CLIFFORD: (Clifford crosses to the bar, listens to Gene on the bandstand as he starts to play a slow-tempo muted ballad, like "It Never Entered My Mind." We see a silhouette of Gene playing behind a scrim.) When he's up there, blowing, he's totally in touch with everything that's going on around him. Ziggy bends a note, he echo's it instantly. A car horn sounds outside, he puts it into his solo, or harmonizes under it, a second later. I used to wonder how he could sense everything while he was blowing, and almost nothing when he wasn't. Now I just wonder how many more chances will I have to hear him blow. If I have kids … These guys are not even an endangered species any more. It's too late. There are no more big bands, no more territory bands. No more nonets, or tentets. No more city weeks a year on the road. No more jam sessions 'til dawn in the Cincinnati Zoo. When they go, that'll be it. No one will even understand what they were doing. a fifty year blip on the screen. Men who mastered their obsession, who ignored, or didn't even notice anything else. They played not for fame, and certainly not for money. They played for each other. To swing. To blow. Night after night, they were just burning brass. Oblivious. (The lights come down on the Melody Lounge as the music comes up.)
-Warren Leight. "Side Man". 1999 Tony Award Winning play.
I was born in the 80's and grew up listening to Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald. But it's hard for me to imagine a time when jazz was the biggest form of popular entertainment.