The first time I noticed it was sometime in the mid-80s, watching BB King at the Newport Jazz Festival, but I didn't quite understand it. Later, when I saw BB King and Eric Clapton on stage together, that's when I started to put it together.
There's a point at which a musician stops performing. Instead of playing an instrument and producing music, something else happens. The differentiation between the musician and the instrument ends, the instrument becomes an extension of the body, and music is no longer something that is created. It is something that just IS, part of what happens when the musician and the instrument touch.
BB King had it. Eric Clapton wasn't quite there.
Last night, Dr. John was there. That easy, casual familiarity with the sounds and the keys, the way the music moved through him, used him to find voice. I don't know what else to say about this show, other than that it's always a nigh-spiritual experience to witness that, on those rare occasions where you can find it. The best most of us can hope for is shadowy echoes.
It's not just music where this happens, of course. There's a moment in Judo where your body, your opponent's body, the motion and the throw all become one. You see it sometimes in the best actors, the best basketball players, the best teachers: that point where it stops being something you do - it becomes something you are.