Inside McClintic Sphere was swinging his ass off. His skin was hard, as if it were part of the skull: every vein and whisker on that head stood out sharp and clear under the green baby spot: you could see the twin lines running down from either side of his lower lip, etched in by the force of his embouchure, looking like extensions of his mustache.
He blew a hand-carved ivory alto saxophone with a 4 ½ reed and the sound was like nothing any of them had heard before. The usual divisions prevailed: collegians did not dig, and left after an average of 1 ½ sets. Personnel from other groups, either with a night off or taking a long break from somewhere crosstown or uptown, listened hard, trying to dig. 'I am still thinking,’ they would say if you asked. People at the bar all looked as if they did dig in the sense of understand, approve of, empathize with: but this was probably only because people who prefer to stand at the bar have, universally, an inscrutable look…
…The group on the stand had no piano: it was bass, drums, McClintic and a boy he had found in the Ozarks who blew a natural horn in F. The drummer was a group man who avoided pyrotechnics, which may have irritated the college crowd. The bass was small and evil-looking and his eyes were yellow with pinpoints in the center. He talked to his instrument. It was taller than he was and didn’t seem to be listening.
Horn and alto together favored sixths and minor fourths and when this happened it was like a knife fight or tug of war: the sound was consonant but as if cross-purposes were in the air. The solos of McClintic Sphere were something else. There were people around, mostly those who wrote for Downbeat magazine or the liners of LP records, who seemed to feel he played disregarding chord changes completely. They talked a great deal about soul and the anti-intellectual and the rising rhythms of African nationalism. It was a new conception, they said, and some of them said: Bird Lives.
Since the soul of Charlie Parker had dissolved away into a hostile March wind nearly a year before, a great deal of nonsense had been spoken and written about him. Much more was to come, some is still being written today. He was the greatest alto on the postwar scene and when he left it some curious negative will–a reluctance and refusal to believe in the final, cold fact–possessed the lunatic fringe to scrawl in every subway station, on sidewalks, in pissoirs, the denial: Bird Lives. So that among the people in the V-Note that night were, at a conservative estimate, a dreamy 10 per cent who had not got the word, and saw in McClintic Sphere a kind of reincarnation.