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Waldron’s tribute, “The Stone Garden of Ryoanji,” on the recently reissued Meditations , was recorded in July 1972 at the Dug, a club in Tokyo. Located in the basement of an old building between two high-rises, the Dug was a sanctuary for music lovers, writers, and bohemians; it was the kind of place where, as a young woman in Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood remarks, “They don’t make you feel embarrassed to be drinking in the afternoon.” The song begins with a simple, almost childlike theme, suggestive of Japanese folk music as filtered through Satie, but it moves into a richly involving set of blues variations, examined and observed from every conceivable angle, as if Waldron were in search of the invisible 15th stone. Its beauty comes from the rapt, almost relentless attention to melodic line that was Waldron’s signature, and because the song won’t let him go, it won’t let us go, either. Much of the music that Waldron made in Japan in the early 1970s can be heard as the expression of an impossible farewell, “forecasting my feelings about leaving this island paradise,” as he wrote of his ballad “Sayonara,” which appeared on his 1970 album Tokyo Reverie . 28 A  self-described “born gypsy,” Waldron was used to farewells. He spent most of his time on the road, returning now and then to Munich and Brussels, where he moved in the late 1980s. But Japan would always have a special claim on his imagination, and he went there as often as he could. He met his second wife, Hiromi, with whom he had three children, on a visit to Tokyo in the early 1980s. And in 1995, he went to Japan on an official invitation for the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was joined by the entire Waldron clan, including Hiromi’s two children from her first marriage; his first wife, Elaine; and their two adult daughters. Waldron performed in a trio with Jeanne Lee and the flutist Toru Tenda at temples, concert halls, and community centers from Tokyo to Okinawa. Lee, in her liner notes to Travellin’ in Soul-Time , the album that came out of this tour, remembers that “at one point, there were more Waldrons on the train than other passengers.” 29 Like John Coltrane, who visited Japan in 1966, Waldron was overwhelmed by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It was not just the evidence of destruction but the story it told of resilience, atonement, and rebuilding—one for which, as another kind of survivor, he felt a great affinity. For the 50th anniversary, he composed a suite based on “The White Road,” a poem by Syo Ito, a 14-year-old survivor of Hiroshima, and on Black Rain , a novel by Masuji Ibuse about the radioactive rain that fell after the bombings. The harrowing, almost unspeakable words of the White Road/Black Rain Suite for Improvisers were sung by Lee, with whom Waldron had already made a remarkable duo album of standards, After Hours . It was one of their last performances together: She died in 2000, at 61; he died two years later, at 77. 30 Not since his work with Holiday had Waldron formed such a close partnership with a singer. An heir of both Holiday and Abbey Lincoln, Lee was the finest singer to emerge from the ranks of the free-jazz movement; she had performed with everyone from Archie Shepp to John Cage, and spent much of her career as an expatriate. Like Waldron, she was a blues modernist, steeped both in African-American tradition and in contemporary new music. She understood, too, that concert music is always theater, and she and Waldron brilliantly evoked the terror of the bombings, much as he and Holiday had once evoked the terror of lynching in “Strange Fruit.” 31 Perhaps the most striking words that Lee sings on Travellin’ in Soul-Time , however, belong to Waldron himself, in a vocal setting of his song “Seagulls of Kristiansund.” He imagines the birds diving into the sea from the sky, “so near, yet so high”: 32 They’re wond’rously free
They live happily.
They know from the past,
a life cannot last,
So they live for today
for tomorrow they may not
Be able to dive from the sky. 33 The birds know what Waldron had to learn from his near-death experience. Lee bends and stretches his words with warm, melismatic accents, at one point mimicking the sounds of seagulls. And as she sings to Waldron, one feels as if the lyrics had always been there; the story they tell is as much a self-portrait as a tone poem about a flock of seagulls. Freedom and flight were the themes that gave shape to Waldron’s style after his breakdown. An ecstatic minimalism, it spoke of survival, rebirth, and the longing for transcendence. Its means were simple, but the stakes were not. Through his hypnotic repetitions, Waldron chased down that single, elusive note, as if his life depended on it. 34 Adam Shatz dedicates this essay to the memory of Geri Allen. Adam Shatz Adam Shatz is a contributing editor at the  London Review of Books. 

ATLANTA (AP) — For the state of Georgia, it was yet another major sports disappointment. Less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons squander…

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