S peed in music can be a form of abstraction. About fifteen or twenty years ago the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, traveling as a single while on temporary leave from the Modern Jazz Quartet, played an engagement at a Philadelphia neighborhood lounge, accompanied by a trio of uninspired local musicians. Visibly unhappy, Jackson sleepwalked through the first few numbers, sinking to the level of the house trio. To make matters worse, a patron at the bar, who was either drunk or eager to show the rest of us how down with bebop he was, acted as if Jackson were taking requests.
The man wanted to hear a certain Charlie Parker tune. "How 'bout some 'Scrapple from the Apple,' brother?" he whined before every number, disrupting the band's concentration as Jackson counted off tempos.
After enduring this several times, Jackson fixed the man with a contemptuous stare. Without a word of warning to his sidemen, he tossed off the opening bars of "Scrapple from the Apple" at a tempo about twice as fast as Parker's moderate gallop. Racing to keep up after joining him on the bridge, the local musicians were soon playing way over their heads. The tempo kept accelerating, with Jackson's hands and mallets disappearing into twin blurs. Small talk at the tables came to a stop, and there was an extra split second of silence at the end, before we could bring our hands together to applaud. It lasted just long enough for Jackson's final note to echo gracefully, and for a familiar voice to plead, '''Scrapple from the Apple,' huh, Milt. Do it for me?"