A virtual magazine for a true passion!

Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 2, Issue 2

An American in Paris
Author: Billy Hinds

"I want you to know it took a lot of guts to title this piece with Gershwin, because I know that if you open a gig with cliché you're gonna be expected to prove that you did so with good cause." ...............................................................Billy Hinds

Well, I have a reason. You and I both know that if it's reason you're looking for, we've got more reason than just about anything. The only thing we have more of than reason is the lack of it. In a world of us and them it isn't us that has too much lack of reason.


Since Jazz has, as one of its essential ingredients, the expression of feeling and, since I felt like an American in Paris, that is what, in time, will come to be called Jazzsense.

And I wasn't alone. My wife, Carolyn, and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary standing in the park across the venue from the Seine, under Paris skies, sipping Cordon Rouge and listening to Jazz! (What two people do in the privacy of their oneness is their own affair, but if you can get any mileage out of it be my guest.)

So, maybe I should have titled it "One of The Americans in Paris" and, I'll go along with Johnny Adams on this if he wants, as long as I can underline "The".

Jazz Festival du Paris

This is probably a good time to let you know that this piece doesn't name a lot of names and doesn't compare any musicians with other musicians, as such. This is a description of how we felt at the Jazz Festival du Paris.

Reminding ourselves that expectation breeds disappointment and that the lack of fantasy breeds nothing at all; Carolyn and I decided to pretend that we had never heard jazz music at all. We were two loonies who'd escaped a very expensive, private sanitarium where we'd been put by our parents because we'd been caught (at least I was) playing with something God didn't intend to be used as a toy -- sez them!

So, we found ourselves in a strange place with all kinds of people in all sorts of exotic clothing, speaking a language we didn't understand; and since we had a colorful bottle of something fizzy ...

We knew right away that this wasn't the same kind of music that "they" made us listen to. Even warming up, the musicians were finding sounds we didn't know existed. And when the first group, a quintet, started playing they tore a new space in our listening. Our minds spent the whole evening filling their hulls with a whole new kind of nutrition. We had nothing to compare it with.

Bugatti T-35C

Since returning home we've maintained the fantasy and we've decided that rather than compare the experiences musically, we would relate how we felt through another idiom, and another passion of mine -- exotic French cars -- in this case, the Bugatti T-35C. Made in 1927, it was, in its day, the Prince of the Roadway. That evening with Carolyn in Paris was like driving the Bugatti.

Jazz is NOW the same way Zen is NOW

This particular Bugatti is important to me because in my attempt to explain to a group of TV reporters at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, why I enjoyed racing a car that is 56-years-old -- or any historic racing car -- I discovered that this is an experience like jazz music, that is right on the moment. It is NOW the same way Zen is NOW. When I know a car as I know the Bugatti and can sit on the starting grid waiting for the start of the race, with usually around 25 other very rare cars, most of which were restored by their drivers, and I allow my mind to slip into a meditative state and it roams down through the car, touching and checking each part, remembering the moments of satisfaction that each problem was to solve, and, as I ease back to focus on the starter and keep part of me down there in the machinery, I become one with the car.

As I ease off, then put my foot into it and check the tachometer amid all the noise, so I don't hold it too long in first, I am soon caught up in the race.

It is a race with myself

It is a race with myself with no concern for winning. For the next 10 laps, about 25 to 30 minutes in all, I am focused on a line that moves from one sliding moment to the next in which reality beyond the moment doesn't exist.

At about 120 mph, I must never leave the limitations of the Bugatti or myself, but if it is to be a peak experience, if I am to win the race, I must not think of winning, I must not think of doing; I must know well enough what to do so that it is done for me by my hands and arms and feet and I can focus on the line. Distractions can kill me, or worse, they can bore me to death.

The Zen Monk - The Jazz Musician - disciples of the Here and Now.

Who can measure space between the racer and the race? I am after the MOMENT, just as Monk was after the MOMENT, like the Zen Monk is after the MOMENT, the NOW. And I'm willing to risk my life to have it just as the Zen Monk risks his life in the other color, the other side of the Yin/Yang. He risks the other experiences of life for the quiet mind... for the tranquillity. I risk my life with the extreme opposite of tranquillity that I could possibly derive. And we meet there and pivot around the same axis, and we each take the same degree of flexibility, of ridicule and praise and misunderstanding; but these are only distractions. What we are about is getting down to ourselves and in so doing come to understand each other.

