It was a warm bustling night in 1937. Count Basie’s Orchestra, one of the most renowned swing bands in the United States was scheduled to jam onstage with a few local musicians and aspiring artists at Kansas City’s Reno Club. And by far the biggest attraction of the night for the horde of jazz loving people gathered there was the chance to watch Jo Jones, drummer for Count Basie’s play in the flesh.
Little did the young Charlie Parker, who had been standing in the queue outside waiting to jam along with Jo Jones and company know that the night would go on to shape the rest of his life. 16-year old Charlie had been working on an improv method of his own, working with keys and modulation rarely used in the jazz scene back then- and make no mistake, 1930s and 1940s in the United States was ALL about the jazz scene.
The excited and talented teenager had even purchased a new Selmer Saxophone for the night.
As his turn came, Charlie Parker started convincing both Jo Jones and the audience in equal measures that they were witnessing a genius in the making. He showed a level of maturity that was well beyond what could be expected from his teenage disposition, improvised greatly to the sways of the audience’s intrigue and mood.
Beyond this however, Parker was entering uncharted waters and it soon took a turn for the worse as he missed a chord, lost sense of the tune followed by the beat and ended up completely frozen on stage. Jo Jones lost his mind and threw a cymbal at his feet contemptuously as the audience roared in laughter and ridicule.
Charlie Parker’s biographer Ross Russell went on to describe that incident as ‘life-changing’ as the teenager left the club embarrassed and humiliated and swore he’d be back one day as a great musician. And so he went on and became one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, became ‘The Bird’- the Johannes Bach of the jazz world.
The incident with Jo Jones has since achieved cult status and was also referenced multiple times in Damien Chazelle’s magnificent film ‘Whiplash’ that prompted me to begin working on this article in the first place.
In hindsight, it might seem outlandish and ridiculous as how these single-faceted events can take such a large toll on an individual’s life but I guess it’s a matter of paying attention to the details. The details will definitely expose the larger Butterfly effect at play.
And if you want a first-hand example of the above account, all you need to do is take a look at Stamford Bridge and you’ll be convinced that Chelsea appointing Maurizio Sarri as manager this season was the ‘cymbal throwing’ moment for their talisman, Eden Hazard.
Chelsea FC, a side that has always had a pragmatic and defence-heavy approach to the game of football for as long as I can remember has done a metaphorical Marseille Roulette. This Chelsea side or to be more accurate, Sarri’s Chelsea side now plays with an attacking flair and intensity that is one of the very bests, if not the best in Europe right now. And one individual that has made the most of this opportunity? Eden Michael Hazard.
Don’t get me wrong here. Eden Hazard has been one of the best players in the world for a long while now. The talented Belgian has been a household name in the game ever since his high profile move from Lille to Chelsea.
But, despite his immense technique, talent and understanding of the game he has always been a player who has wandered around the fringes of the ‘best player in the world’ question (after Messi and Ronaldo of course) without trying hard too hard to claim an actual stake in its answer. You could almost feel that something held him back. And as it turns out, it was Chelsea’s philosophy towards the game.
With the shackles of ‘securing the defence first’ dogmas having been lifted under Maurizio Sarri, Eden Hazard has hit a stride that is arguably the best part of his career so far and what is even better is that he is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Under Sarri, Hazard has the opportunity to play higher up the pitch, drive at opposition defences at will and combine and link up with players in the final third a lot more than he ever could. The arrival of Kovacic and Jorginho has also meant Hazard receiving world class distribution and assistance from the fluid and dynamic Sarri midfield that likes to dominate the game at the middle of the park for the entirety of the 90 minutes.
Maurizio Sarri’s plans with Hazard are somewhat similar to what Pep Guardiola did with one Lionel Messi in his first season at Barcelona a decade ago where the Argentine was moved from the wings to the centre of the field thus allowing him to influence the game a lot more, dragging opposition defenders, creating spaces and providing decisive and meaningful contributions throughout the game.
Another interesting aspect has been Maurizio Sarri’s usage of third man runs using Pedro and Hazard breaking into the box and finishing the moves he creates from the midfield or the half-spaces with swift one-touch passing sequences. This has translated into greater unpredictability and a lethal edge in his game which Premier League defences hasn’t coped up with so far.
Maurizio Sarri’s work on Eden Hazard reminds me of what Arrigo Sacchi did with Marco Van Basten where Sacchi took a world class player in a Catenaccio dominated Italian League that was far from being the playground for attackers that it is now and made him into the very best in the world.
However, with Eden Hazard expressing his fascination for Real Madrid and almost asking for offers from the Spanish giant over the last few months, I think it’d be extremely foolish of him to leave Maurizio Sarri’s tutelage at Chelsea who seemingly has a better and more ambitious project underway than Julen Lopetegui at Real.
Sure, he might gain the short term media and public attention and the swashbuckling contract that follows with a move to the Los Blancos. But in the long run, he’d be better off working with a manager who he understands and has a rapport with, whose attacking philosophy now suits his needs and at a club where he is so loved and adored.
It remains to be seen whether Hazard chooses to stay with the catalyst that has inspired in him the very best version of himself and that can help him scale the very zenith of world football or chases fool’s gold- to me and I’m sure to many others, it is a no brainer.