At The Toshiko Akiyoshi Concert.
I sit next to an 8-year-old blonde girl who ignores the music. Instead, she draws in her sketchbook. First, she draws the band. Then, Toshiko. Finally, she draws the people in our row. Her drawings are charming but unflattering. When she gets to me, I flash her my best smile. But it doesn't work. She draws me anyway. The portrait is charming but unflattering. She looks at me and grins. Her two center teeth on top are missing. I pull out my little moleskine pocket sketchbook and draw a picture of her. It may not be charming, I think, but it's not unflattering. Without a word, we exchange drawings.
Meanwhile: Toshiko. Five foot four. Seventy-six years old. Small hands. Japan's premier jazz pianist. As a little girl, she had no jazz teacher — just Bud Powell records. As a young woman, she sailed for New York, land of Bud. But by then, Bud had been institutionalized. When his family visited, he showed them his newest songs. He banged them out on a keyboard he drew with charcoal on the white wall of the visitors lounge.
Tonight, Toshiko plays Bud's "Un Poco Loco". She also performs a billet doux she wrote to him when she was young. Toshiko likes the movie they made about Bud in Paris. They turned him into a tenor sax player. The great Dexter Gordon played Bud. Dexter died soon after. Bud's been dead since '66. The movie's still around; it's called Round Midnight.