florence facade

In college I took a music history course and it just so happened that our professor was an expert on the music of an Italian baroque composer named Claudio Monteverdi. We ended up spending a lot of time on early Italian baroque music and I can still remember the lectures about the Gonzagas, the Medici, of Venice, and of Florence… Mantua… Ferrara…

Places, you might imagine, I’d never been and had no hope of ever seeing.

Several years ago I had the fortune of visiting Italy for the first time, and from Rome, we eventually made it to Florence. A couple years later, on a whim, I join my high school friend in Venice and return to Florence. The return to that city really affected me. It was as if the first time was bewondermewnt; upon a return, it was like returning to familiar things, but different. The respect I’d once had for the architecture and history was deeper; it was if I’d left something earlier I didn’t know I missed.

I never studied or played jazz in school. Perhaps I should have. But since college I’d discovered the standards and have a love, especially, of the classic tunes. Who hasn’t heard of Autumn Leaves? The Mercer-Prévert piece is one of the most classic standards. My high school hero Nigel Kennedy has played it on the violin in his 1984 album, Nigel Kennedy Plays Jazz, which in retrospect, is kinda cool. I’d only learned of Kennedy with his 1989 release of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

So, in this video, the guy on bass is a Korean tourist who just so happens to have an itch to play. And he starts jamming with some street musicians. The quality of the music is pretty good; so good, I wonder if it is staged. But no matter, it’s a rendition of Autumn Leaves and there is plenty to enjoy. Until, that is, the camera turns.

The first time I saw this video I began weeping. I knew it was likely shot in some European city, but I’d never guessed which one.

I’d walked past that spot maybe 8-10 times. Florence. The Duomo. That music.

Sometimes we have to forget about what’s happening around us and make the space to enjoy something. I hope you enjoy this. I have nothing to do with it, other than for it to have one day appeared in my YouTube list and made me smile a mile wide.

Autumn Leaves in Florence