A Legend Is Born by Calvin Celebuski

Random short fiction number 23.21.1, from Jersey Devil Press  — here’s the link.

That jazz drummer Papa Jo Jones was able to give birth through his penis is remarkable enough. But that his thousands of auto-regenerative spawn, each and every one of them, should have been jazz drummers? One might presume that Jones’s mutant progeny were clones, identical to the father and to each other, manifesting their shared genotype in identical phenotypic tendencies to strike flat surfaces rhythmically with sticks. More accurately, they were nearly identical: Papa Jo was known for keeping rhythm with the brushes on the high-hat cymbal, whereas Philly Joe Jones, his most famous dick-born son and evidently the only surviving one, was more of a traditionalist, a bass drum thumper. Even identical twins reared apart diverge from one another due to unique features of the environments they grow up in; during the heyday New York was widely recognized as a more progressive jazz town than Philadelphia.

The fact that Papa Jo gave birth through his penis suggests that spermatozoa were integral to his reproductive mechanism. Sperm aren’t clones of each other; each one-celled flagellant is a unique genomic configuration, a meiotically configured half-being that must merge with its complementary half-being, the ovum, in order to get the fetal mitotic apparatus up and running. No mention is made of Papa Jo having mated with women and absorbing their ova into himself; instead, his sperm must have paired off and mated with each other, each tossing into the pot its own half of the full 46-chromosome deck. Papa Jo’s babies must have been genetically comparable to two identical twins reproducing sexually — which of course is impossible because you can’t have a pair of identical twins where one is a boy and the other a girl.

That Papa Jo mated with himself — let’s call it onanogenesis — means that his progeny would have had two X chromosomes. Would this genetic imbalance, tilting them toward extreme masculinity, account for the inordinate level of violence they subsequently displayed? Or maybe it was the genetic doubling down on Papa Jo’s own aggressive tendencies — Wiki’s assertion that “Jones was known for his irascible, combative temperament;” his threat to murder everyone in the Al Allen Big Band if they didn’t hire him as drummer.

Jazz is a demanding art form that relies on establishing a dynamic balance between cooperation and competition, each band member alternating between functioning as a component of a musically intertwined combo and stepping forward as a soloist. So too with jazz as a way of making a living: the player is part of the scene but is always looking to step up to a bigger stage when the opportunity presents itself. One might have expected the horde of gifted drummers that Papa Jo Jones squeezed out to have raised the bar for jazz performance in every city in America, setting standards for accompaniment and improvisation that might have transformed the national culture. Or they might have converged on the desire to be the top drummer in the top jazz outfit in the land, outcompeting each other on the way up the pyramid until only one man was left seated at the drum kit on the bandstand. But instead of sublimating their aggressions into artistic and economic competition, those monstrous percussive offspring literally killed each other off.

There is no evidence that the survivor, Philly Joe Jones, inherited his father’s remarkable reproductive ability. Perhaps he knew better than that. Or maybe he killed them all as soon as they came out of his nozzle, recognizing in them the competitive challenge to his supremacy they would eventually pose.

Geneticists and biochemists have sought, so far in vain, to exhume the remains of Papa Jo and Philly Joe Jones. Isolating the mutant genetic string could lead to revolutionary advances in scientific knowledge. But would such a discovery lead to evolutionary advances for the species, or even for a musical genre that seems destined to extinction? Not bloody likely.

One thought on “A Legend Is Born by Calvin Celebuski

  1. “Mr. Dixon, to turn the table, took on to ask Mr. Mullligan himself whether his incipient ventripotence, upon which he rallied him, betokened an ovoblastic gestation in the prostatic utricle or male womb or was due as with the noted physician, Mr. Austin Medlon, to a wolf in the stomach. For answer Mr. Mulligan, in a gale of laughter at his smalls, smote himself bravely below the diaphragm, exclaiming with an admirable droll mimic of Mother Grogan (the most excellent creature of her sex though ’tis a pity she’s a trollop): There’s a belly that never bore a bastard.”
    – Joyce, Ulysses, p. 396.


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