The corridor is full of busy people grabbing a bite to eat on the way to their next destination. Everything is fast….burgers, fries, chicken, smoothies, things made to be consumed and taken in quickly. Falling over the movement of rushing and bustling are the sounds of a piano. A man sits at a Yamaha baby grand at Varzano’s pizza bar in the Atlanta airport, consuming only his music, absorbed only in notes swirling in his mind, not the rushing world around him. These sounds are slow and savory. Jazz. Where every note counts and the music is meant to be chewed on and digested. One note at a time, one beat at a time, slow and simmering, takes shape as a rendition of Eleanor Rigby.
All the lonely people consume their fast food as jets take off in the background and rollerbags and strollers and backpacks clog the aisles and tables are full of people looking at their screens and not at each other.
Still the man at the piano plays each note the way is meant to be, each one intentional. Though he has sheafs of sheet music stacked on the edge of the piano, every single note rises from his soul and lands on a key, insignificant alone but captivating as part of a whole. He plays John Legend’s “All of Me” and all of him moves from head swaying to toes tapping on the vinyl floor. He moves from current pop to classic Frank Sinatra, his own twist on “Strangers in the Night”. And here in this busy place strangers in the night exchanging glances of coming and going and making connections the piano man makes lost connections of the soul in Terminal A of Hartsfield Airport. As the world rushes past as his beat goes on. Behind his head that bobs to the music Delta jets rumble off into the air. He smiles to himself, as if he knows, as if he hides a secret that, yes all around you people are in other places, but I am present, taking this moment to share these notes with you.
These notes connect to all in the crowded room to the babies on hips to the white haired couple at the window to the young hipsters in the corner and the family behind him. In a world of disconnect this music connects.
The rest rush to the next place, checking iPhones, checking data, checking clocks to get to a gate, stuff a meal in, throw away garbage, grab baggage and move on to make a connection.
But in this hidden corner amidst a world of hustle and bustle and getting to the next place, he is here, in the moment. Jazz includes only what is right here, right now, as what is swirling in your head becomes real.
Materializing, as fingers touch the keys, a song. One that consumes your heart and soul and brings joy that transcends all generations. One that causes busy people to pause and clap their hands at its close. One that moves passers by to take a video on their smartphone and slip a tip into the jar on the end of the piano.
I move to piano’s edge to thank this man.
“How long have you been playing,” I ask him, “since you were three?”
He chuckles in agreement, then smiles and nods.
“You must have been, since it you play with your entire being.”
“Thank you for playing here,” I tell him. “Thank you for brightening my day.”
“And thank you for brightening mine,” he says.