happens for a reason. This incident included. Caine Road. 1:30 a.m. of April 12, 2007. It all makes sense now!

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