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The Rehearsal Room Berlin ..

by Keith Hansen
Billie enters the room dressed in a dark shawl and a blue velvet dress, adorned with sparkling
sequins the dressing room mirror is surrounded by lights and a dancer is adjusting her dress for
the coming performance. She finishes her makeup and leaves the small room.
'Bonsoir.' Mademoiselle Billie. Now is the time for the stage.'
'Bon Chance.' Says Billie as the dazzling dressed dancer exits the room.
She turns to Lester who is seated on the far side of the room in an ornate sofa. He holds a
tarnished gold saxophone, gently blowing a note.
Billie. /' Have you gotten over the wild train ride from Hamburg Lester?
Lester/ to Billie. 'I noticed you had the heeby geebys all the way from Dusseldorf.' Lester blows a
long note..e/flat. Billie /'Yeah -well you were up and down like a squirrel in a cage. You had your feet up and
down on the seat at a rapid rate.'
Lester. /'Yeah..well I was just getting restless..border checks all the way from the Hook of
Holland. We ain't invading Germany you know!'
Billie. /'I know ...we're on a jazz tour of Europe from home town Chicago.'
Lester. / 'Visiting.'
Billie./ 'Well Lester, it ain't polite to put put your feet up on the seat. Civilization..this is a
foreign country....they just don't like that kind of thing.'
Lester./ 'They like the music well enough...we've been playing like a bee hive since we
stepped ashore.'
Billie./ 'Shows us we've been appreciated to the hilt. Not like back home in the Southern
States. Land of the crimson tide.' She pauses and opens a bottle of bourbon and pours a short
drink. 'Mind you ...we got more kudos up North in the free states.'
Lester. /'Yeah. It's still a form of slavery. A primitive form of abuse against the black Negro.
Like living in a fudal state.'
Billie. / 'We are a testament as to how you struggle to overcome the entrapment of white
mans plans.'
Lester. 'And we're still struggling.'
Billie. /'Times have changed my man. The years 1930. And you're just afraid to admit it. We
have a modern world now. Josephine Baker is performing and doing fine in Paris.'
Lester. / 'Yeh. Well the French don't hold her up in high regard because she is black.'
Billie./ It ain't the same sort of racism we have back in the States...here in Europe its between
everyone. You really notice an inbred grudge when you cross the border from France to
Germany. The war is a wound that won't heal.'
Lester./ 'Heck...my uncle was in Europe in ww1. He was a truck driver. Met Hemingway while
on tour.' he whistles through his teeth. ' America lost 120 thousand troops in one year on the
battlefields of France.'
Billie interjects abruptly. More to do with provincialism. Land that belonged to someone else
now belongs to the invader...a hundred years ago! Language is also a big barrier.'
Lester places his bronze tenor saxophone into the flock lined case.
'You sure got an answer for everything Miss Billie! Where do you pick all of this knowledge up
Billie stares at him with a half smile on her face. Lester fiddles with a reed on a Selmer
Lester. / Now this Selmer mouthpiece is a real trophy. Its like the statue of David...a treasure.
It helps you play a long smooth note.'

Billie. / Well I find the Kentucky Bourbon smoother to my taste. It creates my river of
A short young man in a bell hop uniform enters the dressing room and calls out in a heavily
accented voice.
'The stage lights are up and the drummer is waiting. The piano player says to hurry on. No
Billie and Larry nod at each other and exit the rehearsal room door. Lester steps forward
doing a slight goosestep waltz with saxophone in hand. They walk to the wings of the stage
where the other band members have gathered. The master of ceremonies, a thin dapper man
dressed in a white dinner jacket, gives an introduction to the anxious crowd who are muttering
amongst themselves.
Compere./ 'Ladies and gentlemen, mine Damen und Herren my I introduce Amerkanish jazz
players....Miss Billie Holiday and Lester young. For your enjoyment they shall play the new
bebob jazz......'
A roaring crash of the cymbals enhances the entrance onto the stage. Billie launches into a
raunchy version of 'God Bless the Child.' She gives a brief introduction to the song.
'This is a song I wrote with Herzog about the great Mandala - the wheel of life.' She launches
into the ballad retiring from the vocals on the third verse to give Lester a solo break. As the
piano player launches into his break Lester leans over to Billie and mutters in a hushed voice.
'I would say we're playing for the king of France tonight.'
Billie./ 'King Louie got the chop years ago! Don't ya know that Lester.'
Lester laughts to himself and sounds a few bass notes on the golden saxaphone that reflects the
lights of spotlamps that burn above the stage.
The set they were playing came to the third song. Another band member had come on stage
carrying a large sunburst jazz guitar. His slender body sat onto a stool provided and his thin
hands moved over the f-holes struming jazz chords up and down the pearl shell enhanced neck
on the guitar. He turned up the amplifier and launched into a solo on his jazz guitar. The song he
played 'As Time Goes By.' Billie and Lester are standing to the sideline of the stage.
Billie./ 'Now thats a song that reflects the times.' She sighs 'It really sums up the world.'
As the song came to the last chorus she entered back on stage and began singing into the bullet
shaped microphone. A new song began slowly as the guitarist riffed on a series of minor
Billie launched into the verses of the romantic ballad...
'My bluebird of happiness, to you I surrender
Sweet romantic dreams, they include you too
Bluebird fly so high, and take my soul to heaven
Here on earth its only true love I seek.
Come my way and sit upon my shoulder
The burden of a broken heart is all so sad
If only I could rise above the torment of life
And live again in harmonies delight
Sweet Bluebird, take the torment from my life
I wish to give all you all the excess baggage
Sweet bluebird, its the passage of bitter times
That have brought me down to earth

