Chapter 9

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There was never a dull moment at the Baldwin house. Living in a large musical family is almost like living in a circus tent: there is never a moment of silence, and never, for one instant, can one feel lonely. The Baldwins were a joyful, noisy family.

They all played an instrument. The grave tones of Jazmine’s electric bass were the first notes that woke the whole family up in the morning. Cynthia playing Bach’s Concerto for two violins in D minor were the last notes heard at night before going to sleep.

And at various times of the day, especially on weekends, Victoria’s djembe echoed through the house, most of the time accompanied by James’s guitar. The two formed quite a musical pair though they each had a particular fondness for different music styles. James Baldwin’s heart and soul belonged to Motown. Ever since Maude had arrived, she had spent the early part of the evening in his studio with Ben eagerly discovering the legends of Motown.

“Now, listen to the Jackson Five. Do you hear this incredible voice? Michael Jackson was so young, but so talented. And his brothers! He’s the only one we remember today but Jermaine Jackson was very talented, too. Those brothers had a long career together, and their repertoire was wide: rhythm and blues, soul, funk, and then disco. They represent an entire generation.”

Maude was in awe of everything James Baldwin taught her. He opened her ears to different musical styles, the different roles played by the instruments that at first seemed like the same thing to her.

“Listen to the electric bass in this song, Diana Ross’s “The Boss,” in 1979. That distinct rhythm is one of the characteristics of disco: the electric bass lays down the rhythm. You can tell the difference with the songs from the Supremes era in the 1960s. Those songs like “Stop in the Name of Love” or “You Can’t Hurry Love” were in a more soul and R&B style. Diana Ross was great at reinventing herself. That is something that you have to learn as an artist: never rely on what you think you know or what you think sounds best. You have to keep an open-mind and open yourself to different types of music all around the world and across time.”

Maude nodded, snapping her fingers to the rhythm of “The Boss.” 

Jazmine came in with her bass guitar and followed the rhythm of “The Boss” so Maude could hear the unique role the bass played in the song. Maude and Ben started dancing together, Ben displaying his disco moves to a laughing Maude. They twirled, whirled, arms flying, hips swaying, hands clapping. Cynthia soon joined them. An amazed James observed the scene, thinking Maude was a perfect fit for the Baldwin family.

Maude, who at first had been worried about disturbing the household with her long hours of practicing either the piano or her singing, soon realized her music blended perfectly in the general, delirious atmosphere of the Baldwin house. The family enjoyed the new, mezzo-soprano voice that rang distinctly throughout the halls of the house, bouncing off the walls, ringing in every room. The Cenerentola’s Italian lyrics accompanied Cynthia’s final notes of the evening. And now, apart from Jazmine’s bass, the Baldwin family was occasionally pleasantly awakened by Maude’s piano practice.

Life wasn’t peaceful at the Baldwins, but full of musical frenzy in a family that got along great . . . most of the time that was.

“Please, please, please come to dinner!” Cynthia pleaded.

Cynthia, Jazmine and Maude were gathered in the sisters’ spacious room while Maude was getting ready to leave the house that Saturday afternoon. Maude was lying on Cynthia’s bed--Jazmine’s side was overtaken by a mountain of clothes while she decided on what to wear.

“I thought I could make it, but the girls really wanted us to start the auditions today. If it were just me, I’d definitely be here tonight, but we’ve got a lot of guitarists to audition, Cynth,” said Jazmine, not looking as apologetic as she sounded. “Hey, you should come to these auditions as a consultant.”

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