Cool is the only way to play it

I approach the car with a detached confidence. Cool is the only way to play it. Sure, there's apprehension, but the Bugatti doesn't know that -- or pretends it doesn't -- which is just as good. I tinker and putz around with it, tuning and touching and I try to find that oboe in me to sound an 'A' so I can bring it a bit closer in tune. I turn the crank a couple of times with the ignition switch off to circulate the oil, prime the super-charger and flip on the magneto, then pull hard on the crank and it jumps to life. (If you haven't heard a Bugatti, your experience on starting it is you're not sure you're going to like it, but since the night is soft and the champagne is the sort you're gonna buy again, you hang around to see what develops because your clever mind tells you this is no ordinary experience.)

Time now to climb in. Just enough room. If you aren't comfortable with the idea of getting intimate with a machine, give it some time. The band is just warming up.

Tach shows 2500 rpm

The noises are now resembling sounds as the tach shows 2500 rpm. I can feel the roller-bearing crank becoming friendlier and friendlier with the connecting rods. Whatever dispute they had earlier is becoming less important. This is what they were created to do.

I move over into the passenger's seat and Carolyn slides gracefully behind the wheel. As she sits watching the gauges, waiting until everything is just right for the run, I delicately unbutton her blouse, and being a lady, she pretends not to notice. Foreplay.

She pulls the shift-level into first gear and eases off onto the road...away from church.

At about 3000 rpm

If we took the 1927 Bugatti engine apart with all its pieces ready for re-assembly you'd say, "My, God...Art!" (Yeah, I know Art; blows a mean ax.) And at about 3000 rpm these pieces which were not born of the same parents, these exotic bastards, are each distinguishable. As Carolyn increases speed, now into third gear, we can make out the sound of the cam-drive, the irregular rhythm of the valve-train, the exhaust tone and the supercharger.

We'd filled the tank with a special mix, a formula used by the Bugatti racing ream in the 20's, a concoction of 108 octane, methane and alcohol which assisted this French-blue racer and its brothers from Molsheim, France to win more Grand Prix races in Europe than all other cars combined. The pieces moving now were forged, machined, sculpted and tempered from ideas going back to the Bronze Age, but also from materials and techniques which didn't exist until Bugatti created them. Each one of them was now letting themselves be known. Each piece doing its job, holding its own, connecting with a being of another genetic structure, each contributing to the production of power, but as individualists.

Now at 4000 rpm

Now at 4000 rpm we're beginning to cook. Carolyn shifts into fourth gear and we're somewhere above 85 mph. We smell the hot fuel and oils as they radiate from in front of us. We feel the vibrations of mechanical relationships which at that time could only achieve balance through magic. We see the nickel hood-hinge, the radiator cap and the front wheels adjusting to the road surface and we hear the band becoming one.

Now at 5000 rpm

Now at 5000 rpm, and well over 100 mph, we're not thinking about church next Sunday. Carolyn tosses her blouse to the wind and I pull out my funky old tenor sax and reason that with a group like this, even I can't miss.

If your neighbors or parents or others who have some undue influences on your listening pleasure heard all this, they'd say it sounded somewhat like a model airplane engine and a dentist's drill. But then they're listening with their ears.

Perfect Pitch

We could go on up to 6500 rpm, and we might, but right now we're at a perfect pitch. We're all on the same key -- all hitting on the same stroke -- and I don't care that there's a brown envelope from my banker on my desk at home. I don't mind that I'm no longer thirty or that I'm not quite on schedule for that first million. I am one with Carolyn, we are one with the Bugatti, with the road, the wind and the world beyond...and that was mighty fine jazz!

Want to see some more of Billy Hinds’ writing? Check out his program "Hindsight" on the Internet, at www.bogue.com. Let him take you into an exciting world of jazz music and luxury cars. Whether its on the streets of Paris or on the runway at Pebble’s Concours D’Elegance, Hinds will delight the senses of anyone interested in the world of class automobiles. Hinds produces the program for Bobbie Bogue Presents, a site with eight diverse programs for your entertainment, including streaming audio and video throughout.
Back to the Bugatti revue

Vive La Marque !!