Billie caught her voice in mid phrase and breathed deeply. A hand signal to Lester prompted him
to take his solo on the magic saxophone. His phrases were impeccable as his lithe fingers
pressed the keys and the moist pads sealed the notes.
Billie came back in with gusto, her voice soaring high
'My bluebird come again, I await for you
As chill winds of winter come to an end
My bluebird, hearts are so easy broken, oh so easy
A sign from you alone...you alone ...you alone
A token sign of love.....
Billies voice trailed off to where the bflat note dropped to a lower octave. She adjusted the
microphone and turned to the band, beads of sweat running down her forehead.
Billie. / what you got for the next song Lester...Stormy Weather's a good one.'
Lester. / Key of G. That should be easy to handle. There's nothing like a slow blues in a major key
to lighten up a set. Its hard to deal with a love life when there's too many sharps and flats
involved. Lets not get squeamish and play this song.'
The stage lights cast stage shadows of vermillion and cerulean blue onto the faces of the
entrapped performers. The audience remained mesmerized as the elegant song wove a web of
harmonic wonder.
The song ends and Billie and Lester move to the side of the stage.
It was fine to be emotional under the circumstances. A withdrawal from your own convictions,
that when you contrive a situation one becomes most capable of detachment and humor in the
most precarious of personal involvement.
'Its really a very ill advised move. The trip to Madrid will never work out.' Billie insisted.
'Sure, it complicated. That's just it.' Lester interjected on the subject. 'We shall show the
management what we can do.' He shrugged his shoulders as he placed the Selmer saxophone
into the case. 'And the world for that matter.'
'I'm sorry Lester for being so negative....Isn't it funny...the way we are together and yet so
As they stand together in the red velvet curtain on the side of the wooden stage the piano
player and guitarist duel together talking lead solos. The audience respond with a wild round of
applause after each solo.
'Its time we stepped back on the stage and try another song.' said Lester who now looked
pale with all the excitement.
'We could try the new song, forever should appeal to the crowd. The major ninth chords
sound great in it. Real spellbinding stuff. About shipwrecks and good fortune found.' Billie
paused. 'Here we go, lets put our best foot forward...!'

When the stars and the moon collides, we shall be together, forever
Just as you and I sharing out the good times, the sad times, forever
As two ships out in the night, a collision is in sight on the sea of fortune, forever
A shipwreck and castaways on an Isle of love entwined, forever.'
' And when, first we met, two lost strangers on a ocean liner, our great adventure

A stormy sea where a love defies the Captains warning, 'return to your cabins..
the decks awash, and a wild storms aragin'.'
'And just when all seems lost, two hearts awash in a tempest of emotion, forever
The life boat is lowered and we step in, to row ashore upon an isle of paradise, forever
Castaways, our mortal sins, eternity is now spent our arms entwined, forever
Just a pair like you and I, survivors of a typhoon and a wicked tide, lovers now, forever.
The songs ends and the crowd erupts into a volley of applause. Encores are demanded from
the now standing crowd of finely dressed concert audience. The compare comes forward and
presents Billie with a bouquet of flowers. Lester comes forward and they take a bow as the
lights dim and fades out.