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Book: Turntable Stories

Chapter: Freedom and Jazz

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.46297


October 5th, 2022. It’s still less than two weeks since one of my heroes left earth for a higher plane. There’s a reverential silence that fills the liminal space between my final syllable and that mystical moment when the needle lands effortlessly onto the record. I feel the weight. Literal and metaphorical. An expectant audience gathers in front of me ready to listen. DJ, record collector, jazz lover, and now host, I introduce the record to a hushed room, explaining why I’ve chosen this particular track tonight. As lights are dimmed and the needle drops to unleash the screaming sax solo that ushers in Pharaoh Sanders’ totemic “You’ve Got to Have Freedom”, I can’t help but reflect on how the simple black vinyl disc spinning on a turntable in front of me has not only woven together different strands of my life, but also signalled my eventual liberation.

This autofictional piece moves back and forth between the present, as the narrator hosts an immersive listening event in a plush cocktail bar in the heart of Belfast, his memories of a tear-stained conversation on a Dublin sofa with devastating repercussions, and personal experiences exploring and documenting the uniquely intimate world of Japan’s subculture of jazz kissa, listening spaces dedicated to the music that binds these three disparate scenes together.

I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. That moment when I pulled across the rickety bathroom door with its frosted glass window, above which someone had hastily scrawled Monk’s famous axiom. The fading black marker read simply: ‘Freedom and Jazz go hand in hand’.

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