Wanderer Session #29: Essie Jain
Filmed in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Not a single drop of rain; not a single flash of lightning roared behind the clouds that chose to be white that day. Despite the weather reports I’d been watching leading to that Thursday, despite the searing heat that was floating like a ghost in the air and on are backs, it was a beautiful afternoon in New Brunswick. I had come a few minutes before the session to check if the piano we were planning to use was still there. Walking up the stairs, you could peak inside the piano room before reaching the top. It was empty. I ran in and found all the chairs and couches arranged to face the fireplace where the freshly polished and opened instrument now rested. “There’s a reunion here tomorrow night,” said this Asian man never looking up from the information desk. And they’re using the piano for the performance. Lucky. Lucky for the piano too because it was about to get an earlier performance. Everything was cooperating.
I sat on the hood of my car, tapping the metal to pass the minutes while I waited for Essie Jain. How surreal! How insane! My mind is still in disbelief that it actually happened. Essie Jain.
Back in 2006, Vincent Moon filmed a take-away-show with Essie Jain. She played on a fire escape at sunset, she played inside a truck while New York City moved and moved and moved like busy ants around her. They never stopped for a breath. But they didn’t have to. Her music made the entire world around her slow down.
And it’s one of my favorite shows; one of the ones that I constantly watch for some fit of inspiration to do better and work harder as a “filmmaker.” I’m always uneasy when I write this word. Some people have labeled these souvenirs of music I’ve been posting as the work of one. It’s a tag that I’ll never get used to. It’s a different name with a different world. But it’s one that has paid me a visit because there I was making small talk with a very welcoming Essie on our way to the piano room. What circle did I enter unknowingly?
It was luck. Pure luck and a collection of random circumstances that set up this meeting. It was only because I remained in New Jersey against the pull of my travel-craving soul and the fact that Essie’s family-in-law lives not even a half an hour away from me did this session happen. But I won’t question this amusing twist. “Eh, if you were in Canada then it wouldn’t have happened,” she laughs.
Essie played songs off her new lullaby album, “Until the Light of Morning.” Incredible stuff. They’re songs that are really gripping and sweet to hear live. I’m enthralled with this woman. Her voice, her soft and slow tapping of the piano, her beautiful and hopeful lyrics, everything grabbed me. I was mesmerized. During “Lay Down,” I felt as if my heart was rooted to the spot while my body just moved lifeless with the camera. It was a lullaby and it made me a child. Her songs are always floating in the air, slow and meaningful like the hum of a mother to her sleeping baby or the first kiss of young lovers. In Essie's songs, no second, no moment, no breath is ever wasted.
We got some coffee after the session and spoke about life and music and dreams and the things we have and haven’t done. I understand the privilege that I’ve been given. It’s one of those gifts that’s really indescribable, irreplaceable, so few and far between like a lone yellow flower still standing in the middle of the winter. I understand it perfectly. I had to poke Essie Jain’s hands to make sure she was actually across the table from me. Absurd isn’t it? I’m glad she laughed and found it all amusing. I could have gone on for hours like that. But it was time she left. There are so many more things I could write about this afternoon rendezvous; things I want to talk about; things I should have said. But I’ll wait until the next time fate makes me its plaything and puts me in Essie’s world again. For now, every one should take a breath and listen to the wonderful sounds of the loveliest woman of music I’ve ever met.