I last saw cousin Kofi six years ago in Allentown, PA. at the Miller Symphony Center. I’d heard that TTB was in town.
They’re an exciting, dynamic band that can play anything, and Kofi, being a co-founder and extraordinary composer and musician on keys and flute, helped to increase their library of quality music in their already impressive repertoire.
I went to see the performance, and it was stellar, as always.
After it was over, Kofi did his thing with the fans, and when that passed we went into the tour bus. He offered me half of his Cuban sandwich, and we talked about the show, the music, his performance in particular, and life in general.
When the bus had to get parked, we went to his hotel room, and he saw my brief three seconds of internet presence on a performance I was part of in Easton, PA for a Christmas special.
After he saw it, he beamed and said to me, “You’ve come a long way.”
Coming from him, it was more than validation.
Through the years, we saw each other sporadically, but whenever I was in DC we’d share some time in my uncle’s ‘music room,’ a space that ran wall to wall with vinyl from every genre, too extensive to ever go through in one sitting, and even more massive than my Dad’s.
During the summer of ’78, I spent long hours in that room, and spent some time with Kofi in there as well as we listened to music he’d written, music he was working on, and music he liked. It was my introduction to jazz fusion in particular, and he revealed to me his love of electronic music and its potential to break new ground.
I explored some jazz history on my own, never dreaming one day I’d get to see him play alongside some names that I was listening to at the time. What an even bigger kick it must have been for him.
Kofi once told me back then that a true musician ‘listens to everything.’ At first, I thought he meant different types of music, but he really did mean everything. A car horn, birds, the pitch of voices, pipes hissing. His gift was so open, he was always literally surrounded by music: the music of life itself.
There were times, my aunt told me, that when he was off the road, silence was all he craved, once to the point where she had to take down her wind chimes. I understood that. The anointed need to have their own space of silence sometimes.
I would’ve liked to have seen him once again, and more than that, to play on the family project that was a dream of his, but unfortunately it never gelled together.
It would have been glorious, but I understand that too; his workload was as massive as his gift.
The music that he left behind is extensive, and has touched the lives of many.
The music that he hears now is just for him alone.
I know he’s enjoying it.
I can see him now, eyes closed, little tics of expression and appreciation flitting across his features, and I know exactly what he’d say if I were sitting beside him: