Hands Find the Way (Clare Fischer)

It’s different every time. That’s the first thing you have to understand, says Clare Fischer.

It’s different because you’re not thinking. There’s no time for thinking.

Playing jazz is like plumbing, Glen Moore says, only there’s already water in the pipes.

Not something you figure out or memorize.

You’re not thinking, says Fischer, you’re not playing notes, you’re playing contours. When you need those notes, your hands find the way.

A different kind of memory.

How was it? he asks after performing a new piece. I can’t remember anything I just played.

At the time, Fischer was 72, dispensing life lessons to young players in basement classroom, sweatshirt bellied over blue shorts, fleece-lined leather boots.

Four arrangements for a Prince album, he says; five and a half million sold. All my jazz records together, only 150,000 units.

They shaped American music, though, won Grammys, both originals and arrangements for Dizzy and Prince, Rufus, Chaka Khan and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It doesn’t matter if he remembers, because hands find the way.

Each year I accept my limitations and adjust.

Learn how to be rejected, be defeated, learn how to lose, he tells them.

Doesn’t matter the level all of us, we’ll be defeated. And when you win — awards, accolades, even, like him, love of your life again after 43 years, storybook marriage of unbelievable happiness, he says, even then .

Happiness doesn’t teach you anything, he says. Pain will teach you.

And leave you with a different kind of memory.

You can’t think it, he says. Your hands will find the way.