I met JP several years later, and by this time he had developed into a consummate craftsman. We were both selling flutes and music at Bell Rock Plaza in Sedona. It was a small, lazy show, so I wandered over to JP's tent where he displayed a breath-taking array of beautifully carved flutes, including an A-frame style double flute that was as long as my leg.
JP was sitting in one of those low-to-the-ground lawn chairs, eyes closed, woolen hat pulled firmly over his head and ears, arms folded across his chest. It was a brisk morning, but there would be no windy sales pitches from this flute maker.
I fought off an overwhelming temptation to pick up the double flute. I could feel my wife's watchful eye from the distance. She's abundantly aware of my flute addiction. I now own upwards of 80 flutes and they keep coming at me. Some guys are girl magnets. I'm a flute magnet. If there were a Flute-aholics Anonymous, I'd be a charter member.
JP was oblivious to my presence. Though he wasn't sleeping, he was clearly occupying a space deep within himself, absorbed in some thundering silence. His partner, Sundri, smiled apologetically and in a voice as gentle as a mother cooing to her baby said, "JP, are you talking today?"
Odd, I thought. It was a weekend. Maybe he talks only on weekdays. A novel idea. We talk far too much, anyway, saying things that don't matter, or things that hurt each other. But here was this gifted flute maker sitting under his show tent surrounded by his children of cedar and walnut and mahogany. Yes, he would let THEM speak for him.
Sundri shrugged apologetically as JP remained deep in his silence. "He does this now and then," she explained. "It's been about three weeks now."
I was wondering how he sold any flutes from this place of silence, when a small high keyed F called out to me. "May I try this one?" I asked Sundri. She nodded. I picked it up and blew a few notes on which I floated away into my own silence. I understood why words did not matter.
Sundri explained that JP had recently created three of these cedar high F's and that they were each bored from a single piece of wood. It was an exquisite little flute but our sales were low that weekend and I had to pass it by. But a couple of weeks later I found myself at another show in Sedona. Our tents were lining the shore of Oak Creek and a cold wind was whipping through. JP was sitting in a chair, woolen hat pulled down over his ears, arms crossed in front of him. He had added a full beard and he looked like some ancient, misplaced yogi.
I held my breath as I looked for the cedar high F. I had been hearing this sweet flute inside my head ever since I passed it by. My heart was sinking fast when I found one nestled up against a gorgeous drone E. The two other high F's had obviously found homes.
I yanked the cash out of my wallet to stake my claim on the high F. Sundri remembered me and sensed my excitement. She smiled at me, leaned toward the flute yogi and softly intoned, "JP, are you talking today?"
I couldn't help but smile too at the thought of playing this sweet high F fashioned by this silent, mysterious Frenchman. I paid Sundri for the flute and thanked her for all her help. As I walked away clutching my new high F, I heard a voice call out to me, distinctly French in accent, "I saved zat one for you. I knew you would be back."
JP Gomez had come out of the silence and this was the beginning of our friendship and our fellowship of the flute.
Into the Silence with JP Gomez
He calls my wife, Barbara, and me his flute parents, and although only in his early thirties, he makes some of the most splendid Native American style flutes on the planet.
Jean Pierre Gomez came to this country about twelve years ago from his native France where the closest thing to a Native American flute was a long, narrow loaf of French bread.
In France he was a firefighter. In Los Angeles he was a fashion photographer. But it was in Sedona, Arizona that he came under the spell of the Native American flute. As I recall he was hiking deep into Boynton Canyon when he heard the distant strains of flute music carried on the wind. He met local flute player Jesse Kalu, and this chance meeting in the red rock country of Sedona put JP Gomez on a new path strewn with the shavings and dust of cedar and the haunting cries of the American Indian courting flute.
One look at Jesse's flute was enough to inspire JP to acquire some rudimentary tools and fashion his first flute. Not a small accomplishment considering this young Frenchman was living and working out of his old van.